Second of three M346 prototypes crashes


Alenia Aermacchi has lost its second of three pre-production prototypes of the M346 transonic trainer in a crash over the weekend.

The lone pilot ejected safely and no one on the ground was hurt.

Company officials declined to answer questions, but said in a statement that the cause is a “technical problem” that occurred about 20 min. after takeoff from Turin-Caselle airport.

The crash site is in Val Bormida, between the provinces of Cuneo and Savona, company officials say.

Alenia officials have established a technical commission to investigate the incident.

The first prototype aircraft, owned by the company, crashed in Dubai in November 2011 as it departed following the air show there. Company officials have not discussed the cause of that crash, but they say the issue is peculiar to the prototype and not adopted on production aircraft.

Meanwhile, deliveries have begun to the Italian air force, which is evaluating the aircraft. Sales have also been solidified with Singapore and Israel.

The incident comes at a poor time, though, as the U.S. Air Force is preparing to buy up to 350 jet trainers. The M346 is likely to compete against a team comprising BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman offering the Hawk, and Lockheed Martin/Korea Aerospace Industries offering the T-50. Boeing also has said it will design an aircraft to specifications for the competition.

Due to tight funding, the Air Force is not expected to begin the competition until after 2014.


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