Bombardier rules out 90-seat Q400, pushes combi variant

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Bombardier is firmly ruling out developing a 90-seat stretch of its Dash 8 Q400 turboprop and instead will focus on promoting an 86-seat, high-density configuration of its existing aircraft.

The Canadian airframer also believes a "combi" version of the turboprop - with a moveable bulkhead and expanded cargo area - could be a route to developing new markets, especially in Asia, and extending the life of the programme, says Mike Arcamone, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, speaking after an Aviation Club luncheon in London on 27 March.

Bombardier will "not build" a longer-fuselage version of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150A-powered Q400, he says. "It's not in our plans."

With five aircraft types in development, another certification effort would compound Bombardier Aerospace's financial headaches, even if it saw market potential for a stretched Q400. The company already faces mounting costs from its delayed CSeries and Learjet 85 business jet programmes, and has two further Global executive jets under development.

Instead, Bombardier is focusing on exploiting "flexible" applications for the Q400 in emerging markets, says Arcamone. There is a "lot of interest" in a combi variant as well as the 86-seater, for which Thai low-cost carrier Nok Air is launch customer, he adds.

Although Bombardier has no firm customers yet, the combi conversion would come under a supplemental type certificate, allowing customers to move the bulkhead in a maintenance facility. Indonesia, where there is a need to transport small consignments of cargo as well as passengers between remote airports, would be a "major market" for the variant, he says.