Dash 8 wheel falls off in air

Focus, Normal

The National, Friday 18th November 2011

PASSENGERS on a Dash 8 aircraft who saw a wheel fall off their plane as it took off did not immediately inform the crew, an air accident investigation report released last week has found.
This accident though did not happen in Papua New Guinea, but in England on March 3 on a Flybe flight from Exeter to Newcastle.
The full accident report of this Dash 8 accident by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) was released early last week, several days after PNG air investigators released their preliminary report on the Madang Dash 8 tragedy of Oct 13.
According to the AAIB report, posted on its website, the Flybe captain returned to Exeter and used the emergency brake and “significant amounts of right rudder” to safely land the plane. No-one was injured.
The report said the wheel’s outer bearing had seized.
The wheel somehow became detached and plummeted to the ground just moments after the DHC-8-402 Dash 8 with 39 passengers and four crew members took off from Exeter.
Oddly, it was air traffic control who alerted the 58-year-old pilot to what had occurred rather than those sitting in the window seats who saw it happen.
The pilot immediately dispatched air stewards to investigate and it was at this point that the passengers told them what they had seen, AAIB reported.
A mayday alert was sent to the air traffic controllers and after circling the airport for more than an hour, the passengers were “evenly distributed” in the brace position as the captain attempted to land the plane, AAIB said.
It said the co-pilot contacted the airline’s chief pilot by radio and it was agreed that the crew would use a left-wing down technique ensuring the left main wheels touched down on the runway first, with the remaining right main wheel then being lowered onto the runway as gently as possible. 
As it touched down, it veered to the left and the captain had to apply “significant amounts of right rudder” to hold the aircraft steady. He then used the emergency brake to bring the aircraft to a halt and the passengers were able to disembark through the front left door, AAIB reported.
The wheel, one of two on the right side of the plane, dropped off as the Dash 8’s landing gear retracted after take-off.
Several passengers witnessed the wheel fall, the AAIB said, with some later reporting that they had seen ‘little sparks’ coming from it and a ‘large piece of metal’ protruding from the undercarriage. 
Martin Brown, 30, of North Tyneside, was on board the plane and alerted cabin crew after seeing the wheel fall off.
Speaking to the British newspapers last week, he said: “I looked out of the window and saw one of the wheels fall so I said to my colleague next to me ‘I don’t want to worry you, but I think I might have just seen the wheel come off’ and we called the cabin crew over.
“Then there was an announcement from the pilot to say there was a problem
with the aircraft.
“Luckily there was an aircraft technician onboard and he had a look and told the pilot what was wrong.”
Another passenger Christine Jackman, 28, of Newcastle, was returning home on the Flybe service from a four-day business trip.
The mother-of-one said: “It was horrendous. I sent a text to my partner and son telling them how much I loved them because I thought it might be the last thing I would do. 
“It was just sheer shock … when we landed, were shouting ‘keep your heads down’ and that was the worst part.
“That’s when I started crying. It was horrific.”
AAIB said in its report that the captain had inspected the right main landing gear before the flight and had not noticed any abnormalities and “given the nature of the bearing failure, it is unlikely that any (abnormalities) would have been visible.”