Airbus confirms software brought down A400M transport plane

Badly-configured software, that is, not badly-written software


Airbus has confirmed the crash that stalled its A400M program was caused by engine control software.

However, according to Handelsblatt, the problem wasn't that the software is buggy. Rather, someone in the final assembly process installed the software incorrectly.

Marwan Lahoud, Airbus' chief strategy officer, told the German newspaper that the company already believed there had been no problem with the airframe: “The black boxes attest … that there are no structural defects, but we have a serious quality problem in the final assembly”.

Handelsblatt beats Google's translation with the sentence “Die Software für die Steuerung der Motoren sei bei der Endmontage falsch aufgespielt worden”*, but it seems to El Reg to suggest that the software was configured with incorrect parameters at installation.

The May 9 crash near Seville's San Pablo Airport killed four Airbus Defense and Space personnel when the A400M, designated MSN23, crashed just after takeoff on its first flight.

Airbus had already warned A400M operators – Germany, Britain, Turkey and France – to check the planes' Engine Control Unit. Malaysia should too: the Royal Malaysian Air Force has an A400M, which was delivered in March.

Last week, Airbus CEO Tom Enders had complained that the company needed the black box data, which was being withheld by Spanish agencies, to conduct its analysis of the crash.

While the results will be a relief – since a problem with the physical build quality would have been extremely expensive – Airbus will still need to satisfy customers that it can ensure that software installs don't go wrong in future. ®

Bootnote

Google Translate reckons the sentence in question comes out in English as "The software for controlling the motors had been partly filled with wrong during the final assembly," as many commentards noted with joy.

Vulture Central's backroom gremlins, on the back of a very rusty A-level in German, reckon the true meaning is "badly assembled/compiled" rather than "filled with wrong" but the original Google version is too good not to highlight.

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