SAS Permanently Grounds Q400s

 - October 29, 2007, 10:36 AM

SAS has again grounded all 27 of its Bombardier Q400s after the right main landing gear on one of its airplanes failed to fully extend upon landing in Copenhagen on Saturday. Flight SK2867 from Bergen, Norway, carried 40 passengers and four crewmembers, none of whom suffered injuries from the incident. However, SAS announced that it will permanently remove all of the 74-seat turboprops from service, citing a lack of passenger confidence in the safety of the type after this, the third such incident in two months involving an SAS Q400.  

“Confidence in the Q400 has diminished considerably and our customers are becoming increasingly doubtful about flying in this type of aircraft,” said SAS president and CEO Mats Jansson in a written statement.

According to SAS, the 27 Q400s, including the four that flew for its Wideroe subsidiary, account for some 5 percent of the group’s passenger capacity. SAS said it would give passengers affected by the grounding the opportunity to either rebook or receive a refund. The airline plans to reallocate aircraft within SAS Group and wet-lease capacity over the next month as a stop-gap measure to compensate for the shortfall. It also plans to dry lease more airplanes over the next three months. SAS added that it expects to implement a long-term solution by second half of next year.

“The Dash 8 Q400 has given rise to repeated quality-related problems and we can now conclude that the aircraft does not match our passengers’ requirements concerning punctuality and regularity,” said SAS deputy CEO John Dueholm. “SAS’s flight operations have always enjoyed an excellent reputation and there is a risk that use of the Dash 8 Q400 could eventually damage the SAS brand.”  

Bombardier, for its part, “is disappointed with the SAS decision to permanently discontinue flight operations with the Bombardier Q400 aircraft given that the landing incident is still under investigation by Danish authorities.”

A Bombardier spokesman told AIN that none of the authorities have drawn any connection between the latest incident and the two others that took place over the past two months. Preliminary findings by Danish civil aviation agency investigators indicated that corrosion inside the actuator piston of the airplane involved in the previous incident, on September 12 in Vilnius, Lithuania, caused the piston to separate from its rod end. Since then SAS had reportedly inspected all its airplanes and, by October 15, had replaced the suspect parts and reactivated the entire fleet.

“Our assessment of this situation, in consultation with Transport Canada, did not identify a systemic landing gear issue,” said the spokesman. “Based on this we advised all Q400 aircraft operators around the world that they should continue normal aircraft operations.” Bombardier said it performed a full review of the landing gear system with its manufacturer, Goodrich Aerospace, and the results “have confirmed its safe design and operational integrity.”