Judge Drops Criminal Case on A400M Crash but Points to Airbus and EPI
(Source: El Confidencial; posted April 6, 2018) (By Carlos Pizá de Silva)
(Published in Spanish; unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com
SEVILLA --- The Seville investigating magistrate in charge since 2015 of the criminal case regarding the crash an Airbus A400M military transport airplane in the vicinity of Seville airport that left four crew dead and two injured has decided, according to a finding notified on April 5, that he was closing these criminal proceedings.

Sources familiar with the finding told El Confidencial that Judge María José Moreno points out that the plane crash, after the failure of three of its four turboprop engines, occurred "due to a concatenation of causes," none of which taken separately is relevant enough to justify criminal proceedings.

However, the letter, against the appeal of reform before the judge, and appeal to the Provincial Court of Seville, adds: "In this concatenation of causes, there are multiple and separate errors committed in isolation by EPI and EADS (Airbus’ name at the time of the accident) ". EPI (Euro Prop International) is an international consortium between Rolls-Royce plc, France’s Safran and Germany’s MTU which developed and manufactures the A400M turboprop engines. These knowledgeable sources say the judge’s finding opens the door to civil indemnifications claims against both groups. Some of the families of the victims, in any case, are evaluating a possible case.

The A400M crashed on May 9, 2015 just after take-off on a pre-delivery check flight for the Turkish air force. It crashed after the loss of power of three of its four engines that were "frozen," Airbus initially explained.

After two years of investigation, the Spanish defense ministry agency charged with investigating military aircraft accidents (Citaam) pointed out, among many other circumstances of the incident, the lack of coordination between EPI and Airbus when determining which company should load the software that governs the operation of the engines, and whose clearing prior to take-off - which went unnoticed by the crew - caused the power loss and subsequent crash.

EPI appeared in the case last September, following the Citaam report was submitted to the court. EPI, which was created specifically to design and produce the engines of the A400M, explained to Citaam that it should have been its own personnel who uploaded the software, and that its personnel have the necessary civil authorizations for that.

Airbus, however, told Citaam that the aircraft is military, that it operates in military installations and it was its own personnel who had to upload the software.

In addition, the Citaam report also revealed that, at the end of 2014, EPI had already warned that the software upload, in certain cases, could create failures that erased the information that the engines had to receive.

After this warning was transmitted in October 2014 to Airbus and to the European Aviation Security Agency (Easa), the measures to mitigate the problem were not enough, according to the Citaam report.

Despite all this, the Seville and Airbus prosecutors asked at the end of last year to file the criminal case because, they argued, although it can be said that "not all possible scenarios were evaluated", the fatal accident occurred "because of the confluence of several concatenated factors which, together with the decisions taken on the flight," prevent the isolation of individual or group behavior that could allow to personally attribute to any of the intervening parties "a failing" in the “objective or subjective duty of care ".

The office of the public prosecutor had already opened the door to the civil route, and now the investigating magistrate has followed suit by closing the criminal investigation.

In this case, in addition to the each of the six victims separately (or their families in the case of the deceased), the parties of a possible civil case are Airbus, EPI and Allianz, the insurer of Airbus.

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