Monday, 7 January 2008

Needing More Than a Lubricated Shaft: Bombardier CRJ100/200 Flap Problem Remains Nuisance for Operators

One of the great things about being a journablogger (i.e. journalist blogger) is that I don’t have to adhere to a word count on my blog. Essentially, for better or worse, I can dump the contents of my notebook onto Runway Girl.

That’s an especially nice feature when covering a story like the Bombardier CRJ100/200 flap problem, and its impact on operators (which, as of Jan 3, were to have complied with a maintenance action in a FAA airworthiness directive aimed at reducing the number of stuck flap incidents that have been linked to cold weather operations).

That action called for CRJ100/200 operators to clean and lubricate the flexible shafts and install metallic seals in the flexible drive-shaft. While a clean, lubricated shaft suits certain purposes nicely, it seems it just isn't enough to resolve the CRJ100/200 problem (ahem). To that end, Bombardier has redesigned a seal, and is readying to have it certificated.

A story now running in Flight International magazine, and found here, talks about all of this. However, the world’s largest CRJ200 operator SkyWest had quite a bit more to say about the subject. Now Air Wisconsin has also chimed in, after one of its CRJ200s was forced to make an emergency landing at Burlington, Vermont last week due to a flap failure.

But let's start with SkyWest. Here’s a slightly abridged version of what SkyWest vice-president of finance and treasurer Michael Kruapp told me:

"SkyWest is probably on the forefront of complying with this [AD]. It is important to note that SkyWest actually noted that this was a problem prior to the issue…and sort of had a fix in place already."

"At this time, we are complying with the AD and taking the required changes as noted and specified by Bombardier. We are having some challenges and difficulty in doing that. From our perspective, we’re still having some challenges with the fix - the recommended fix that we’ve got, we’re trying to make sure that it is and it does work, etc. We’re just working through that process and ensuring compliance with the AD as issued."

"It’s interesting to note that when you get into a situation like this, they [Bombardier] are running through and trying to remedy a known situation right now and I think what they are still trying to do is to make sure that this is going to be a long-term fix."

"We operate an awful lot of these RJs (about 250) and we have a very keen interest to work with Bombardier, helping them, providing them with expertise. The challenge [is] in ensuring that it is a permanent fix and that you don’t have failures after that. We’re working with Bombardier to ensure compliance with the AD and do anything and everything we can as a partner and operator of these aircraft to ensure there is a good fix."

"They are working on continuous improvement. They are realizing they have a challenge here with the recommended solution and they are seeking an even better fix from what they have today."

"Obviously we are working on some of these fixes ourselves, and to the extent that we do that, we take our resources, maintenance…I’m sure most of the operators are incurring their own monies to help this fix as well."

And now for Air Wisconsin. On January 2, a CRJ200 operating as US Airways Express from Philadelphia to Burlington made an emergency landing at Burlington after experiencing a flap problem.

“The flaps failed”, says an Air Wisconsin spokeswoman. She says the pilots “discontinued their approach”, did a “go-around” and choose an alternative runway at the airport after determining that wind conditions were more conducive to landing. The aircraft landed safely.

It is unclear if weather had an impact on the flap failure (although it looks like Jan 2 was one mighty cold day in Vermont).

It is interesting to note that the incident occurred after the carrier complied with the maintenance action contained in the FAA’s air worthiness directive. “Two weeks ahead of the required date, all aircraft had gone through what they needed [and] are compliant with the airworthiness directive,” says the Air Wisconsin spokeswoman.

“It’s obvious that with that aircraft there has been an issue," she adds.

As specified in my article for Flight, Bombardier has been working with US manufacturer Eaton to redesign the flap system. The company has “completed testing of a new seal and, very soon, will share the specifics with the certification authorities”, it says.

Bombardier has also engaged Eaton for additional modifications. The work with Eaton, which is scheduled to begin in February, will further enhance the system's reliability, and is being done "in the spirit of continuous improvement", says Bombardier.

(Astroglide photo from "Must Have Site for Men" at

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