Scandinavian Airlines Pulls Turboprops From Fleet

STOCKHOLM, Sweden_Scandinavian Airlines said Sunday it will pull Bombardier Q400 turboprops from its fleet after a series of crash landings caused by landing gear malfunctions.

The decision came a day after an SAS turboprop with 44 people on board crash-landed in Denmark 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 and SAS temporarily grounded its fleet of turboprops. No one was seriously injured.

"Confidence in the Q400 has diminished considerably and our customers are becoming increasingly doubtful about flying in this type of aircraft," SAS chief executive Mats Jansson said in a statement.

In a statement released Sunday on the company Web site, Canada's Bombardier Inc. said it was "disappointed" with the SAS decision to pull 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 Q400 aircraft," the company said.

The statement also said Bombardier had completed a full review of the Q400 landing gear system along with the landing gear manufacturer, Goodrich, which further "confirmed its safe design and operational integrity."

SAS said it would replace its 27 Bombardier turboprops with other types of aircraft in its fleet, as well as with leased aircraft. SAS warned that it would have to cancel flights "in the period immediately ahead," but did not say how many. The turboprops represented some 5 percent of SAS's total fleet.

The airline had already canceled about 50 flights Sunday and Monday with turboprops after Saturday's emergency landing at Copenhagen's airport.

Bombardier recommended airlines to continue flying the aircraft, saying there appeared to be no link between the Saturday's crash-landing and previous incidents involving SAS turboprops.

SAS has said it would demand $78.25 million in compensation from Bombardier for costs and lost income for accidents involving the turboprops. It wasn't immediately clear if SAS would make additional claims after Sunday's decision.

Twenty-one other airlines worldwide currently operate the Q400 or have pending orders for the aircraft, including American companies Horizon Air, Frontier Airlines and Continental Airlines, according to Bombardier.

Company spokesman Bert Cruickshank said 164 Q400 planes had been delivered worldwide as of July 31, including 31 currently operated by Horizon Air.

Cruickshank said Frontier Airlines has 10 Q400 planes on order, one of which had been delivered as of July, and Continental Airlines and Memphis, Tenn.-based Pinnacle Airlines Corp. ordered 15 planes in March under a joint contract.

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Associated Press Writer Karl Ritter contributed to this report.

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