Scandinavian Airlines System has decided to permanently stop flying Canadian-made Bombardier Q400 turboprops after a string of crash landings blamed on landing gear malfunctions, the airline's chief executive said Sunday.
SAS, the joint flag carrier of Sweden, Denmark and Norway, made the decision the day after an SAS turboprop— also known as the Dash 8 Q400— crash-landed with 44 people on board in Denmark when part of its landing gear collapsed.
No one was seriously injured in the accident, the third crash landing involving the airline's Bombardier-built Q400 turboprops in less than two months.
"Confidence in the Q400 has diminished considerably and our customers are becoming increasingly doubtful about flying in this type of aircraft," SAS chief executive Mats Jansson said in a statement.
"Accordingly, with the board of directors' approval, I have decided to immediately remove Dash 8 Q400 aircraft from service," Jansson said.
It was not known what effect the SAS decision might have on sales of the aircraft, whichare assembled at Bombardier's Downsview plant in Toronto. But one analyst said it could be a blow for the company.
"Anything like this hurts your brand name. There's no question," said Barry Prentice, director of the Transport Institute at the University of Manitoba.
Bombardier Inc. said there are 165 Q400 planes in service with more than 20 airlines around the world, including Toronto-based Porter Airlines, and that it's not aware of any other incidents with any other airlines.
"We are very disappointed to hear that Q400 will be getting out of the SAS fleet," said Marc Duchesne, a Bombardier spokesman.
"It's a very safe aircraft and we're standing by our product," he told CBC Newsworld on Sunday.
Duchesne said Bombardier officials spoke on Saturday with Transport Canada, the certification authority for the aircraft, and that it supported Bombardier's decision to send a message to its operators, advising them of the latest incident and that they should continue normal operations with their Q400 fleet.
"I think people can still be confident flying on this aircraft," said Lucy Vignola, a Transport Canada spokeswoman, whoadded the Q400 was certified and that flight crews are required to do a pre-flight check to make sure everything is safe before take off.
SAS grounded Q400 fleet after crashes
Saturday's accident followed two similar crash landings in September with the same type of plane, after which SAS temporarily grounded its fleet of turboprops. No one was seriously injured in any of the accidents.
SAS said it will replace its 27 turboprops, made by Montreal-based Bombardier with other types of aircraft in its fleet, as well as with leased aircraft. SAS warned that it will have to cancel flights "in the period immediately ahead," but did not say how many.
SAS had already cancelled about 50 flights Sunday and Monday after Saturday's emergency landing at Copenhagen's airport.
The plane slid down the runway on its belly after the landing gear collapsed, with one wing scraping the ground in a shower of sparks. All passengers and crew were evacuated from the plane safely.
Earlier crashes in Denmark, Lithuania
On Sept. 9, a SAS turboprop made a crash landing in Aalborg, Denmark, because of a landing gear problem. Another of the airline's Q400 planes was involved in a similar incident three days later in Lithuania.
SAS grounded its entire fleet of 27 Q400 aircraft for three weeks following the first two accidents in September, but had resumed flights earlier in October after replacing landing gear parts.
The airline has said it would demand 500 million kronor or about $75 million in compensation from Bombardier for costs and lost income for accidents involving the plane.It wasn't clear whether SAS would make additional claims after Sunday's decision.But SAS said it will try also to get other companies to take over the Q400 leases.