Image: Q400 turboprop airliner
Alaska Air Group
Alaska Air Group subsidiary Horizon Air has canceled some flights as a result of Bombardier's recommendation that all Q400 turboprop regional airliners that have operated more than 10,000 flights be grounded for landing-gear inspections.
By Senior Editor
Aviation.com
updated 9/12/2007 4:11:36 PM ET 2007-09-12T20:11:36

Alaska Airlines' sister regional carrier Horizon Air is canceling some flights following a strong recommendation by Bombardier that all Q400 turboprop regional airliners that have operated more than 10,000 flights should be grounded until urgent inspections on each aircraft's landing gear can be carried out.

Horizon Air is the largest operator of the Q400 in North America, with 33 in service, and it has operated the type since 2001.

Bombardier's recommendation, made in an All Operator Message in the early hours of Wednesday in which the manufacturer "highly recommended" the grounding, follows an incident that took place at Vilnius in Lithuania at 1:36 a.m. local time on Sept. 12, when a Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) Q400's right main landing gear collapsed upon landing.

The aircraft, which had been operating SAS' flight SK2748 from Copenhagen to the Lithuanian coastal town of Palanga, experienced technical difficulties during the flight and the crew decided to divert to Vilnius, according to the airline. None of the 48 passengers and four crewmembers on board the aircraft was seriously injured in the accident, SAS said.

Two SAS incidents in three days
Last night's incident was the second time in less than three days that the right main landing gear of an SAS Q400 had collapsed upon landing. On Sunday, the right main landing gear of an SAS Q400 operating the airline's Danish domestic flight SK1209 from Copenhagen to Aalborg with 69 passengers and four crewmembers on board collapsed on landing at Aalborg.

Pieces of the aircraft's starboard-engine propeller broke off and entered the cabin and the friction caused by the aircraft's fuselage contacting the runway briefly created sparks and flames. However, although five passengers were slightly injured in the Aalborg incident, nobody was seriously injured, the airline said.

After Tuesday night's incident, SAS immediately grounded all of the 21 remaining Q400s in its fleet until it has completed inspections of the landing gear on all the aircraft and passed them as safe to fly. The two aircraft involved in the Aalborg and Vilnius incidents were damaged by the gear collapses and weren't airworthy, so already had been grounded.

Video: Emergency landings prompt grounding recommendations SAS also grounded three Q400s operated by its Norwegian regional-airline subsidiary Wideroe Flyveselskap to carry out the inspections.

The Scandinavian carrier couldn’t immediately be reached to confirm if either of the Q400s involved in the two incidents had operated more than 10,000 flights and thus had accumulated more than 10,000 landing gear retractions and extensions.

However, SAS was one of the first customers for the Q400 and operates its Q400 fleet primarily on shorter-haul flights. It operates 15 flights a day between Copenhagen and Aalborg, for instance. The grounding of its Q400 fleet has caused SAS to cancel more than 100 flights today, according to an Associated Press report.

Horizon's cancellations begin today
Horizon Air said its flight cancellations would begin Wednesday, to allow for prompt inspections to take place.

"Once inspection specifications for Q400 operators are received, Horizon will initiate its checks of certain Q400s," the carrier said. "The inspections are purely precautionary, and limited to those Q400s with higher flight hours. Horizon, which has operated the Canadian-manufactured aircraft since 2001, has not experienced any Q400 issues like those the SAS-affiliated aircraft recently encountered."

Horizon Air said it would reinstate the cancelled flights once it has completed the inspections and can return the inspected aircraft to service. The airline has begun contacting affected customers to accommodate them on other flights.

The Alaska Air Group subsidiary operates an all-Bombardier fleet. It operates its 33 Q400 high-speed turboprops in 74-seat and 76-seat configurations. Horizon Air also flies 21 Q200 turboprops, which are 37-seat members of the same family as the Q400, and has 21 CRJ700 regional jets in service. It operates each CRJ700 in 70-seat configuration.

Some 60 Q400s affected worldwide
Bombardier said that some 60 Q400s of the more than 160 in commercial service worldwide have operated more than 10,000 flights. Its recommendation to ground the 60 aircraft for immediate inspection is endorsed by the manufacturer of the Q400's landing gear, Goodrich.

The Canadian manufacturer has sent air safety representatives to the scenes of both incidents and, as it did for the Aalborg incident on Sunday, SAS sent a team of specially trained personnel to Vilnius to assist all passengers and crew involved in the incident.

Bombardier said it had already briefed Transport Canada (TC), the country's national transportation department, on the SAS incidents and that it was working with TC to establish the requirement for further corrective actions, if necessary.

The Canadian manufacturer told SAS "that what happened in Aalborg has never occurred before with this aircraft type at any airline in the world," SAS said after its Sunday incident.

However, two Japanese carriers operating Q-Series turboprop airliners experienced landing gear malfunctions in March. A Q400 operated by All Nippon Airways had a landing-gear malfunction that forced pilots to make an emergency landing, creating sparks as the plane's nose hit the runway, the Toronto Star reported.

A week later, two pilots with Japan's Amakusa Airlines were forced to engage their plane's landing gear manually after the automatic system malfunctioned. No one was hurt.

A spokesperson for Bombardier told the Toronto Star at the time that it was "too soon" to draw a link between the two Japanese incidents.

22 customers for the Q400
The world's largest operator of the Q400 — and another early operator of the type — is UK carrier Flybe, which was the first airline to use the exceptional economics and speed of the Bombardier aircraft as the basis for becoming a low-cost, low-fare airline. Flybe is now Europe's largest regional airline.

In addition to Horizon Air, there have been four other North American customers for the Q400 to date: Hawaii's Island Air, Canadian utility company Hydro-Quebec, Canada's Porter Airlines and Frontier Airlines' new regional-airline sister carrier, Lynx Aviation. Each of the latter two carriers has placed firm orders for 10 Q400s. Lynx Aviation, which has not yet begun commercial service, recently announced a delay to its planned operational certification date.

There are 22 customers for the Q400 worldwide. Other major customers include Lufthansa Regional carrier Augsburg Airways and South African Airways' regional partner, South African Express.

© 2013 Imaginova Corp.

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