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Software Bug Transportation

Software Glitch Caused Crash of Airbus A400M Military Transport Aircraft 120

An anonymous reader writes: A software glitch caused the crash of an Airbus A400M military transport aircraft, claims German newspaper Der Spiegel (Google translation). The accident, which happened in Seville on the vehicle's first production test flight on 9 May, killed four crew members. Airbus is investigating the system controlling the aircraft's engines. The early suspicions are that it was an installation problem, rather than a design problem.
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Software Glitch Caused Crash of Airbus A400M Military Transport Aircraft

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    "I'm sure it's only a glitch. A temporary setback."
    "You call this a glitch?! We're scheduled to begin construction in 6 months. Your temporary setback could cost us 50 million dollars in interest payments alone!"

  • by Chris Katko ( 2923353 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2015 @05:34PM (#49729999)
    ONE_IN_FAILURE_RATE = 50000000; //Ted: reduce by 10 every time management claims they need to increase reliabilty

    if(left_engine_running && (rand()%FAILURE_RATE == 0))

    //TODO: Ted, MAKE SURE YOU REMOVE THIS BEFORE SOMEONE ACTUALLY FLIES.
  • When my roommate had Comcast for cable and Internet, we always knew we would have trouble whenever a Comcast truck drove through the neighborhood. One day a technician installed something into the box out front. That killed our Internet service. Took a month to convince Comcast that the problem was outside in the box and not inside between the chair and keyboard. When they finally sent a technician out, he discovered that the last technician installed the bypass filter backwards.
    • Took a month to convince Comcast that the problem was outside in the box and not inside between the chair and keyboard. When they finally sent a technician out, he discovered that the last technician installed the bypass filter backwards.

      it wasn't backwards, it was Comcastic!

    • Let me guess you paid a toll both for the problem report call and probably another fee for the "technician" visiting.

    • why didnt you just open the box and fix the filter?
      • by creimer ( 824291 )
        Up on the pole with the high voltage lines? I don't think so. Besides, we didn't know what the problem was until the second technician told us.
        • ahh, got you. by me they are all ground level
          • by dave420 ( 699308 )
            I'm trying to mean this in a nice way - you really should stop assuming people are like you, and that their experiences and situations are like yours. It's leading you to make incredibly incorrect assumptions in every single thread I see your comments in. Seriously. Every single one. I wish the best for everyone, even you (as we seem to have different opinions on many things), so I thought I'd point that out.
        • Not to worry - the high voltage lines are at the top of the pole; phone and cable lines are attached lower down.

          That is, they are where ever I've lived.

          • by creimer ( 824291 )
            That might be the case in my Silicon Valley neighborhood. The vast majority of overhead cables are now underground. Utility poles along some major thoroughfares take longer to get rid of.
    • by jmv ( 93421 )

      Similar here. One day the connection went out and I called tech support. I told them it was probably related to the technician I had just seen in the neighborhood. They couldn't even track that there was a technician around, so they couldn't help at all. Eventually (with tech support on the phone), I just opened the door and yelled "are you the one that took down my connection?" to the technician outside and he shouted back "yes". Cause identified.

      • by creimer ( 824291 )
        A Comcast technician once knocked on my door, who noticed that I haven't signed up for their wonderful service when I got an apartment without a roommate, and offered to turn on the basic service for $250 in cash. Uh, right.
    • Too many points of failure. Too complex a system.

  • Devops is all the rage these days but I think I'd rethink that if it means going up on a live jet test.

  • Just reformat and reinstall.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    He hacks planes right?

  • by slew ( 2918 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2015 @07:40PM (#49730797)

    Some thing appear to have been lost in translation.

    According to most other English language sources, apparently this A400 had a new software release that enabled it to control the fuel tank trim during some new types of maneuvers. It appears that some bug in this software triggered a situation where fuel was actually cut-off from the engines or perhaps the engines shut-off leading to a temporary engine stall (which proved to be unrecoverable). It's not clear exactly what happened yet, but I think they are close to ruling out a defect in the installed ECU (electronic control unit) itself, but not the software running on it.

  • how a "problem with installation, or other defect" can manage to "spread to other aircraft"? Seems like pretty odd wording for a problem that seems not to have been caused by a virus or worm...
  • "Airbus Defence and Space has today (Tuesday 19 May) sent an Alert Operator Transmission (AOT) to all operators of the A400M informing them about specific checks to be performed on the fleet.

    To avoid potential risks in any future flights, Airbus Defence and Space has informed the operators about necessary actions to take. In addition, these results have immediately been shared with the official investigation team
    ."

    What exactly was the contents of the (AOT). What specific checks were required. Is this
  • by dacut ( 243842 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2015 @11:07PM (#49732537)
    Since it was the first flight, the EULA popped up, and the crew made the mistake of hitting "decline" instead of "accept"?
  • When installing the software, they just ran the install as a regular user, rather than "Run As Administrator".
  • This will be easily resolved -- they just need to train folks in the assembly process to uncheck the box next to "Install SafeSecuritySuite" during the install.

  • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @05:50AM (#49734111)
    The discussion at YCominator [ycombinator.com] has some very interesting comments.

    According to an article in Spiegel Online three of the engines shut down during takeoff [github.com].

    The fatal crash of a brand new A400M military transporter was found to be caused by technical issues. According to information from SPIEGEL ONLINE, three of the aircraft's engines were shut down due to software problems, directly after takeoff.

    The cause of the crash of a brand new type A400M military transport aircraft appears to have been identified. According to information from SPIEGEL ONLINE, the engineers from Airbus Military discovered a software problem in engine control unit, that supposedly caused the simultaneous shutdown of three engines.

    The investigation produced a clear result: Shortly after the test aircraft took off, the three engines had received conflicting commands and subsequently cut all power.

    The pilots, who were testing the A400M, could not have done anything, according to Airbus sources. They still attempted to steer the 45m long plane back to the airport in Seville, but could not control it any more. The aircraft struck a power pole, slammed into a field and burnt completely.

    There were also claims that much of the software was written by underpaid inexperienced developers and there was high turn over due to a high pressure environment.

  • ...or something like that.

  • Hyper-complex software, sensor arrays, and mechanical systems will fail. They will always fail; humans cannot anticipate all errors, all possible combinations of factors that can cause death and destruction. Humans can't build autonomous complex systems (no, really, they can't. We've barely started making such things) that can't fail. In this case, can't say that a human pilot or a mechanical backup would have made a dfference, but as the world goes forward, gleefully firing truck drivers and converting ca

  • ... Sounds like it is the design equivalence of the 'pilot error' excuse. Not that pilots or mechanics don't make mistakes. I think they are less than we seen blame placed on the laps (in the case of pilots, normally deceased pilots)

DEC diagnostics would run on a dead whale. -- Mel Ferentz

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