WestJet Dash 8-400 Suffers Stiff Controls Whilst Landing In Montreal

A WestJet Encore operated Dash 8-400 had to declare an emergency on approach to Montreal earlier this week as the controls had become unmanageably stiff. The flight crew disconnected the shared flight controls and found that the stiffness was only on the co-pilot’s side. As such, the crew managed to land the aircraft safely and all 21 passengers deboarded without injury.

WestJet Encore Dash 8-400
The WestJet Encore Dash 8-400 suffered stiff controls. Photo: WestJet

What happened?

According to a report in the Aviation Herald, the WestJet aircraft, a de Havilland Dash 8-400 registered as C-FENO, was scheduled to undertake flight WS-3538 from Toronto (YYZ) on Tuesday 31st March. This is a daily service by the low-cost carrier to Montreal (YUL).

The aircraft had a relatively light passenger load, with just 21 passengers and four crew members on board. Scheduled to take off at 21:30, the aircraft pushed back at 21:40 and made a successful takeoff for the one hour flight. Scheduled to arrive at 23:00, the aircraft was on approach to Montreal and about 50nm out when the pilots received a warning.

An advisory light indicating “mistrim left wing low” was illuminated. A mistrim warning suggests that the aircraft is not flying in the correct manner, indicating an issue with the autopilot. In order to correct this issue, the crew disconnected the autopilot and returned to manual flight mode.

However, the crew found the flight controls were incredibly stiff, making it difficult to operate the aircraft safely. As such, they took the decision to pull the flight control lever which separates the captain and first officer’s yokes. The first officer’s controls remained very stiff, but the captain’s controls returned to normal.

C-FENO landed safely in Montreal. Photo: FlightRadar24.com

As a result, the crew declared an emergency and proceeded to land safely at Montreal Airport at 22:50 as planned. All passengers and crew disembarked the flight safely.

Since landing, G-FENO has been in regular service, operating the return flight the next day. However, the flight was delayed by some six hours, indicating the maintenance was required. It has subsequently operated the Toronto-Montreal segment daily, so is clearly all fixed up now.

WestJet’s Dash 8s

The Dash-8 is the sole aircraft type of WestJet’s regional arm WestJet Encore. Since the demise of Flybe earlier this year, WestJet has become the joint largest operator of the Dash 8-400, alongside Horizon Air. In total, the airline has 47 aircraft in its fleet, with an average age of just 4.6 years.

C-FENO is one of the younger models in the fleet, at just 3.9 years of age, and arrived at WestJet Encore in June 2016. It is configured with 78 all-economy seats and operates mainly on domestic routes within Canada for the regional airline.

WestJet Dash 8
WestJet now has the largest fleet of Dash 8s in the world. Photo: WestJet

Although WestJet’s Dash 8s are not old aircraft, it’s not the first time the airline has had an issue with the type. In February this year, a Dash 8’s nose gear collapsed on landing sending emergency services dashing to the scene. And in November last year, a hydraulic failure caused an unexpected diversion, also on the Toronto to Montreal segment.

Thankfully one important flight on an Encore Dash 8 went off without incident. Prince Harry from the UK jumped aboard a Dash 8 to travel from Vancouver to Victoria to begin his new life away from the Royal Family.

Amid the current downturn in travel demand, WestJet has suspended all international flights for 30 days from the 17th March. It is, however, operating some repatriation flights for Canadians, with as many as 34 special services scheduled to operate to get its people back home.