The Dash-8 Q400 was equipped with pneumatic deicing boots, and according to the black box data the de-icing button in the cockpit was in the "on" position.
Deicing boots are installed on aircraft surfaces to permit mechanical deicing in flight. Typically, they are installed on the leading edges of wings and control surfaces, such as horizontal and vertical stabilizers, because these areas are most likely to accumulate ice. Ice accumulation can severely affect the aircraft's performance.
National Transportation Safety Board official, Steven Chealander, told news media this afternoon that the crew had reported poor visibility at 16,000 feet, and requested permission from air traffic control to descend for landing. The conditions the plane encountered are a known cause of icing. And crew of other aircraft in the vicinity at the time were complaining of ice build-up on their aircrafts' wings.
The Bombardier-built Dash-8 was 6 miles from the runway at Buffalo Niagara airport, and likely somewhere around 2,000 feet when Captain Marvin Renslow deployed the plane's landing gear and wing flaps in preparation for landing. That's when things started to go horribly wrong.
"Severe pitch and roll [began] within seconds of the flaps being deployed," Chealander said, which indicates that the plane's wings dipped and rose violently, while the nose of the aircraft bucked up and down. The crew apparently tried to raise the landing gear and alter the wing flaps but this is where the audio tape ends. Everything happened so quickly that Captain Renslow had no time to radio a mayday.
According to eyewitness accounts, the Dash-8 descended at a steep angel into the Wielinski residence. Karen Wielinski, 57, and her daughter Jill, 22, escaped their burning house, but Karen's husband was not as lucky.
One of the passengers killed in the crash had lost her husband in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Beverly Eckert was on her way to Buffalo to present a Canisius High School student with a scholarship created in her husband's name, on what would have been her husband's 58th birthday. Just last week, Eckert, together with relatives of other 9/11 victims and of the bombing of the USS Cole, met with President Barrack Obama to discuss the 'war on terror.'
Bombardier Q400 Has History of Landing Gear Problems
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In September 2007, after the initial 2 SAS incidents, the Canadian Transport Authority together with Bombardier recommended that all Q400s in service worldwide--about 160 planes-- be grounded for inspection.
However, following the third SAS incident, and a further incident involving a Lufthansa Q400 that suffered failure of its front landing gear and was forced to make an emergency landing in Munich, SAS pulled all its Q400s permanently.