Why SAS Ditched Its Dash 8 Fleet

The very nature of time means that airlines can’t operate even the most-loved aircraft forever. Over the course of a carrier’s history, various models will come and go, with retirements generally being a rather gradual and ceremonial matter. However, October 28th, 2007, saw Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) announce its intentions to retire its entire fleet of Dash 8 turboprops. But what exactly brought about this decision?

SAS Dash 8
Gear incidents plagued SAS’s Dash 8 fleet. Photo: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt via Wikimedia Commons

Two incidents in September 2007

September 2007 was a desperately unlucky month for SAS as far as its Bombardier Dash 8 fleet was concerned. Specifically, this period saw it experience two landing gear failures involving Dash 8-Q400 turboprops. What made these incidents all the more alarming was the fact that they occurred across a span of just four days.

The first of these took place on September 9th, 2007, in Aalborg, Denmark. With the right landing gear having failed to lock into place, it collapsed upon touchdown. This caused the aircraft’s right wing to strike the ground, starting a fire. Five of the flight’s 73 occupants were injured either by the impact or during the evacuation.

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SAS Dash 8
The first two incidents occurred across a four-day span. Photo: Andreas Hoppe via Wikimedia Commons

Then, on September 12th, a similar incident befell another SAS flight to Palanga, Lithuania. After the crew discovered a landing gear issues inflight, they diverted the aircraft to Vilnius. Here, the plane’s right landing gear collapsed on touchdown once again. None of its 52 occupants were injured in this incident, which was Vilnius’s most serious in years.

Third incident proves the last straw

The second incident in Vilnius prompted SAS to ground its entire Dash 8 fleet. At this time, this consisted of 27 Dash 8-Q400s. Shortly afterward, Bombardier made a similar recommendation for operators flying Dash 8-Q400s with more than 10,000 flying hours (around 60 of 160 in service at the time). This led to hundreds of cancellations worldwide.

Austrian Dash 8
Austrian was one of the carriers to ground Dash 8s after the second incident, taking eight out of service. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

However, a third incident proved to the final nail in the coffin for the Dash 8 family at SAS. Around six weeks after the second occurrence, on October 27th, 2007, the crew of a Copenhagen-bound Dash 8 discovered a main gear issue inflight. However, unlike the previous collapses, this flight was forced to land with its right gear already up.

Once again, this meant that the aircraft’s right wing struck the runway upon landing, although, this time, there was no fire as a result. All 44 of its occupants escaped without injury, but the writing was on the wall for the type at SAS. The following day, it announced the planned retirement of its Dash 8-Q400 aircraft, bringing their story to a close.

Where did the aircraft end up?

This decision left SAS suddenly without 27 relatively young short-haul aircraft. It eventually agreed upon a settlement with Bombardier. This saw it order a new batch of the company’s regional aircraft, but with a $164 million discount in light of the incidents.

Flybe Dash 8 London City
Several of SAS’s Dash 8s ended up at UK regional carrier Flybe. Photo: Jake Hardiman | Simple Flying

Despite SAS’s difficulties with its Dash 8 fleet, the aircraft that it suddenly retired soon found new operators. According to Planespotters.net, some of these transferred to UK-based regional carrier Flybe. Flybe was the largest operator of the type before its collapse in March 2020. This has since led to a sharp drop in European Dash 8-operated flights.

Other airlines that went on to operate SAS’s retired Dash 8s included:

  • Bluebird Aviation (Kenya)
  • LAM Mozambique Airlines
  • Malév Hungarian Airlines
  • Nord-Flyg (Sweden)
  • PAL Express (Philippines)
  • Widerøe (Norway)
  • 748 Air Services (Kenya)

Were you aware of SAS’s sudden withdrawal of its Dash 8 aircraft? Did you get the chance to fly on one during their time at the carrier? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.