Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Grounded: All Bombardier Q400 aircraft with at least 10,000 cycles

SAS Q400 accident at VilniusToday Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier requested that all Q400 turboprop aircraft with at least 10,000 cycles be grounded for inspection. Bombardier officials say this is "a precautionary measure" until the cause of a series of recent accidents can be determined. The grounding order affects 60 of the 160 Q400 aircraft presently in service around the world.

This action has so far resulted in the cancellation of several hundred flights worldwide. The Associated Press reported today that SAS grounded its 27 Bombardier turboprops of the same make, and Austrian Airlines Group said it grounded eight planes. Horizon Air, the largest North American operator of the Q400, grounded 19 of its aircraft.

The Q400 has been involved in two similar accidents in the space of three days.

This past Sunday, the right main landing gear of a SAS Q400 collapsed shortly after the aircraft touched down at Aalborg, Denmark. An Associated Press article about the Aalborg accident reported these details:
The plane tilted to the right and the wing hit the ground, sending the aircraft spinning on the runway.

One propeller broke loose and sliced through the cabin, but did not hit any of the passengers, police said.

Firefighters quickly put out a fire in the right engine before the 69 passengers and four crew members were evacuated, SAS said. Five passengers received minor injuries while evacuating, the airline said.
The flight was arriving from Copenhagen.

Earlier today there was a similar accident involving another SAS Q400. Today's accident occurred at Vilnius, Lithuania. An International Herald Tribune article about the Vilnius accident says that the aircraft, with 52 people on board, "skidded off the runway, one wing smashing into the ground, after its right-side landing gear failed to lower during an emergency landing."
The crew made all passengers sit on the left side of the plane for fear that the right propeller might break into pieces and puncture the right side of the cabin, said Kestutis Auryla, head of the Lithuanian Civil Aviation Administration.

Though the right propeller was switched off 10 seconds before touchdown, the right wing still hit the ground, causing a shower of sparks but no fire, he said.

The Q400 turboprop eventually came to a stop in a patch of grass next to the airport's main landing strip after turning 90 degrees. All 48 passengers and four crew were evacuated safely, he said.
The aircraft had been en route from Copenhagen to Palanga, Lithuania when it diverted to Vilnius for an emergency landing.

An article about the Q400 in the Wall Street Journal notes that the aircraft has been one of Bombardier's best sellers in recent years, as its fuel efficiency has attracted airlines grappling with rising oil prices. The manufacturer now has 90 Q400s in its backlog and 126 on conditional orders or options.

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