Hydro-Quebec orders two Q400s as corporate shuttles

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Québec’s hydro-electricity utility company Hydro-Québec has ordered two 72-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprops to operate as employee shuttles between Montreal and airfields serving generating sites in northern Québec province.

The order increases the firm Q400 orderbook to 74 aircraft.

Canadian regional airline Air Inuit is contracted to operate Hydro-Québec’s corporate shuttle fleet and will maintain and operate the two new Q400s – which will be delivered next year and will each be fitted with 72 seats – for the generating authority.

Hydro-Québec will base the Q400s at Montreal’s Dorval airport and will provide scheduled service from Montreal, Québec City, Rouyn-Noranda and Bagotville to five power-generating sites in northern Québec.

The utility is in the process of replacing the four elderly Convair 580 turboprops that until now have flown as the utility’s corporate shuttles. Earlier this year it leased two non-Q Dash 8-300s, but it is not immediately clear if Hydro-Québec plans to use these aircraft as long-term replacements for two of the Convair 580s.

However, a Bombardier spokesman says, the two Q400s will replace two of the Convair 580s, the speed of the Q400s allowing Hydro-Québec to keep to the existing schedule operated by the 580s – among the fastest small turboprop airliners flying – while reducing the maintenance requirements associated with the aircraft.

Bombardier says another consideration for Hydro-Québec in choosing the replacement aircraft was that they had to be turboprops because most of the airfields it serves are short and have rough gravel surfaces unsuitable for jets.

In addition, the airfields – located in Canada’s far north, where weather conditions are often very bad - are distant from their designated alternates and so schedule reliability and completion is important. Otherwise, work crews can remain cut off for extended periods.

As a result, the two Q400s will be retrofitted upon delivery with head-up guidance systems (HGSs) manufactured by Rockwell Collins Flight Dynamics to improve their ability to operate in harsh climatic conditions and low visibility minima. Hydro-Québec and Bombardier expect the HGSs to help the Q400s achieve an overall 99% on-time schedule performance throughout the year.

Hydro-Québec established its aviation arm in the early 1970s during the construction of the James Bay Hydro Electric Project in northwestern Québec.