Grounding leads to Horizon Air cancellations

Planemaker Bombardier called for the grounding of all Q400 turboprop planes with least 10,000 landings Wednesday, causing Seattle-based Horizon Air to cancel 113 flights.

Horizon said late Wednesday it was “very likely” that a comparable number of flights could be canceled today and Friday, as it was waiting for a directive from the Federal Aviation Administration before beginning inspections of its Q400s.

Bombardier’s grounding advisory came after failed landing gear on a Scandinavian Airlines aircraft sent it skidding off a runway in Lithuania on Wednesday, the second such incident in three days.

None of the 52 passengers and crew on board were injured. However, the incident closely resembled a crash landing Sunday in which another SAS aircraft experienced landing gear failure. Five people were slightly injured in that incident.

The grounding Wednesday forced the cancellation of at least 200 flights worldwide. Horizon Air, a regional carrier operated by Alaska Air Group Inc., has 19 of the grounded aircraft. It could not say how long they may be out of service.

Overall, Bombardier said the grounding would affect 60 of the 160 Q400 aircraft that have been delivered worldwide.

“We decided to go ahead and to inform all our operators that there was a problem and that they should inspect all aircraft with more than 10,000 cycles as a precautionary measure,” Bombardier spokesman Marc Duchesne said.

Bombardier, the world’s No. 4 plane maker, said Canadian regulators have been briefed on the situation and could recommend further “corrective actions.”

“We believe our aircraft are absolutely safe and reliable,” said Duchesne.

U.S. and Canadian aviation regulators recently ordered Montreal-based Bombardier to address wing malfunctions on certain jets flown by regional carriers in North America.

The FAA’s directive, which went into effect Sept. 5, covers 684 airplanes in the U.S. fleet that were built by Bombardier and used by carriers such as Air Wisconsin and SkyWest Inc.

The airplanes have experienced flap failures over several years, according to Transport Canada, a regulatory body that issued its own safety order affecting 87 jets last month.

On Wednesday, SAS pilots attempted to land the 80-passenger plane in Lithuania on its front and left landing gear when the right set of wheels failed to extend, authorities said.

Passengers were ordered to move to the left side of the plane as it approached the runway for fear that the right propeller might shred upon landing and send shards into the cabin, said Kestutis Auryla, head of the Lithuanian Civil Aviation Administration.

On the Sunday crash landing in Denmark, shards of the propeller could be seen flying high into the air after the plane struck the runway.

The right wing struck the ground on Wednesday, causing a shower of sparks but no fire, Auryla said.

The Q400 turboprop eventually came to a stop in a patch of grass next to the airport’s main landing strip after turning 90 degrees. All 48 passengers and four crew were evacuated safely, he said.

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