Software Quality Blamed For Airbus Crash
Written by Alex Armstrong   
Tuesday, 19 May 2015

After a fatal crash of an A400M troop and cargo transport plane last week, Airbus has asked its military customers to conduct checks of the software in the electronic control unit (ECU) of the engines.

The crash, in which four members of a Spanish test crew were killed, happened on May 9.  shortly after take off from Seville during a pre-delivery test flight. 

According to Der Speigel, which refers to an investigation by the Military Aircraft Accident Investigation Unit and information from Airbus circles, shortly after the start of the test three engines received contradictory orders from the computers and then turned off the power. The pilots attempted to return to the airport, but having lost control completely, collided with a power line, crashed in a field and burned out almost completely.


Airbus has now issued an alert asking air forces to examine the Electronic Control Unit of other A400Ms due to a potential anomaly in the way it runs the plane's turboprop engines. 

However, according to Reuters, citing "one person familiar with the findings":

preliminary evidence gathered so far appeared to suggest a "quality" problem rather than a fundamental design flaw.

As Mike James wrote in connection with the recent directive from the US Federal Aviation Administration relating to a potential integer overflow issue in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner: 

The inevitable creep of software into engineering brings with it the problem of bugs. Embedded computer system engineers have a long history of trying to find ways of making software provably correct. Languages used for process control tend to be single-tasking as do their operating systems, and there are usually lots of hardware checks to make sure that nothing serious could go wrong. 

This crash brings home both the enormity of the task in testing every conceivable and the consequences of not having done so.



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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 19 May 2015 )