Third Trans States Landing Accident in Ottawa Raises Questions

 - September 12, 2011, 9:25 AM
A Trans States Airlines Embraer ERJ 145 skidded off Ottawa’s 10,000-foot Runway 14-32 on September 4. (Photo: Peter Tsagaris/

Authorities in Canada continued their investigation this week into a September 4 runway excursion at Ottawa International Airport involving a Trans States Airlines Embraer ERJ 145–the third such incident involving an ERJ 145 operated by the St. Louis-based regional airline at the same airfield.

Flying as United Express Flight 3363 from Chicago, the 50-seat regional jet carried 44 passengers and three crewmembers when, at about 3:30 p.m., it skidded off the side of a wet, 10,000-foot-long Runway 14-32. No one sustained injuries. A recovery crew removed the airplane from the site on Monday but investigators have not yet commented on possible causes.

The most recent runway incident came some 15 months after another ERJ 145 operated as United Express by Trans States from Washington Dulles International Airport overran Ottawa’s 8,000-foot Runway 07-25 by some 500 feet, again in wet weather. Both pilots and one of the 33 passengers suffered minor injuries in that accident, but the airplane sustained severe damage after its nose gear collapsed in the soft ground. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has not concluded its investigation into that June 16, 2010 accident.

The Board did cite several “operational and human factors” in a report on a 2004 overrun by another Trans States ERJ 145 that originated in Pittsburgh. Operating as US Airways Express, again in wet conditions, the aircraft approached Runway 07-25 “high, fast and not stabilized,” resulting in a touchdown almost halfway down the 8,000-foot runway. However, the report also said that the smooth landing most likely contributed to hydroplaning and that the anti-skid system most likely prevented the brake pressures from rising to normal values until 16 to 19 seconds after weight on wheels, resulting in little or no braking action immediately after landing.

The airport in Ottawa, as with most airports in Canada, does not have grooved runways. Flight Safety Foundation director of technical services Jim Burin told AIN that the lack of grooves in Ottawa’s runways and the lack of thrust reversers on the Rolls-Royce AE3007-powered ERJ 145 certainly might have contributed to the most recent accident, but he also said other factors such as crosswinds likely came into play as well. He hesitated to draw any parallels between the three Trans States accidents other than to surmise that the Ottawa airport sees a lot of ERJ 145 traffic.