Bombardier Q400s Can’t Keep ‘Em Down When They Grow Old

What a strange week for the Bombardier Q400 and for Scandinavian airline SAS. After having the gear collapse on two separate landings within a couple of days, I think it’s safe to say there’s a problem here.

First, there was the landing in Aalborg, Denmark last Sunday. You can watch the really cool video coverage by clicking below.

That may look worse than it actually was. Everyone got out fine, as they usually do with gear collapses upon landing.

The second one happened yesterday on a flight to Palanga (Lithuania). According to the release from SAS, the flight apparently “experienced technical difficulties” and diverted to Vilnius (also Lithuania). Once again, everyone was fine, but there are really no details here, but I’m told it was again a landing gear collapse.

This makes sense because Bombardier immediately called for inspections on all Q400s with more than 10,000 cycles (1 takeoff and 1 landing count as 1 cycle). SAS decided to ground their entire fleet immediately until inspections could be completed even though not all of them had more than 10,000 cycles.

In the US, I believe this only affects Alaska’s regional airline Horizon Air. These guys canceled about a quarter of their flights yesterday and will do the same today. Make sure you check with them before you go to the airport to find your flight canceled. Other than that, nobody here should be affected. Continental will have Q400 flights from a regional partner starting next year but that’s not an issue now. And Hawai’i’s Island Air recently got rid of their Q400s as they try to survive.

I’m curious to see what this means going forward. If they don’t find any problems on the existing fleet, will they just started requiring inspections as each plane turns 10,000 cycles old? Something tells me that the accident investigations will turn up some common thread. If not, it’ll have just been an amazing coincidence.

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