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MoD halts new plane use after crash

Published 09/05/2015

Emergency services at the scene after a military plane crash near Seville airport in Spain (AP)
Emergency services at the scene after a military plane crash near Seville airport in Spain (AP)

Britain has temporarily stopped using a new military transport plane after one crashed near Seville airport in south-west Spain today, killing four crew members and seriously injuring the other two.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has two Airbus A400M aircraft, and their operations have been "paused".

The plane was undergoing flight trials at the airport, which was closed after the crash.

An MoD spokeswoman said: "We are aware of reports that there has been an A400M crash in Seville. As a precaution, the UK's A400M aircraft are temporarily paused."

The Royal Air Force took delivery of its first Airbus A400M in an official ceremony at RAF Brize Norton last November.

In all, 22 have been ordered, to be delivered over the next few years.

Airbus Defence and Space said that of a total crew of six, four were killed and two are in hospital in a serious condition.

All the crew members are company employees and of Spanish nationality.

A spokesman said: "Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those affected by this tragic accident and we are providing all our care and support."

An Airbus Group team of technical advisers is being sent to provide full assistance to the official committee in charge of the investigation.

The plane was expected to be the third aircraft to be delivered to a Turkish customer, and formal delivery was scheduled for next month.

An industrial estate near where the Airbus came down in the suburb of Carmona lost electrical power as a result of the crash.

Photographs published on the website of leading Spanish newspaper El Pais showed fire services extinguishing the blaze at the smoking wreckage in a ploughed field.

The A400M is a large, propeller-driven transport aircraft that is being assembled in Seville. Some 194 have been ordered by eight countries, including Spain, seeking a replacement to its ageing Hercules fleet.

The plane can perform three very different types of duties: tactical and strategic missions directly to the site of action, as well as being able to serve as a "tanker".

It is thought to be the ideal airlifter to fulfil the diverse requirements of nations around the globe in terms of military and humanitarian missions.

It was launched in 2003 to respond to the combined needs of seven European nations (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Turkey and the UK), with Malaysia joining in 2005.

Its maiden flight took place in December 2009 and the delivery of the first A400M was on August 1 2013 to the French air force.

The A400M can perform missions which previously required two - or more - different types of aircraft, and which even then provided an imperfect solution.

The inside usable width of 13ft (4m), height of 13ft (4m), and usable length of nearly 59ft (18m) allows it to carry numerous items of outsize cargo including, for example, an NH90 or a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, or two Stryker infantry carrier vehicles of 17 tonnes each for military purposes.

It can also carry a 25-tonne semi-articulated truck with a 20ft (6m) container, or a rescue boat, or large lifting devices, such as excavators or mobile cranes needed to assist in disaster relief.

The plane can fly these items directly to the site of the action thanks to its unique landing characteristics. Its 12-wheel main landing gear is designed for operations from stone, gravel or sand strips, and it is able to land on, and take off from, short, soft and rough unpaved airstrips. These characteristics allow it to ensure, for example, that swift humanitarian aid can arrive on the spot soon after a disaster.

Being able to fly fast and at high altitudes, it is also an ideal tanker aircraft to refuel military fast jets and other large aircraft at speeds and altitudes suitable for the receiver aircraft.

Refuelling can be done either through two underwing refuelling pods or through a centre-line fuselage refuelling unit.

An MoD spokeswoman said later: "The UK's A400M aircraft operations have been paused while an investigation into the crash in Seville is carried out. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those involved in the incident."

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