The Bombardier Dash 8 (formerly the de Havilland Canada Dash 8, sometimes abbreviated as DHC-8) is a series of twin-engined, medium range, turboprop airliners. Introduced by de Havilland Canada (DHC) in 1984, they are now produced by Bombardier Aerospace. Since 1996, the aircraft have been known as the Q Series, for "quiet". Over 900 Dash 8s of all models have been built. Bombardier forecasts a total production run of 1,192 units of all Dash8/QSeries variants through the year 2016.
In the 1970s, de Havilland Canada had invested heavily in their Dash 7 project, creating what was essentially a larger four-engine version of their Twin Otter concentrating on excellent STOL (Short Takeoff And Landing) and short-field performance, their traditional area of expertise. Using four medium-power engines with large four-bladed propellers resulted in very low noise levels which, combined with its excellent STOL characteristics, made the Dash 7 suitable for operating from small in-city airports, a market DHC felt would be compelling. However, only a handful of air carriers employed the Dash 7 as most regional airlines were more interested in operational costs than short-field performance.
In 1980, de Havilland responded by dropping the short-field performance requirement and adapting the basic Dash 7 layout to use only two, more powerful, engines. Their favoured engine supplier, Pratt & Whitney Canada, developed the new PW100 series engines for the role, more than doubling the power from their PT6. Originally designated the PT7A-2R engine, it later became the PW120. When the Dash 8 rolled out on 19 April 1983, more than 3800 hours of testing had been accumulated over two years on five PW100 series test engines. Certification of the PW120 followed in late 1983.
Distinguishing features of the Dash 8 design are the large T-tail intended to keep the tail free of prop wash during takeoff, a very high aspect ratio wing, the elongated engine nacelles also holding the rearward-folding landing gear and the pointed nose profile. First flight was on 20 June 1983, and the airliner entered service in 1984 with NorOntair. Piedmont Airlines, formerly Henson Airlines, was the first US customer for the Dash 8 in 1984.
The Dash 8 design had better cruise performance than the Dash 7, was less expensive to operate, and much less expensive to maintain due largely to having only two engines. The Dash 8 had the lowest cost per passenger mile of any regional airliner of the era. It was a little noisier than the extremely quiet Dash 7, and could not match the superb STOL performance of its earlier DHC forebears, although still able to operate from small airports with 3,000 ft (1,000 m) runways, as against required by a fully loaded Dash 7.
The Dash 8 was introduced at a particularly advantageous time; most airlines were in the process of adding new aircraft to their fleet as the airline industry expanded greatly in the 1980s. The older generation of regional airliners from the 1950s and 1960s was nearing retirement, leading to high sales figures. de Havilland Canada was unable to meet the demand with sufficient production.
In 1988, Boeing bought the company in a bid to improve production at DHC's Downsview Airport plants, as well as better position themselves to compete for a new Air Canada order for large intercontinental airliners. Air Canada was a Crown corporation at the time, and both Boeing and Airbus were competing heavily via political channels for the contract. It was eventually won by Airbus, who received an order for 34 A330 and A340 aircraft in a highly controversial move. The allegations of bribery are today known as the Airbus affair. Following their failure in the competition, Boeing immediately put de Havilland Canada up for sale. The company was eventually purchased by Bombardier in 1992.
The market demand for short-haul airliners was so great that Aerospatiale of France paired with Italy's Alenia to form ATR. Their once separate efforts combined to compete directly with the Dash 8. The resulting ATR 42 was even less expensive than the Dash 8, but de Havilland Canada responded with newer models to close the gap. Other companies competed with smaller or more tailored designs, like the Saab 340 and Embraer Brasilia, but by the time these were introduced the market was already reaching saturation.
All Dash 8s delivered from the second quarter of 1996 (including all Series 400s) include the Active Noise and Vibration Suppression (ANVS) system designed to reduce cabin noise and vibration levels to nearly those of jet airliners. To emphasize their quietness, Bombardier renamed the Dash 8 models as the Q Series turboprops (Q200, Q300 and Q400).
The Dash 8-100 is no longer in production, with the last Dash 8-102 built in 2005. Production of the Q200 and Q300 will cease in May 2009.
The market for new aircraft to replace existing turboprops once again grew in the mid-1990s, and de Havilland responded with the improved "Series 400" design.
