By Cristina Quicler, AFP
SEVILLE, Spain–Airbus on Tuesday carried out the first test flight of a new A400M since one of the military transport planes crashed in Spain over the weekend, killing four people.
In a sign of the company’s confidence in the plane, the boss of Airbus Military Fernando Alonso was onboard the test flight, which took off from the company’s Toulouse, France headquarters bound for Seville, site of Saturday’s crash. ��The A400M behaved normally, all scheduled tests were carried out. This is our tribute (to the victims),�� Alonso wrote on his Twitter account. Onlookers and journalists applauded as the huge transport plane landed at Seville airport at 4:35 p.m. (1435 GMT) after doing a loop above the runway. Passengers on the A400M were met at the airport by Airbus staff before heading to Seville’s cathedral for a memorial mass for the victims of the crash, the first of an A400M military airlifter. The A400M that crashed in a field and burst into flames just north of Seville’s airport was several minutes into a test flight, and due to be delivered to Turkey in July. Two of the six people on board the plane, a mechanic and an engineer, survived the crash. They are in hospital in serious condition. Earlier Tuesday, Spain became the fifth country to ground its A400Ms awaiting for the causes of the accident to become clearer, following similar decisions by Britain, Germany, Turkey and Malaysia. France, which has six of the planes in active operation, said it would only carry out the most pressing flights until more facts emerge on why the plane went down. ��Obviously, as a precaution, while waiting for the results of the investigation, it is better if the planes in production and which are about to be tested do not fly without knowing what actually happened,�� Spanish Defense Minister Pedro Morenes said on radio station Onda Cero. The A400M is a large, propeller-driven transport plane that is being assembled in Seville. A total of 174 A400M planes have been ordered by the eight nations, which are seeking to replace their ageing Hercules fleets. About 20 of the planes are currently on the assembly line in different stages of production, Airbus said, and all must undergo testing before they can be delivered to clients. Airbus said it is ��too early to know what impact (Spain’s) decision will have on the supply chain.�� ��We are working closely with military authorities and with our clients to deal with this situation,�� a company spokeswoman said. ��We want to show our clients, air forces, that we are fully confident in this excellent transport plane,�� Airbus chairman Tom Enders said in a letter to employees on Monday, in which he said test flights would continue as planned.