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Snowy conditions main factor in landing gear collapse at northwest B.C. airport: TSB

Jan. 31, 2020 incident resulted in substantial damage to plane, temporary closure of Terrace airport
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada identified snow as a contributing factor in an incident at the Northwest Regional Airport Jan 31, 2020 that resulted in the collapse of a WestJet aircraft’s nose landing gear. (Northwest Regional Airport/Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

A snow covered runway and limited visual cues contributed to the collapse of a WestJet Dash 8’s nose landing gear at the Northwest Regional Airport last January, according to a Transportation Safety Board (TSB) report.

The Jan. 31, 2020 incident forced the temporary closure of the airport with the plane skidding for around 400 feet before stopping in the centre of the runway.

There were no injuries reported among four crew members and 43 passengers but the De Havilland DHC-8-402 aircraft suffered damage to the collapsed nose landing gear and right propeller blades.

The TSB investigation released today (July 22), indicates that snow affected the aircraft’s landing.

“Given the falling snow and the snow-covered runway, there were limited visual cues available to the flight crew, which decreased their ability to accurately judge the aircraft’s lateral position once it was beyond the runway threshold,” the report stated.

The aircraft initially touched down 10 feet left of the centre line on the runway, and while it was still in a ‘light weight on wheels condition’ a gust of wind pushed the aircraft farther left.

That forced it to make contact with an 18-inch-high windrow of snow on the edge of the cleared area and travel through a portion of the runway covered in snow, according to the investigation report.

“During the runway excursion, snow and ice became packed in the nose landing gear bay and caused structural deformation,” the report states.

“Consequently, the nose landing gear was no longer being held in place and collapsed rearward into the fuselage, causing substantial damage to the aircraft.”

Two weeks after the incident, WestJet issued an update to its Quick Reference Handbook with changes to “contaminated runway operations.” The airport issued a memo to inform staff of changes aligning its winter maintenance plan with a Transport Canada advisory circular.

READ MORE: Airport reopened after plane’s nose collapsed, skids off runway during landing in Terrace