EU Aviation Safety Agency Meets With Bombardier

European Union called for a 'crisis meeting' to evaluate the airworthiness of Bombardier Q-400 turboprops after three crash landings prompted SAS to drop the planes from its fleet.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) â€” The European Union's aviation safety authority called Monday for a ''crisis meeting'' to evaluate the airworthiness of Bombardier Q-400 turboprops after three crash landings prompted Scandinavian airline SAS to drop the planes from its fleet.
 
The European Aviation Safety Agency said in a statement it was ''very concerned'' about the latest accident Saturday in Copenhagen, when the landing gear malfunctioned on an SAS Q-400 turboprop, also known as Dash 8.
 
The agency said it had contacted Canadian authorities and Montreal-based aircraft maker Bombardier Inc. ''for an immediate crisis meeting to discuss the continued airworthiness'' of the planes.
 
''In the light of our analysis, we will decide whether to issue a further emergency airworthiness directive or any other appropriate measures for the Dash 8 Q-400 aircraft,'' said the EASA, which is based in Cologne, Germany.
 
SAS decided to stop flying its 27 turboprops on Sunday, a day after one of its planes made an emergency landing in Copenhagen with a landing gear malfunction â€” the third such incident in seven weeks.
 
There were no serious injuries, but the SAS board said the accidents had affected passengers' confidence in the planes and that continuing to fly the turboprops could damage the airline's reputation.
 
Seattle-based Horizon Air estimated it lost $4 million to $5 million in revenue when it grounded its fleet of 33 Q-400s for about two weeks in mid-September, after two Q-400s flown by SAS made crash landings.
 
Horizon, a subsidiary of Alaska Air Group Inc., has said it hasn't experienced any problems with the Q-400s since it started flying the planes in 2001. It ordered 15 new Q-400s from Bombardier in April and will begin taking delivery of the 76-seat aircraft in late 2008.
 
In a conference call after Alaska Air Group's earnings were released last week, Jeff Pinneo, Horizon's president and CEO, said the airline is negotiating with Bombardier, but declined to discuss how much the carrier is seeking in reimbursements.
 
SAS â€” the joint flag carrier of Sweden, Norway and Denmark â€” said Monday that dropping the planes would cost it up to 400 million kronor ($63 million) during the remainder of the year.
 
SAS said it would replace the turboprops, which represented about 5 percent of its seat capacity, with other planes in its fleet as well as with leased aircraft.
 
The airline canceled about 100 flights on Monday and Tuesday because of the decision, mostly out of Copenhagen.
 
SAS shares fell 2.6 percent to 110.75 kronor ($17.38) in Stockholm.
 
The carrier had earlier demanded 500 million kronor ($78.25 million) in compensation from Bombardier for costs and lost income for accidents involving the turboprops. It was not immediately clear if SAS would make additional claims after Sunday's decision.
 
Bombardier said in a statement on Sunday that it was ''disappointed'' that SAS pulled the planes because Danish authorities had not yet closed an investigation into Saturday's crash landing.
 
The company stuck by an earlier assessment that found no systemic problem with the landing gear. ''Bombardier stands behind the Q-400 aircraft,'' the company said.
 
In Saturday's incident, a turboprop with 44 people on board crash-landed in Copenhagen when part of its landing gear collapsed, with one wing scraping the ground in a shower of sparks. All passengers and crew were evacuated safely.
 
The same type of plane, also known as Dash 8, crash-landed twice last month â€” in Aalborg, Denmark, and Vilnius, Lithuania.
 
Danish investigators said Monday that an initial probe indicated Saturday's incident and the Sept. 9 crash-landing in Aalborg were caused by different problems.
 
In the latest accident, the landing gear under the right wing failed to extend fully, causing the plane to slide down the runway on its belly and the wing to hit the ground, the accident investigation board said.
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