A ceremony Friday afternoon in Toronto marks a major milestone for Canada’s best-selling aircraft. De Havilland will deliver the 600th Dash 8-400 (formerly the Bombardier Q400) ever built, to Ethiopian Airlines.
Senior executives from the airline and Longview Aviation Capital, which owns De Havilland, will be on hand for the ceremony.
Longview took a gamble on the iconic Canadian brand, buying the -400 and relaunching the De Havilland Canada name earlier this year. Longview bought the Dash 8-400 production line and service and support for the smaller -100, -200, and -300 versions, from Bombardier, as the Quebec manufacturer – maker of both turbo-props and regional jets – progressively got out of the passenger aviation market.
“We see enormous value in the de Havilland Dash 8 program, with these aircraft in demand and in use all around the world,” Longview CEO David Curtis said at the time.
The move instantly catapulted Longview Aviation into top spot as North America’s largest turbo-prop manufacturer. It also owns Viking Air, which builds and maintains a full range of older de Havilland types.
There is no questioning the Dash 8’s popularity in this country, where more than a sixth of all -400s fly. Canada’s three largest operators of the -400 – Air Canada Jazz, Westjet Encore, and Porter – collectively operate more than 115 aircraft. Typically, the aircraft seat around of 78 people, though it can be as high as 90, and serve routes that would be too small for larger Boeing and Airbus jets.
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While the Dash 8 can fly routes longer than 2,000 km, segments are typically shorter, with 600 km being considered a sweet spot for turbo-prop aircraft. While they are slower and don’t fly as high as regional jets, turbo-props are more efficient, and have a significant fuel advantage, burning up to 20% less, meaning they can save airlines money.
De Havilland’s 600 deliveries are dwarfed by European rival ATR, which has delivered more than 1,200 of its comparable ATR-72. Looking ahead, ATR sees a huge market for turbo-prop aircraft in the next 20 years – 2,390 aircraft in the 61 – 80 seat range. Much of that growth, says ATR, will come from new routes in Asia-Pacific countries, particularly China.
“Everyone likes fast and easy trips from a nearby airport,” said ATR CEO Christian Scherer. “Not only do turboprops offer the right capacity and technology, they also reach places where no other aircraft can go: more than one third of the world’s commercial airports rely exclusively on turboprops.”
De Havilland says its order book is full through 2020, and it continues to market the Dash 8 around the world. While orders have been slow in recent years, the company did confirm a six-aircraft purchase by TAAG Angola Airlines at the recent Paris Air Show.
“TAAG is looking to the future of our fleet and the market opportunities where the Dash 8-400 aircraft will be an important part of our growth strategy. The acquisition of these new aircraft is important to support a stronger domestic network and support our regional and international network,” said Rui Carreira, Chairman, TAAG Angola Airlines.
The Dash 8-400 is built at a facility in Toronto, where Friday’s ceremony is scheduled.
The Downsview airport was built by de Havilland in 1929 as a general aviation facility where the manufacturer could test aircraft. While Longview Aviation is bullish on the present, the future is less clear. The lease on the facility runs out in two years, and long-term plans for both the plant and the associated runway are still being developed by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, which owns the land.
In a nod to De Havilland’s 75-year history, Longview has flown in three of its historic types to mark the 600th -400 delivery. In addition to the new plane for Ethiopian, a Chipmunk, a Beaver, and a Twin Otter will form the backdrop for the ceremony.
VIDEO: De Havilland’s history