March 16, 2007

All Nippon Airplane Makes Emergency Landing in Japan

An All Nippon Airways Co. airplane made by Bombardier Inc. slid on its nose to a safe landing at Kochi airport in Japan after its front landing gear failed to lower. The airline grounded its fleet of Bombardier planes.

The flight, which carried 56 passengers and four crew members landed at 10:53 a.m., after circling for almost two hours, All Nippon said in a release today. The aircraft took off at 8:09 a.m. from Osaka airport in western Japan.

The plane is a two-year-old propeller-driven DHC8-400 made by Montreal-based Bombardier, All Nippon said. Previously, landing gear on the same type of plane in the airline's fleet failed to work properly nine times, forcing pilots to manually override the automatic system.

"We didn't think the problems with the Bombardier aircraft affected safety,'' said Shin Nagase a managing director at the company speaking to journalists in Tokyo.

Bombardier spokesman Marc Holloran said the accident was the first-ever belly landing of one of its Q400 turboprops. The company has 36 Q-Series aircraft in Japan, he said.

"The plane has a very good safety record since it was introduced in service in 2000," Holloran said. "We can't comment on the likely cause in this particular incident. We will be sending engineering and product safety personnel to Japan."

The Japanese government ordered the airlines to inspect their Bombardier planes within the next three days and said it would investigate the accident.

Grounded Planes

"We will certainly conduct various investigations as to why the incident happened," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said at a regular press conference in Tokyo today.

All Nippon, Japan's largest domestic carrier, will ground its 13 Bombardier DHC8-400s, including the one in today's accident. The airline canceled 48 flights because of the grounded planes, affecting 3,000 people.

The airline began studying the quality of its Bombardier planes two years ago. The landing gear on the planes failed to automatically open twice and failed to close seven times, said Senior Vice President Katsumi Nakamura.

Japan Airlines Corp., Asia's largest airline by sales, has begun checking the lower front landing gear on its nine Bombardier DHC8-400 aircraft, spokeswoman Yuko Takahashi said. The airline canceled 32 flights both for inspections and because the airport in Kochi was closed. About 1,800 passengers were affect by the cancellations, the airline said.

Sparks on the Tarmac

The plane's nose sent up sparks as it slid across the tarmac. After it came to a stop, fire engines doused the aircraft with water. Kochi airport is located on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's four main islands.

The 36-year-old pilot first approached the ground at 10:25 a.m. to try and jolt the front gear loose using the shock from landing on the rear wheels, according to Takashi Nakamura, a spokesman for All Nippon's Air Central unit that operated the flight.

"ANA expresses its deepest regrets at the emergency landing," the airline said in a statement. "We are working with the relevant authorities to provide all assistance and ascertain the cause."

All Nippon took delivery of the plane on July 18, 2005. The aircraft had been flown a total of 2,966 hours. All Nippon first started flying the DHC8-400 model in 2003. It uses the plane on 15 routes in Japan.

Shares of All Nippon rose 0.9 percent to 476 yen at the close of trading in Tokyo.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Cooper in Tokyo at


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