Analysis: Bombardier continues to improve Q400 model

By Olivier Bonnassies

Aug. 21, 2018, © Airfinance Journal: Bombardier Commercial Aircraft is gradually introducing more features in its Q400 turboprop aircraft as the Canadian manufacturer continues to see appetite in the 70-90-seat market.

Improvements under development include a 2,000lb increase in payload capacity. The model’s current maximum payload is 18,716lb, while maximum take-off weight varies between 61,700lb and 67,200lb.

Other changes the manufacturer is introducing include the extension of A-check and C-check intervals from 600/6,000 to 800/8,000 flight hours, giving a 20% direct maintenance cost saving.

Bombardier Q400. Source: Bombardier.

90 passenger variant certified

The manufacturer announced on 1 August that its 90-passenger Q400 aircraft configuration had received its certification from Transport Canada, becoming the first in-production commercial turboprop to reach that capacity.

The extra-capacity Q400 features 90 seats at a 28-inch pitch while the standard dual-cabin Q400 model offers 74 seats with 30- and 35-inch seat pitches. Bombardier also offers a 50-seat cargo combi turboprop with a 32-inch pitch.

But the manufacturer will start delivering a new cabin standard version with 82 seats with a 30-inch pitch in the second half of this year. The aircraft’s entry has been opened up with the removal of the starboard side-forward baggage hold, giving three extra windows and helping to reduce weight and maintenance costs. The new 82-seat configuration also includes the removal of two galleys at the back of the aircraft in favor of one large galley.

“With increasing growth in the number of passengers per departure in the turboprop market, we are excited to offer our customers a higher-capacity configuration and 15% lower cost per seat compared to the previous standard Q400, leading to more profitability potential for airlines,” said Todd Young, head of the Q series aircraft program, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.

Spicejet placed an order for up to 50 Q400s in the ‘extra-capacity’ version last autumn.

Africa presence

Bombardier continues to increase its footprint in the African market.

“Africa is the youngest and fastest-growing region in the world, and regional aircraft like the Q400 will play a key role in helping advancing Africa’s economic growth,” says vice-president sales Middle East & Africa Jean Paul Boutibou.

Ethiopian Airlines concluded a firm order for 10 new Q400 aircraft as well as five additional purchase rights in the second quarter, while Bombardier also signed a firm purchase agreement for six new Q400 aircraft with African Aero Trading on behalf of the consortium forming Republic of Angola Air Connection Express. The carrier will operate the Q400 domestically to connect smaller communities and increase frequencies as a regional feeder airline to TAAG Angola Airlines.

South Africa’s Cemair became a new operator of the Q400 earlier this year through the acquisition and lease of three new and pre-owned Q400s.

Congo Airways is adding up to two additional Q Series aircraft to its fleet.

Kenya’s DAC East Africa added two Q200 and one Q400 aircraft while 748 Air Services in Kenya is adding a Q400 and Q200 to its fleet.

Bombardier recently unveiled Ghana’s start up carrier Passionair as a new Q400 customer. Three 78-seat aircraft, one of which is an ex-Flybe Q400, are being placed through an operating lease contract.




36 Comments on “Analysis: Bombardier continues to improve Q400 model

  1. I wonder what’s the new CASM of this 90 seater, and how it compares with the ATR72 (when both at a 28-inch pitch).

    • IIRC, the issue with the baseline Q400 relative to the ATR72 was that the Q400 was overpowered so as to offer “jet like speed” relative to the ATR72, resulting in higher fuel burn.

      Bombardier made the point that you could slow down to ATR72 speeds and mitigate most (but not all) of the fuel delta, but the Q400 was still more expensive up front, hence the ATR72 dominance. Q400 became a special needs solution for hot/high and long range.

      it would be nice to see an apples to apples capital and operating cost comparison with both configured at max-pax for the same mission at the same airspeed

      • It mostly comes down to sector length.

        With these improvements the economics of the Q400 on a 250NM sector will still be in favor of the ATR-72.
        On a 400NM flight the higher cruise speed comes in to play and allows an extra flight a day.
        Another point, new the Q400 costs at least 20% more than the ATR-72, with the ATR having a high residual value (which is an important factor for leasing companies).
        I remember reading about a typical route in India (max 300NM) where the ATR-72 would break even at 35%, while the Q400 would break even at 60%.
        Going from 82 to 90 passengers helps a lot but won’t drastically change the fundamentals.

