The Bombardier Dash 8 or Q-Series, previously known as the de Havilland Canada Dash 8 or DHC-8, is a series of twin-engined, medium range, turboprop airliners. Introduced by de Havilland Canada (DHC) in 1984, they are now produced byBombardier Aerospace. Over 1,000 Dash 8s of all models have been built, with Bombardier forecasting a total production run of 1,192 aircraft of all variants through to 2016.
The Dash 8 was developed from the de Havilland Canada Dash 7, which featured extreme short take-off and landing (STOL) performance. With the Dash 8, DHC focused on improving cruise performance and lowering operational costs. The engine chosen was the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW100. The aircraft has been delivered in four series. The Series 100 has a maximum capacity of 39, the Series 200 has the same capacity but offers more powerful engines, the Series 300 is a stretched, 50-seat version, and the Series 400 is further stretched to 78 passengers. Models delivered after 1997 have cabin noise suppression and are designated with the prefix “Q”. Production of the Series 100 ceased in 2005, and the Q200 and Q300 in 2009. Bombardier is considering launching a stretched version of the Q400.
The introduction of the regional jet altered the sales picture. Although more expensive than turboprops, regional jets allow airlines to operate passenger services on routes not suitable for turboprops. Turboprop aircraft have lower fuel consumption and can operate from shorter runways than regional jets, but have higher engine maintenance costs, shorter ranges and lower cruising speeds.
The market for new aircraft to replace existing turboprops once again grew in the mid-1990s, and DHC 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 30–60% 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.
According to Bombardier marketing, the aircraft breaks even with about 1/3 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 would 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 360 knot (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. Bombardier commercial aircraft president Gary Scott has affirmed that 2013–2014 is “the sort of time period we’re looking at today” for offering a stretched version of the Q400 turboprop.