Comment - The Q400 question: just a SAS excuse?

-
Source:
This story is sourced from Flight International
Subscribe today »

It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall at Scandinavian Airlines' headquarters in Stockholm.

Following three undercarriage malfunctions in its 27-strong Bombardier Q400 fleet, the carrier chose to ground them. Permanently. That's quite a disaster for SAS, its customers, and the commuter network in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Subsequent investigation by the airline, the manufacturer, Transport Canada and the European Aviation Safety Agency established that two of the events resulted from undetected corrosion, and one was a maintenance error. All were situations that could have been avoided, and certainly could be corrected quickly. EASA has confirmed the Q400's design as airworthy.

So what is the real issue? Was SAS looking for an excuse to get rid of its Q400s before the gear problems? SAS was the launch customer for this Dash 8 variant and had to put up with its unusually troublesome entry into service - but that's history. By definition, SAS operates some of the earliest of the type, but the oldest are still young at eight years. Other Q400 operators claim their experience of the type has not mirrored that of SAS. On top of all this, the report of a really serious incident involving an SAS Q400 last year has just been published. It is an indictment of SAS crew training and operational oversight. Is all this Q400 stuff really about the aeroplane, or about SAS's operation of the type?