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2ND LD: Bolt came off ANA propjet's nose-gear doors, investigators say.

TOKYO, March 14 Kyodo

(EDS: UPDATING WITH INFO ON PROBABLE CAUSE OF INCIDENT)

Investigators said Wednesday a bolt locking the front-gear doors on an All Nippon Airways passenger plane that made a nose landing Tuesday at Kochi airport in western Japan had come off, obstructing the gear's deployment during a landing operation.

A part supporting the bolt got lodged on the surrounding area after the bolt came off, preventing the doors from opening to deploy the front gear either by the normal hydraulics or a backup manually operable device, the investigators from the Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission said.

The bolt has disappeared and it is unclear when or why it came off, they said, adding that the transport ministry commission will look into the bolt's manufacturing process and the aircraft's maintenance in a subsequent investigation.

The investigators held a news conference at the airport, where the DHC8-Q400 Bombardier propjet has been kept since it landed with 60 people who were aboard unhurt.

Earlier in the day, they interviewed the crew members of the domestic flight and air traffic controllers at the airport in Nankoku, Kochi Prefecture. Captain Hitoshi Imazato, 36, who flew the twin-turboprop from Osaka's Itami airport, was also questioned by local police in connection with the incident.

Bombardier Aerospace, the Canadian builder of the popular DHC8 series fleet, will soon send a six-member team, including engineers, to Japan to determine the cause of the incident, according to the manufacturer's Japanese intermediary.

The airport reopened for flights at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. It was closed after the incident just before 11 a.m. Tuesday with the plane stuck on the airport's runway.

Some flights were canceled Wednesday due to the airport's closure and emergency checkups on all 36 DHC8-series airplanes operating in Japan ordered by the ministry following the situation.

ANA, which has 18 DHC8 aircraft in its fleet, said Wednesday it has finished the emergency checks on most of them as ordered by the ministry and will resume normal flight operations from Thursday.

Meanwhile, ANA officials said the front-gear doors of the Q400 that made the nose landing had opened without trouble when the manual backup device was used during an airworthiness inspection last May. The device failed to work during Tuesday's landing operation.

The commission's investigators have found that the aircraft's pilots had pulled a wiring device designed to manually open the doors and lower the gear in cases of emergency after a hydraulic device failure, but the backup also failed to function.

The backup device has a relatively simple mechanism using metal wire, and such a device has hardly ever failed, according to the ministry.

A spokesman for Bombardier said the Q400 series had incidents related to their wiring harnesses, but such a problem was ''rectified previously.''

''I would also like to confirm that this is the first time ever that a Q400 lands on the belly like that without the front landing gear open,'' said the spokesman, Marc Duchesne.

Bombardier ''will work fully and openly'' with Japanese civil aviation authorities and ANA ''to determine the root cause and to implement any corrective actions required,'' Bombardier Regional Aircraft President Steven Ridolfi said in a statement.

The company wishes to express ''regret surrounding the circumstances affecting (the) nose landing gear malfunction'' and to convey ''our apologies to the passengers and crew'' who were aboard the flight for any concerns they experienced, he said.

On Tuesday morning, flight 1603 from Osaka to Kochi, operated by ANA subsidiary Air Central Co., made an emergency landing at Kochi airport with only a set of its main gear after Captain Imazato reported he could not lower the front gear even manually.

The plane successfully landed on the 2,500-meter runway with its nose touching the surface, giving off sparks before it came to a halt. All 56 passengers and four crew members were unhurt.

After the incident, the transport ministry issued a directive for checks on all 36 DHC8-series airplanes flying in Japan in line with the Civil Aeronautics Law.
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Publication:Japan Transportation Scan
Date:Mar 19, 2007
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