        • The Q400 did not yet get the ATR72-600 type of reliability upgrade and is designed pre CRJ900 that has better systems. One can envision a small fwd stretch to 99 pax and more of C-series systems in a Q400XL model.

          • Q400 is in desperate need of reliability upgrades. IMHO it needs newer more fuel efficient engines it more of a competitor to ATR and regional jets. Maybe eliminating the bleed air system, to help improve fuel efficiency, etc. Reliability is Horizon’s #1 complaint and part of why they’re buying jets from Bombardier’s competitor.

          • All you have to do is throttle back and you get near ATR efficiency.

            On the other hand the ATR can’t go any faster if it needs to make up time, slow as a Super Cub with a climb prop.

            AK Airlines uses it for all its good qualities, high, hot, fast (when needed) no route adjustments due to engine out drift down.

  2. With Airbus having had quite a bit of success with the ATR, it would be interesting to see if Boeing would get a competing turboprop under its belt. Maybe get Embraer to build a brand new one. Or by a long shot, send a deeply worded letter of apology to Bombardier and ask for the takeover of the Q400. 😉

    • I’d be surprised if Boeing did any of that (especially the sorry part). Boeing owned deHavilland Canada and ran it into the ground. It’s not their core; it would be a distraction. For the same reason that Embraer should be very afraid (Boeing likely wants the engineers and sees little interest in the planes they sell). This is another deHavilland in the making. Even for Embraer to enter the field seems like a good way to lose money. ATR seems to be making money by providing a cheap and effective solution. I don’t think it’s worth the distraction for Boeing; I’d be surprised if Boeing can do things for such a small market with so thin margins and yet make a profit. They are making a ton of cash on their 737 and they seem like they should focus on resolving their production issues and figure out how to crank out more of those 737s. And fix their 787 issues. I’d say opening a second line somewhere outside Renton to ramp up production might be a better use of their money; as we see now, any productions issue and they almost have to put them on barges (no place left to put the gliders). I’d honestly consider opening another line closer to Spirit Aerosystems. Wichita totally makes sense. And it makes for a good backup solution if ever Mount Rainier goes the same path as Mount St-Helen. Just for a defense/strategic reason, it would make sense to have another base somewhere else. And it would give them the option to ramp up or down either locations. And if something bad happens, tsunami or sharknado attack, production doesn’t go down to zero for months.

      • Boeing owned deHavilland Canada indeed. But Boeing bought DHC – that was owned by the Goverment of Canada – hoping to “influence” the choice Air Canada had to make between the B737 and the Airbus A320 to replace its ageing DC-9’s… And Boeing sold DHC as soon as the A320 got selected…

    • Boeing owned deHavilland Canada for a while before Bomabardier!

    • There has been rumors of a new Embraer turoprop design study probably +100 seats using GE’s new big turboprop T408-GE-400, the 7,500 shp GE38-1B. That is 50% more Power than the PW150A in the Q400 indicating a 50% bigger Aircraft of 115-125 seats and hence a lower fuel burn per pax/mile for shuttle routes up to 1.5-3hrs and hopefully great powerplant/gearbox/prop reliability.

        • It would be a Twin Engine C-130 with a Composite wing and huge props and you get a modern EADS/CASA C-295 on steroids with 7,500shp instead of 2,645 shp PW127’s and x3 in size, payload and range. To compare MTOW the C-295 has 23,200 kg, the C-130J 74,393 kg. 3 x 23200= 69600kg getting close to C-130 capability…

    • @keesje: If pilots throttle back the Q400 to the speed of the ATR, fuel burn evens out.

      • Hmm, I would eat my hat if that was truth. A Q400 is still 4,5t / 5500 lbs heavier if throtllling back those enormous PW150s.

        It takes a lot of fuel to those extra 5500lbs to 20.oooft / 300 mph.. even if engine sfc would be identical.

        Which is unlikely, contrary to Q400, the ATR -600s got new engines/props in 2010.

        • The Q400 is heavier and burn more fuel per trip but also has more seats, so the fuel burn per seat is probably the same than ATR at the same speed.

          • If it carries 8 people more that’s 800kg payload extra. But still +4500 kg non paying metal too. Who’s paying for that fuel every flight, for 25 years?

          • Well the real experts say its so, I am going with them.

          • The engines in the Q400 are only say 500lb each in extra weight, maybe less.
            Where does the rest of the extra weight come from.

