Qantas forced to ground five of its Q400s

 - September 30, 2010, 9:06 AM

Qantas removed from service five of the 21 Bombardier Q400s operated by regional affiliate QantasLink in late August after the airline found a defect in what it described as a main landing-gear component. Qantas said it decided to inspect the airplanes and ultimately remove them from service after consultation with fellow Q400 operator Flybe and Bombardier.

The removal of the five 74-seat airplanes from service forced Qantas to cancel several flights between Sydney and Canberra, prompting the airline to replace the turboprops temporarily with mainline jets on the route.

“Our approach to this issue, which requires the replacement of a main landing gear fitting component, is consistent with Qantas’ proactive, conservative and safety-first approach to every part of its operations,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. “The issue is not an immediate flight safety ­concern, but does need to be rectified before each aircraft can return to service.”

A Bombardier spokesman told AIN that the “issue” in question involved a fitting in the rear spar nacelle area, not the landing gear itself. A Bombardier service bulletin issued in April and again in July called for visual inspection and tests of the area. “We narrowed the inspection to 222 aircraft, of which about 60 percent have been inspected,” said the spokesman. “Only a handful required replacement parts, and that included the Qantas aircraft, which are being serviced accordingly.”

This latest problem with the Q400 does not relate to the landing-gear difficulties that grounded SAS Commuter’s Q400 fleet in 2007, according to Bombardier.  
That year SAS removed from service all 27 of its Q400s, including five at its Wideroe subsidiary, after defects related to their landing gear led to three landing mishaps within two months. Investigators attributed the last accident, which occurred on Oct. 27, 2007, as an SAS Q400’s right main landing gear failed to extend fully upon landing at Copenhagen International Airport, to a loose o-ring that blocked an orifice within the gear’s actuator assembly. Authorities blamed each of the first two accidents, in Aalborg, Denmark, on September 9 and in Vilnius, Lithuania, on September 12, on corrosion inside the landing gear’s actuator piston that caused it to separate from its rod end.

SAS claims it has found a defect in a solenoid valve in a majority of its 27 ­airplanes that could explain the October 27 incident.

Bombardier compensated SAS with $163.5 million in cash and credit for future aircraft purchases. As part of the agreement SAS later placed a new firm order for 14 Q400s and 13 CRJ900s, along with an option for a further 24 aircraft.