Another example of a politician and a newspaper making a story bigger than it deserves???
A plane used by Air New Zealand on many of its regional routes has suffered 17 under-carriage malfunctions in recent years, official figures show. The Dash-8 aircraft, which carries almost two million domestic fliers a year, was hit by defects ranging from burst tyres to faulty landing gear. The Civil Aviation Authority said none of the incidents between October 2006 and August 2009 had endangered the lives of passengers. But Labour's transport safety spokeswoman Darien Fenton labelled the figures "extremely alarming". "The New Zealand travelling public need to know how common this is," she said. "I fly on Dash-8s all the time and I had no idea that there was this number of problems. "The scary thing is they don't appear to know why it's happening. It's pretty shocking. It is a lot of incidents for five years." Civil Aviation did not identify which companies were affected by the problems. Air NZ's subsidiary Air Nelson has 23 of the Dash-8 Q300 planes in its fleet, flying 1.9million passengers a year between the main centres and a dozen regional destinations including Napier, Hamilton, Rotorua and Tauranga. In a statement, Air Nelson general manager Grant Kerr said: "It is standard practice for air operators to notify the CAA of any irregularities in aircraft operations. Air Nelson's fleet of aircraft operate more than 60,000 flights per year with extremely high reliability levels." In one incident on November 17, 2008, a flight was forced to return to Wellington after a landing wheel opened and closed twice during takeoff without any pilot input. On December 7, 2007, another flight was forced to turn back after a similar problem. No cause was recorded in either case. Aviation expert Peter Clark said all of the malfunctions were relatively minor: "Each time the plane has landed safely and has been operated within safety guidelines. "Air New Zealand are exceptionally good at following safety requirements." An earlier series of the Dash-8 plane was involved in the Ansett NZ Flight 703 crash in 1995, which killed four people and seriously injured 14 more. An official report into the crash in the Tararua Ranges near Palmerston North said the pilots became distracted after the undercarriage failed to open during landing approach. The Air NZ Q300 Dash-8 is a remodelled version of the type of plane flown by Ansett NZ, which went into liquidation in 2001. Vincent Aviation, a Wellington charter company, also has several Q100 Dash-8 aircraft in its fleet. CAA spokesman Bill Sommer said the total number of safety incidents involving Dash-8s was less than one per thousand hours of flying: "We have no concerns about safety on Dash-8 aircraft. All of these incidents occurred for very for different reasons." John King, the editor of New Zealand Aviation News, said 17 incidents in five years did sound quite high. "I am sure that the operators are keeping a very close eye on it," he added. Associate Transport Minister Nathan Guy declined to comment, saying it was an operational matter. Overseas, the later model Q400 Dash-8 aircraft have been involved in several major crashes. In February 2009, a Q400 Dash-8 stalled and crashed in New York en route to Buffalo, killing all 49 passengers. Three separate landing gear failures on Scandinavian Airlines flights within a month in 2007 saw the airline withdraw all of its Q400 Dash-8s from service.