    • Hopefully they will be addressing the landing gear, maybe be I just had bad luck with Q400’s but were 3 incidents where the right landing gear collapsed on landing.

      My first experience with these type of aircraft came with the Dash-7, if that aircraft couldn’t get you in and out of a place very few others would.

  3. Also keep in mind, with the added engine power, ops are a lot less restricted in Mountainous country.

    India meets that criteria in the North, Ethiopian area in Africa.

    South Africa is very high plateau in the middle.

    Having excess power is every pilots dream. Not to hot rod, like a fast motorcycle, power can be a life saver.

    While I have nothing against the ATR (well some residue concern on its icing performance) I have alwyas liked the BBD Dash 7 and 8.

    Its a good feeling when it leaps off the ground and not just oozes.

    I think BBD ignored it marketing wise for too long and are now playing catch up.

    I don’t see an opening for a third Turbo Prop of that class.

    Sans Surgar High or Low I don’t see a from that offers a big enough advantage to com out with a new one.

    • In my country the main airline uses Q300 but for the 72 seats it changed to ATR. In one very difficult airport ringed by mountains the ATR does fine.

      • There are mountains and then what people call mountings.

        When you have to plan routes based on engine out and drop in altitude, you have to take the Mountain Height into consideration.

        The Q is a very much more versitle machine at some additional expanse.

        I can tell you any pilot will take power on tap any day of the week.

    • I had experiences in South & North America and Asia on this family of aircraft, but more often in Africa. As you said, as an example, taking off at 15H00 in the afternoon, 36+ C, 1700m elevation with massive tropical thunderstorms to maneuverer around its good to have gas+ on the throttle, then fuel consumption doesn’t matter.

      Horse’s for courses.

  4. It would be interesting to know how the Q compares with CRJ900 in 400-600 mile segments in terms of cost/trip time. To me that is the problem. Want jet like speed? Buy a jet!!

    • Very close to same time wise, much better if fuel use.

      It goes at near jet speeds and shorter segments more time spent climbing and descending.

      Once it gets out past 600 the balance changes, but the balance is also, what does it do next?

  5. Hmm, 28” legroom. So inviting! I wonder if Spirit and Frontier won’t just dive right in, and order a bunch! (“We don’t mean to torture you, but while you’re here..”. LOL)

    • Asians are smaller then N. Americans, for a short haul, 30-40 min who cares.

    • Spirit & Frontier don’t go there..

      I care & if I have no choice, afterwards I say bad things about the airline to everyone I know and on social media. For years 🙂

  6. While there appears to be a market for the Q400 in third world countries, it has been a non-seller in most other countries. It still carries the stigma of being old, slow and noisy. I have never flown the Q400, but have taken many dozens of flights on Dash-8-100’s, 200’s and 300’s. Strictly a utilitarian aircraft, vibration, noise and it builds appreciation for RJ’s.

    • The Q400 is faster that the competition, are you sure you are thinking of the same plane ?

      • Beat me to the “Say What”.

        No question people prefer jets, but Tubos beat them in under 500 mile segments (if the data is still right, oil prices have a lot to do with it)

        The Q400 has near jet speed if they want to use it.

        • The ATR72 predecessor the ATR42 first flight was Aug 1984.

          The Q400 predecessor the DHC-8 first flight was Jun 1983

          So that claim of ‘old’ is nonsense too. Im pretty sure the ‘3rd world’ is complete rubbish as well – they mostly fly ‘really old’ Russian or Chinese copy types.

          heres proof that mostly 3rd world is complete rubbish too when you look at -400/Q400 users.

          • Its been discussed that BBD simply did not present the operations the options of how to wring out the most SFC from the Q-400 and the versatility over the ATR.

            In short, its a bit more expnsive, those gnien do cost.

            But it can come very close to matching the ATR in all it does economy wise if that is the main driver but the ATR can’t come close to matching what the Q can do.

            So you get straighter routes in Mountainous country, unlimited hot and high (Ethiopia anyone – South Africa?) better utilization if it pencils out as an advantage and close to ATR economies if it does not.

            The Q is a Swiss Army knife of possibility.

            The ATR is a single not so sharp blade.

        • Passengers don’t care about fuel economy and many avoid props given the chance. I look at all the majors in the US and props are not a factor now or in the future. I just don’t see props having a resurgence as RJ’s are being improved upon to offer better fuel economy and short runway performance.

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