CASA Crash

Questions and concerns about the safety and reliability of EADS CASA aircraft, and about the reliability of EADS as a U.S. defense partner

31 August 2006

EADS CASA's unbelievable statistics

EADS CASA, the European defense conglomerate that is competing to build the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) for the US military, has been misleading American lawmakers and the public through its printed material and its TeamJCA website.

EADS CASA's materials promote “a family of aircraft” that includes the C-235, C-295, C-212, and A-400M. The company sought Pentagon contracts for the C-235 and its stretch version, the C-295, to become the airframes for the JCA.

The company uses the "family of aircraft" theme to illustrate two claims:

  1. that the C-295 is a “proven product built on a large volume of orders and service around the world,” and
  2. the aircraft is “reliable” based on “more than one-million flights.”

These claims are misleading and sometimes false:

EADS claims one million flights (Raytheon June 6, 2005 news release on PR Newswire). This is mathematically improbable given service of the C-295 since 1999 and C-235 since 1985, unless they had an average of 250 aircraft flying 200 flights a year for 20 years.

EADS does not reference deadly accidents, documented on, among aircraft in its “family” (all of which are counted to make up the one million flights).

EADS claims it has sold at least 61 C-295 aircraft (Sep. 2005 Canadian brochure). This claim is false:

  1. Only 10 C-295s are in operation, according to the Jan. 16, 2006 Aviation Week Space Tech Sourcebook.
  2. Only 37 planes have been ordered order so far, according to the Aviation Week Space Tech Sourcebook.
  3. EADS CASA has falsely claimed orders received - in Australia, Brazil, Finland, Portugal, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.
  4. In Australia, the C-295 never went past the Request for Information (RFI) stage, and was not selected; the government canceled the program.
  5. In Brazil, the government has provided no procurement funds for several years, so the company can't claim Brazil as a sale.
  6. In Finland, the C-295 has been selected, but is not under contract.
  7. In Portugal, the C-295 has been selected but is not under contract.
  8. In Switzerland, no political decision has been made to buy the plane, there is no military support for the plane, and the plane has not been ordered.
  9. The UAE has selected the C-295 but the program has not been funded.
  10. An EADS news release says the company sold C-295s to Algeria, but public record of any EADS CASA sale to that country is not known to exist.
  11. On the other hand, Venezuela has ordered the C-295, issued the contract and paid the cash deposit. But Washington is against the deal on policy grounds and has forbidden EADS CASA from using American-made parts in the Venezuela-bound planes. EADS CASA lobbyists in Washington are pretending that the company is against the deal and that it won't go through.

03 August 2006

CN-235 'fails' Pentagon review

The EADS CASA CN-235 has "failed" an initial Pentagon review for consideration as the new Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA).

"Industry sources say the CN-235, one of two aircraft offered by the joint team of Raytheon, EADS and CASA, . . . failed to pass the first stage," Defense News reports today.

"The Raytheon-EADS CASA team is now expected focus its bid on the C-295, a newer, larger and costlier version of the CN-235. The team has pitched the 80-foot C-295 as the "best value" it could offer in the competition," the Press-Register of Mobile, Alabama reports. To secure support in Congress, EADS CASA planned to assemble the planes in Alabama.

"It was unclear Wednesday why the Army eliminated the CN-235, which has been sold to 20 military customers worldwide, including the U.S. Coast Guard."

02 August 2006

Ruling shifts blame in 2001 CASA crash; timing raises suspicions

A provincial court in Spain has shifted blame for a fatal crash of a CASA CN-235 passenger plane.

Eyewitnesses, survivors, crew and a preliminary investigation said at the time that engine failure was the reason for the crash of the Binter Mediterranean plane that went down at Málaga airport on 29 August 2001.

They credited the pilot, who died of his injuries, of heroically landing the plane after the one engine had caught fire and the second lost its power. The new ruling holds the deceased pilot and co-pilot responsible, even though a government report acknowledged the engine fire. An earlier ruling blamed the co-pilot for shutting down both engines.

According to the BBC, the CN-235 had a "poor safety record" in 2001.

A total of 41 people died on three separate CN-235 crashes that year, in addition to the four who died in Málaga. At least two of the crashes were due to equipment failure, but has not been able to find the accident reports.

However, on 28 July 2006, the Audiencia Provincial of Málaga pronounced that the crash was due to "grave human error."

The accident "was the product of grave negligent action on the part of the crew that piloted the airplane" ("fue producto de una grave actuación de negligencia de la tripulación que pilotaba el avión"), according to the ruling.

The decision was in response to a suit by families of the passengers who died in the wreck and by survivors. It pins legal blame on the airline, but apparently does not absolve the manufacturer.

The timing is suspicious, as the state-owned manufacturer, Construcciónes Aeronaúticas, S.A. (CASA) is involved in a double-controversy of its own concerning the same aircraft.

CASA and European Aeronautic Defense and Space (EADS) appear close to failing to fulfill the Spanish company's largest-ever military export of CN-235s and stretch C-295s to Venezuela. EADS CASA, as the consortium is called, is unable to find replacements for all of the key United States-made components in the aircraft.

The Bush administration has invoked a law to prevent Spain from selling the aircraft to Venezuela, which is under a U.S. military embargo. Critics say EADS CASA is purposely skirting an U.S. anti-proliferation law, which could result in the company being ineligible to compete to build the next-generation Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) for the U.S. Department of Defense. The contract is said to be worth billions of dollars.

Defense analysts on Capitol Hill say they are concerned that EADS CASA has been playing up the safety records of the CN-235 and C-295, without informing lawmakers about fatal accidents.

That's why the Spanish court decision is raising eyebrows in Washington. "It's suspicious, to say the least," a former U.S. Senate staffer tells "A big state-owned aircraft company, with billions of dollars in exports at stake, gets a provincial judgment against a small airline."

The former Senate aide raised questions about whether EADS might have used its considerable financial, political and legal might to reach a conveniently timed, favorable verdict. The company's stock has plummeted this year amid corporate scandals at the top, failure to fulfill commercial Airbus orders, and a possible inability to fulfill its CASA military sale to Venezuela. Now the company is under fire in Washington for breaking a U.S. embargo.

The Málaga provincial court determined that the Binter crash was "product of the grave and negligent action of those who crewed the airplane on that day," based on the testimony of expert witnesses.

The government's Commission to Investigate Aerial Accidents (Comisión de Investigación de Accidentes Aéreos) issued a report saying the crew carried out "incorrect" emergency procedures after the engine caught fire or was damaged.

For coverage of the court's decision, which multiplied damages against Binter by ten, see the Málaga newspaper report, in Spanish, at the following link: