Monday, December 01, 2008

US Airways Express/Piedmont Turboprop Nose-gear Up Landing at Philadelphia

Dash-8The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has published a preliminary report regarding a Dash 8-300 (DHC-8-311) aircraft that made a nose-gear up landing at Philadelphia in mid-November. According to the NTSB report, the aircraft (registration N326EN) sustained minor damage to the aircraft skin and nose gear door. There were no injuries among the three crew members and 35 passengers on board.

Details: On the morning of November 16, 2008, the Piedmont Airlines aircraft , operating as US Airways Express Flight PDT4551, departed Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE) at Allentown, PA en route to Philadelphia International Airport. The crew told investigators that they had heard a "creaking and groaning noise" while taxiing to the runway at ABE, but did not think at the time that it was anything abnormal. While on initial climbout the nose gear took about "three to four seconds longer to retract than the main landing gear."

The entire flight was uneventful until the base leg of the approach to runway 35 at Philadelphia. Quoting from the NTSB report:
The first officer asked for the gear to be extended, the main landing gear extended and were locked, the flight crew received a yellow door light and a red unsafe nose gear light. The flight crew then performed a go-around maneuver, not retracting the gear, and departed the airspace to perform checklist. The flight crew performed the alternate landing gear extension; however the nose gear remained in the wheel well.

The flight crew then flew the airplane by the air traffic control tower (ATCT) in order for the ATCT personnel to attempt and see the nose gear. The ATCT personnel reported that the nose gear doors were open but the landing gear was not visible.

The flight crew stated that they then proceeded to run further checklist to try and extend the nose gear but were unsuccessful. After several attempts to extend the gear by the alternate gear extension checklist and conferring with the airlines maintenance personnel they elected to return to the airport and perform a nose gear-up landing on runway 27L. The airport rescue and fire fighters responded to the intended runway for landing and applied a foam agent.

The airplane's main landing gear touched down and according to witnesses it appeared the flight crew attempted to delay the nose from touching down until the slowest speed possible. The nose of the airplane made contact with the runway and skidded along the runway for about 525 feet and came to a stop. There was no fire reported and the passengers exited the airplane and were taken to the terminal by an airport bus.

The airplane's cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR) were removed and secured by the FAA inspector on-scene. Airport personnel and mechanics then utilized air bags to lift the nose of the airplane off the runway surface.

The FAA inspector then looked into the nose wheel well and found the nose gear canted at an angle wedging it in the nose wheel well, using a pry bar, the nose wheel was moved to a normal position and extended freely and locked in the down position. The airplane was then towed to a maintenance hangar and examined. The links on top of the steering column were found to have been broken and pushed upward and the nose wheel over steering pin was still intact.
The recorders and associated parts of the nose gear have been retained by the National Transportation Safety Board for further examination.

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