Tokyo: All Nippon Airways grounded its entire fleet of Bombardier planes on 13 March after the front landing gear on one failed to descend, forcing the aircraft to make an emergency landing with 60 people on board.
No one was injured when the Bombardier DHC-8 turboprop landed on its rear wheels and then carefully touched its nose to the runway. Sparks shot from the bottom of the white and blue fuselage as the plane skidded to a halt, but the pilot kept it on the tarmac.
The mishap was the latest in a string of problems with ANA’s fleet of Canadian-made Bombardier aircraft, which forced Japan’s second-largest airline to issue a formal apology last year. ANA said it was grounding its fleet of 13 Bombardiers for inspection and would not resume service until their safety had been confirmed.
The first plane, carrying 56 passengers and four crew members, circled for nearly two hours over Kochi airport in western Japan as it tried to extend its front wheels and negotiate an emergency landing.
Rescue trucks sprayed the plane with fire retardant chemicals after it landed, and relieved passengers debarked. The cause of the failure is not yet known, ANA spokesman Daisuke Kato said.
Also on 13 March, a separate Bombardier DHC-8 plane operated by ANA spewed smoke from its engine when it landed at Nakashibetsu airport on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, Kyodo News agency reported.
The smoke was spotted by a ground engineer. None of the plane’s passengers or crew were injured, Kyodo said.
In February 2006, a Bombardier plane operated by ANA also experienced landing gear problems. That pilot aborted an initial landing attempt after all three sets of wheels failed to deploy. The landing gear was later deployed manually, and none of the 25 passengers and crew was injured.
Later that month, two ANA-operated Bombardier airliners made emergency landings at Osaka airport shortly after taking off. One had problems with its heating system, while a warning lamp in the other signaled something was wrong with one of its doors. No one was injured.
In 2004, the right wheel of a Bombardier broke off while landing at Kochi airport, also with no injuries.
ANA’s president apologized for the problems with Bombardier aircraft at the airline’s annual shareholder meeting in June 2006. At the time, it had 11 Bombardiers in its fleet and had placed orders for 14 more.
Executive Vice President Shin Nagase apologized again for “causing great concern”.
Bombardier is in discussions with the airline about its safety concerns, said Masaki Okahata, a spokesman for Sojitz Corp., a trading company that acts as the manufacturer’s representative in Japan.
“There has been trouble, but no accidents,” Okahata said. “Instead of laying blame, the airlines are talking with the manufacturer about the matter.”
Nationwide, there have been 77 reported incidents of irregularities with Bombardier planes since 2003, he said. The problems range from faulty lighting to bigger issues such as failed landing gear.
Bombardier officials at the company’s headquarters in Montreal were not immediately available for comment.