Dash 8-400 production comes to a halt

The De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 (formerly the Bombardier Q400) will see an indefinite suspension in production. In a press release, the company said “Given that prevailing industry circumstances have hindered the ability to confirm new aircraft sales, De Havilland Canada will not produce new Dash 8-400 aircraft at its Downsview site beyond currently confirmed orders. This is a responsible and prudent measure that reflects current industry conditions, and will limit strain on the market and De Havilland Canada’s supply base as the pandemic recovery occurs. Approximately 500 employees will be affected by the production pause

While the company maintains that the pause in production is temporary, it would be without a manufacturing site and would be interesting to see if it would get the Dash 8-400 back to the market – which will involve scouting and setting up a new production facility. The existing facility was sold by Bombardier and has clear deadlines on decommissioning of infrastructure and runway.

As Bombardier exited the commercial aviation market, selling the C-series to Airbus, the Q400 was sold to De Havilland Canada which has investment from Longview Capital – which was established in 2016 to manage long term investments in Canadian Aerospace. Bombardier divested its CRJ program as well and the division was sold to Mitsubishi which is building its own regional jet – named the Spacejet.

The company would continue to invest significant capital in the Customer Services and Support Team, distribution network and information technology to reduce the operating cost of the Dash 8 platform. It would also work towards developing upgrades and modifications to the Dash 8 – including packages that create a best-in-class freighter. In addition to these investments, De Havilland Canada continues to provide 24/7/365 customer support, and inventory over 35,000 part numbers required to serve the operating fleet from parts distribution locations in Canada and around the globe.

Last year, the demise of Flybe had already dealt a blow to the program as it was the largest operator of Dash 8-400 aircraft. While COVID-19 saw a lot of demand for Regional Jets like the A220 and the Embraer E-Jets, Q400 saw quite a few retirements. Air Baltic retired its entire fleet of Q400 aircraft. Austrian Airlines is also retiring its fleet of Q400. There have been more airlines which stopped deploying the Q400 as per this article from anna.aero.

What it means for Spicejet

Indian Low Cost Carrier Spicejet is the only operator of the Dash 8 – 400 or Q400 in India. The airline was the launch customer of the 90 seat version of the aircraft. The airline had signed a deal in 2017 for up to 50 aircraft which included a firm order of 25 with options for 25 more. The airline has taken delivery of only 10 of those. 

However, the airline currently has 32 such aircraft in its fleet with 22 being the 78 seat version, some of which have been converted to freighters. With multiple airlines grounding the type, Spicejet could see the maintenance costs go down as spare engines and parts are available at a cheaper price and it makes sense to use and forget those parts than send it for relatively expensive maintenance.

The first of the aircraft was inducted by Spicejet in 2011 and could stay in the fleet much longer as the airline deploys this type on the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) – UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) routes where it operates some of the longest turboprop flights like those between Bengaluru and Gwalior – a distance of nearly 1,500 kms, which is more than the range of rival ATR-72. 

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