Malware Potentially Implicated in 2008 Fatal Plane Crash in Spain

By Kevin Coleman Defense Tech Cyber Warfare Analyst

Investigators looking into the crash of Spanair Flight 5022 at Madrid International Airport on August 20, 2008, killing 154, found that the airline’s central computer system used to monitor technical problems in its fleet was infected with malware, according to this news report. The central computer system should have warned the airline that Flight 5022, an MD-82 aircraft, was having repeat mechanical problems.

The plane’s onboard computer that should have alerted the crew by an audible alarm that the flaps and slats were retracted - NOT in the proper position for takeoff - failed to do so, multiple times. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board preliminary investigation found that no audible alarm had been heard.

“The accident on take-off happened after pilots had abandoned an earlier take-off attempt and a day after two other reported problems on board. If the airlines' central computer was working properly a take-off after three warnings would not have been allowed, thereby averting the tragedy.”

There are so many unanswered questions about this incident and what it will mean for transportation safety in general and specifically how it will impact the airlines industry.

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