NTSB: Dash 8 crew departed despite “creaking and groaning noise”

Washington DC
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The crew of a US Airways Express Bombardier Dash 8-300 that was forced to land at Philadelphia International airport with its nose landing gear retracted on 16 November had earlier heard a "creaking and grinding noise" when taxiing out of Lehigh Valley International airport, says the US National Transportation Safety Board.

In a preliminary report on the incident, the NTSB says the pilot and first officer of Flight 4551 continued with the flight to Philadelphia as they felt "this was a 'normal' noise". After take-off, pilots reported that the nose gear took about "three or four seconds longer to retract than the main landing gear", but that the remainder of the flight was uneventful until they received a red warning light upon nose gear extension before landing at Philadelphia.

The pilots performed a nose gear-up landing on a foam-coated Runway 27L in the presence of airport rescue and firefighting teams. Investigators say the aircraft skidded for 160m (525ft) along the runway once the nose touched down, with damage largely limited to opened nose landing gear doors.

When the nose of the aircraft was lifted, a US Federal Aviation Administration inspector found that the nose gear was "canted at an angle, wedging it into the nose wheel well". After a pry bar was used to push the wheel into its normal position, the gear dropped freely and locked into the down position. The links on top of the steering column were found to have been "broken and pushed upward and the nose wheel over steering pin was still intact," the report states.