Airbus shares fall as A400M probe gets off to slow start

Mon May 11, 2015 3:39pm EDT
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By Tim Hepher and Sarah Morris

PARIS/MADRID (Reuters) - Airbus Group (AIR.PA: Quote) investors fretted on Monday about the fate of Europe's largest defense project as an investigation into what caused Saturday's fatal crash of an A400M military transporter plane got off to a slow start.

Four crew were killed in the accident during testing outside Seville, which prompted Britain, Germany, Malaysia and Turkey to ground their fleets of Europe's new troop and cargo carrier.

France said it would keep flying its planes, while Airbus pledged to resume flight testing on Tuesday with the head of its military aircraft business, Fernando Alonso, on board.

There was no official word on the cause of the crash but investigators' attention was expected to focus partly on the plane's turboprop powerplants. Germany's Der Spiegel magazine reported that a survivor had said the plane suffered “multiple engine trouble” shortly after takeoff.

A source familiar with the matter confirmed engines were one of the areas under scrutiny but stressed it was too early to say what had caused the crash, with the crucial black box flight recorders held under judicial seal and yet to be analyzed.

Airbus declined to comment. "We have to wait for the results of the investigation," a spokeswoman said.

Shares in Europe's largest aerospace group fell as much as 4.5 percent before closing at 62.09 euros, down 2.1 percent.

The A400M Atlas was developed for seven European NATO nations -- Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey -- at a cost of 20 billion euros ($22 billion).   Continued...

Fernando Alonso, head of Airbus flight testing and operations, attends a news conference at an Airbus assembly plant in the Andalusian capital of Seville May 11, 2015. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo