Friday, May 15, 2015

Flashback Friday: Bombardier’s Dash 8 Family


Alaska Airlines (Horizon Air) Bombardier Dash 8-Q400: Photo by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

By Luis Linares / Published May 15, 2015

Twenty years ago, regional jets (RJs) began to challenge turboprops in the regional carrier market.  However, a spike in oil prices a decade later, combined with a competitive response from turboprop manufacturers like ATR and Bombardier, led many regional airlines to reconsider using turboprops.  On this Flashback Friday, we look at one of these major turboprop competitors – Bombardier’s Dash 8 family, which has sold over 1,200 aircraft to date.


The forbearer of the Dash 8 family is the four-engine Dash 7, which de Havilland Canada developed and introduced in the 1970s.  The company specifically designed the Dash 7 for short takeoff and landing (STOL) performance, which was ideal for small airports.  However, de Havilland only built 113 aircraft as a result of customers being more interested in operating costs rather than short-field performance.

In 1980, de Havilland took airlines’ preferences into account and began to develop a twin-engine aircraft based on the Dash 7 design.  Pratt & Whitney (PW) Canada manufactured the PW100 engine, which was twice as powerful as a dingle Dash 7 engine, for the project.  The new aircraft would become the Dash 8.

PW conducted over 3,800 hours of tests on the new PW100 series engines even before the first Dash 8 rolled out on April 19, 1983.  The maiden flight of the Dash 8 took place on June 20, 1983.  In addition, PW improved the engines and gave them an updated PW120 designation, and they were certified in late 1983.  Defunct Canadian carrier NorOntair received the first Dash 8 in 1983.



United Express (Republic Airlines) Bombardier Dash 8-Q400: Photo by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

The Dash 8 design consists of a T-tail, high-mounted wings, and long engine nacelles that also hold the main landing gear.  Despite not having the STOL capabilities, the Dash 8 is able to operate from 3,000 ft (910 m) runways, compared to the 2,200 ft (670 m) required by a full Dash 7.  In addition, the airplane has a cruising altitude of 25,000 ft (7,620 m).  Starting in 1996, Bombardier, which absorbed de Havilland in 1992, implemented an Active Noise and Vibration Suppression (ANVS) system to reduce cabin noise and vibration levels and renamed the Dash 8series “Q-Series” to emphasize the quieter characteristics.

The design of the Dash 8 was very advanced for its time, and introduction of the aircraft came during a period in which many airlines were retiring their older turboprops.  This meant the company could not keep up with demand.  Furthermore, these circumstances led France’s Aérospatiale and Italy’s Alenia to team up to produce the ATR turboprop.  The competition continues to this day between their latest models, the Dash Q400 and ATR 72-600.

Competition with Regional Jets

In the 1990s many regional carriers turned to new RJs offered by Bombardier and later Embraer.  Despite having lower fuel consumption and being able to operate from shorter runways, turboprops had higher engine maintenance costs, shorter ranges, and lower speeds, compared to RJs.  Moreover, RJs could fly higher, meaning less encounters with weather-related turbulence, which made them more popular with passengers.

EXTRA:  Can Bombardier’s Q400 Save Regional Air Service in the US?

One factor that helped the Dash 8 family was lower fuel costs.  In the mid-2000s, oil prices surged, which affected the bottom line of regional carriers and forced many to opting for turboprops over regional jets.  This resulted in more turboprop sales for Bombardier and ATR. Furthermore, these newer turboprops can break even on costs with lower load factors, especially on routes that are less than 350 miles (500 km) in which a Dash Q400 has a similar gate-to-gate schedule to a RJ.