When world oil prices drove up short-haul airfares in 2006, an increasing number of airlines that had bought regional jets began to reassess turboprop regional airliners, which use about 30% less fuel than regional jets. Although the market does not appear to be as robust as in the 1980s when the first Dash 8s were introduced, 2007 saw increased sales of the only two 40+ seat regional turboprops still in western production, Bombardier's Q400 and its competitor, the ATR series of 50-70 seat turboprops. The Q400 has a cruising speed close to that of most regional jets, and its mature engines and systems require less frequent maintenance, reducing its disadvantage.
The aircraft breaks even with about 1/3rd of its seats filled (or 1/4 with more closely spaced seats), making it particularly attractive on routes with varying passenger numbers where many seats will be empty on some flights. For example, Island Air in Hawaii calculated that the use of a 50-seat Regional Jet would break even at 45 passenger seats compared to the Q400's 35-36 seats (around 55% breakeven load factor). Most short-haul routes are less than 350 miles (500 km), so the time spent on taxiing, takeoff and landing virtually eliminates a competing jet's speed advantage. As the Q400's 414 mph (667 km/h) cruise speed approaches jet speeds, short-haul airlines can usually replace a regional jet with a Q400 without changing their gate-to-gate schedules.
Bombardier has singled out the Q400 for more aggressive marketing, launching a website centered around the aircraft. The aircraft is also being considered for a further stretched version (currently designated Q400X) to compete in the 90-seat market range.
As of August 2006, 227 Dash 8 Series 100 aircraft remain in airline service, with 1 further order. Major operators include:
Some 21 other airlines operate smaller numbers of Dash 8 Series 100.
In August 2006, 72 Dash 8 Series 200 aircraft are in airline service, with 2 further orders. Major operators include:
Some 14 other airlines operate smaller numbers of Dash 8 Series 200.
In August 2006, 214 Dash 8 Series 300 aircraft remain in airline service, with 13 further orders.
Major operators include:
Some 11 other airlines operate smaller numbers of Dash 8 Series 300.
As of April 2007, 140 Q400 aircraft are in airline service, with 215 orders.
Major operators include:
Some 17 other airlines operate smaller numbers of Dash 8 Series 400.
In February 2007, Pinnacle Airlines Corporation announced an order for 15 Q400s on behalf of its recently acquired subsidiary, Colgan Air. The aircraft will be operated in a "codeshare" agreement with Continental Airlines, under the Continental Connection banner out of their Newark, New Jersey hub.
|Series 100||Series 200||Series 300||Series 400|
|Unit Cost (US$)||$12.5 million||$13 million||$17 million||$27 million|
|Production & Orders||298||91||263||313|
|Overall length||22.25 m||25.68 m||32.81 m|
|Height (to top of horizontal tail)||7.49 m||8.3 m|
|Fuselage diameter||2.69 m|
|Maximum cabin width||2.03 m|
|Cabin length||9.1 m||12.6 m||18.8 m|
|Wingspan (geometric)||25.89 m||27.43 m||28.4 m|
|Wing area (reference)||54.4 m²||56.2 m²||63.1 m²|
|Basic Operating Data|
|Engines||2 PW120A/PW121||2 PW123C/D||2 PW123B||2 PW150A|
|Typical Passenger Seating||37 (Single Class)||50 (Single Class)||70 (Single Class)|
|Passenger Seating Range||37-39||50-56||68-78|
|Maximum Cruise Speed||310 mph (500 km/h)||334 mph (537 km/h)||328 mph (528 km/h)||414 mph (667 km/h)|
|Maximum Operating Altitude||25,000 ft (7,620 m)||27,000 ft (8,230 m)|
|Range (w/typical pax)||1,174 miles (1,889 km)||1,065 miles (1,713 km)||968 miles (1,558 km)||1,567 miles (2,522 km)|
|Range (w/LR tanks)||n/a||1,264 miles (2,034 km)||n/a|
|Takeoff run at MTOW||n/a||3,280 ft (1,000 m)||3,865 ft (1,178 m)||4,600 ft (1,402 m)|
|Maximum takeoff weight||16,466 kg||19,505 kg||29,257 kg|
|Maximum landing weight||15,649 kg||19,051 kg||28,009 kg|
|Maximum zero fuel weight||14,696 kg||17,917 kg||25,855 kg|
|Maximum fuel capacity||3,160 l||6,526 l|
|Typical operating weight empty||10,483 kg||11,791 kg||17,185 kg|
|Typical volumetric payload||3,407 kg||5,138 kg||8,670 kg|