The inquiry into the August 2008 crash
of Spanair Flight JK 5022 at Barajas Airport in Madrid took a bizarre turn recently when Spanish daily El Pais
reported that the server that the airline used to track technical problems on aircraft contained malware
. Although the flaps and slats were not in the proper position for takeoff, the crew was never alerted -- causing the flight to go down moments after takeoff, killing all but 18 of the 172 on board. That's not to say that human error wasn't a factor: as well as causing an audible alarm, the problem should have been spotted by the mechanic or airport maintenance chief, both of whom are under investigation. Space stations
, power grids
, and now airline safety systems? Please, people -- keep your antivirus software up to date.
Of the many possibilities that could have brought down JK 5022, it turns out malware was pretty low on the list -- ZDNet
's Ed Bott reports that it was a maintenance computer at the airline's HQ
that was infected, and the plane itself (an MD-82) uses a takeoff warning system that predates airplane computerization, and was thus not susceptible to viruses.