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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 October 2007, 15:20 GMT
SAS grounds planes in safety fear
SAS plane makes emergency landing at Aalborg airport, Denmark - 9/9/07
SAS fears problems with the plane could damage its image
Scandinavian airline SAS is permanently stopping flying Bombardier Q400 planes after several emergencies caused by landing gear problems.

The decision came after a plane carrying 44 people from Bergen, Norway, to Copenhagen made an emergency landing in Denmark on Saturday.

Nobody was seriously hurt in the incident, the third involving a Canadian-made Bombardier in two months.

The SAS board decided to "immediately discontinue" using the planes.

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

And the airline's deputy chief executive, John Dueholm, said the plane had seen "repeated quality-related problems".

"SAS's flight operations have always enjoyed an excellent reputation and there is a risk that use of the Q400 could eventually damage the SAS brand," he said.

Lease replacements

The airline operates 27 of the planes which are used on many Nordic regional routes and for connections to destinations including the UK, Germany, Poland and Luxembourg.

SAS said that since it began using the planes in 2000, they had accounted for about 5% of all passengers carried.

The carrier, which had already cancelled more than 40 flights on Sunday after the Copenhagen incident, said it was inevitable that there would now be more flights shelved.

It would look to fill the gap in schedules by reallocating planes in its current fleet and by leasing aircraft, it said.

In September, Bombardier grounded almost half of its Q400 turboprop planes after equipment failures forced emergency landings of SAS planes in Denmark and Lithuania.

At the time of the move, the Montreal-based company said that the groundings were a "precautionary measure", adding it believed its aircraft were "absolutely safe and reliable".

The Q400 turboprop - which carries between 68 and 78 passengers - has been in use since 2000, and more than 160 of the planes have been delivered around the world.

In March, an All Nippon Airways Q400 plane carrying 56 passengers and four crew landed safely after its nose gear failed to descend.

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