Q400 cabin Q400 flight deck
Horizon Air Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 cabin and cockpit: Photos courtesy of AirwaysNews


The Dash 8 family consists of four models, originally known as the Dash 8-100, -200, -300, and -400.  With the ANVS introduction, these are designated today as Dash 8-Q100, -Q200, -Q300, and -Q400. Specifics characteristics of each variant are as follows:

100 Series


US Airways Express (Piedmont Airlines) Bombardier Dash 8-100: Photo by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

As mentioned earlier, the first Dash 8-100 entered service in 1984 with NorOntair.  This aircraft typical seats 37 passengers in a 2-2 layout economy class configuration.  The airplane measures 73 ft (22.25 m) in length; has a wingspan of 84 ft 11 in (25.89 m); and a height of 24 ft, 7 in (7.49 m).

The -100 is powered by PW120A or PW121 engines and cruises at a speed of 310 mph (269 kt or 500 kmph).  In addition, its maximum range is 1,020 nmi (1,174 mi or 1,889 km).  Bombardier delivered the last -100 in 2005.

200 Series


United Express (CommutAir) Bombardier Dash 8-200: Photo by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

The Dash 8-200 is identical in size to the -100 but more advanced.  Entry into service (EIS) took place in 1995.  The -200 is powered by PW123C or PW123D engines.  Moreover, it is faster than the -100 with a cruise speed of 334 mph (290 kt or 537 kmph) but has a slightly shorter range of 925 nmi (1,065 mi or 1,713 km).  Finally, the -100 and -200 require 2,625 ft (800 m) of runway distance for takeoff.

300 Series


Bahamasair Bombardier Dash 8-300: Photo by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

The -300 is longer than the -100/-200 models with a length of 84 ft 3 (25.68 m) and has a larger wingspan of 90 ft (27.43 m).  The aircraft had its EIS in 1989.  In a single class layout, it can seat an average of 50 passengers and flies up to 1,098 nmi (1,264 mi or 2,034 km) and requires a takeoff filed length of 3,865 ft (1,178 m).

PW123B engines power the -300, and the airplane has a typical cruising speed of 328 mph (285 kt or 528 kmph).  Bombardier decided to discontinue the -100/-200/-300 (classics) series in April 2008 to focus on the modern 400 series.  One month later, the last -200s and 300s rolled out of Bombardier’s Downsview, Ontario plant.  The company produced a total of 671 classics.

400 Series

The pressure from regional jet competitors spurred Bombardier to upgrade its family of turboprops.  The response was the development of the Q400, designed to have a cruising speed close to that of regional jets and with modern engines resulting in less maintenance and decreased costs and digital avionics on the flight deck.  The manufacturer’s aggressive marketing has resulted in 539 orders to date, with almost 500 delivered since EIS in 2000.

The Dash 8-Q400 became a topic of negative press after a series of landing gear malfunctions in 2007.  Investigators determined that a rapid rate of corrosion in the landing gear mechanisms led to these incidents . The company had to reach settlements with major clients like Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and also executed a managerial shakeup.


Alaska Airlines (Horizon Air) Bombardier Dash 8-Q400:  Photo by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

At 107 ft 8 in (32.81 m) in length, the -400 fits into the 70-seat market with a typical economy class capacity of 78 passengers . In addition to being the longest model of the Dash 8 family, it also has the largest wingspan at 93ft 2 in (28.4 m).  The aircraft is powered by PW150A engines.

The -400 also has the highest cruising altitude of all the variants – 27,000 ft (8,230 m) and can cruise at 414 mph (360 kt or 667 kmph).  Furthermore, a fully-loaded -400 requires 4,600 ft (1,402 m of runway).  Finally, it has a maximum range 1,361 nmi (1,567 mi or 2,522 km).

The Future

Over the last few years,  Bombardier has struggled to get new Q400 orders and has been talking to customers and evaluating a more advanced, and possibly stretched, Q400X.  With current jet fuel at a relatively low price, the shift from regional jets back to turboprops has not been much of a news item.  However, if or when oil prices rise again, we could hear more details about the Q400X.

EXTRA:  Program Analysis: Bombardier’s Q400 Struggles May Persist

EXTRA:  Bombardier Q400 Program Head Discusses Cargo Combi; Q400X

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The post Flashback Friday: Bombardier’s Dash 8 Family appeared first on Airchive.

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