Friday, February 13, 2009

The Dash 8 and Safety Questions

[Right: The Dash8 Q400]


This Reuters story on the horrible crash that killed 50 when a Continental Airlines flight approaching Buffalo went down last night has good reporting and background, but one glaring problem: It somewhat cavalierly dismisses manifest recent safety problems on Dash 8 Q400 turboprop airplanes, three of which crash-landed in Scandinavia in the fall of 2007 because of landing gear malfunctions.

But here's a truly remarkable comment to Reuters from one of those aviation professors who always seem to be available for instant speculation:

"There have been a few crashes with the Dash 8 over the years, but I don't recall anything that has been noticeably pointed out in the literature about that particular airplane that would suggest any issues," said David Greatrix, professor of aerospace at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Well, the "literature" aside, I'd say we do have some "issues," as I have said before about this aircraft.

There is no indication that any landing gear problem might have caused last night's disaster on approach to the Buffalo airport.

The Wall Street Journal said today today the plane made a sharp right turn as it approached the runway from about six miles off, and that the erratic turn occurred "about the time that the pilot would have been configuring the aircraft for landing."

On the other hand, the NTSB said that the Dash 8 crew reported ice buildup on the wings at some point before the final approach.

Ice or not, it is time to connect some dots on the history of the Dash 8, including some along the various maintenance trails. That would include de-icing systems.

Another thing that will be looked at more closely: The ATC recording as the Buffalo flight went off screen shows that air-traffic control in Cleveland, about 200 miles away, was handling the flight at the time it went down -- presumably at the point where a handoff to the Buffalo tower was being made for final approach.

Meanwhile, here's an interesting take on turboprops and icing problems, from Clive Irving, a consulting editor on aviation issues at Conde Nast Traveler, link via the Daily Beast.

The Continental Airlines flight was operated by Colgan Air under contract with Continental. Colgan is a subsidiary of Pinnacle Airlines, which used to be known as Express Airlines.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

NOTE: I don't work for the manufacturer of this plane. I am a heavy business flyer who knows his commerical aircraft well, and depends on the Dash-8 regularly.
The Dash-8 is simply one of the safest planes ever made. There are over 900 of them in world service, and some are 25 years old. Consider this: Before last night, there has NEVER been a fatal crash of a Dash-8. Whatever role icing played, it appears to be compounded by a deadly mix of Wind Sheer and Crew Error.