Re: Why can you install software incorrectly on an aircraft?
"I would have thought that somewhere in millions of quid spent on this a check on having the correct software properly installed would have been built in on boot?"
The test systems for aerospace hardware often contend with different software versions in the gear they're testing. I'm on an aerospace company's program for a targeting system and we have different firmware versions for different customers and legacy versions of the system, which means the test rigs are necessarily flexible - they don't scream if you've got (for sake of argument) v1.01 firmware installed instead of the latest v1.03. And it's real easy to let your eyes glaze over when the boot-up data scrolls past and you've got the chance to spot "v1.01" instead of "v1.03." The real meat of the test data is whether the system works and all the flagged functions say, "pass," "working," and so on.
The A400M's engines go through a lot of tests. I can guess at some of the objective evidence that would be required to make Airbus and Europrop happy. At a minimum:
1) The ECU was tested and certified by its maker before it was sold to Europrop (admittedly probably without the software, which would be Europrop's or Airbus's responsibility to install);
2) Europrop tested the all-up engines on a test cradle before it sold the engines to Airbus;
3) Airbus would've powered up all 4 engines on the A400M long before the plane was allowed to take its first, fatal test flight since big aircraft don't get near a runway until their many systems are tested;
4) On that fatal flight, the engines powered up and made all the blinken lights in the cockpit glow happy colors without spitzensparken
The software that crashed the plane did go through check after check, and it worked. Up until the most important check.
Airbus has noted problems with the A400M program's organization: it treats production, development, and retrofitting as separate programs, rather than an integrated single program. That's an environment where version control problems are going to proliferate. I could very easily imagine the poor bastard who "incorrectly configured" the software was just using an out-of-date manufacturing process plan that said something like, "get the USB stick with software version 1.01" because no one had flowed down process changes to the MPP hardcopy at his workstation to say, "get the v1.03 stick." Or something like that.