SAS Group has placed the launch order for a refreshed "NextGen" version of the Q400, as Bombardier continues its studies into a stretched version of the 70-seat turboprop.

Meanwhile Bombardier is following a similar strategy to one it launched last year with upgrades to its CRJ700/900 regional jets under the NextGen banner with its turboprop flagship.

SAS has placed orders for 14 Q400 NextGen aircraft for its Widerøe and AirBaltic arms as part of a major deal to replace its grounded fleet of 27 Q400s. The deal also comprises 13 CRJ900 NextGens for its Scandinavian Airlines division.

Existing Q400 customers have the option to switch to the NextGen, with first deliveries scheduled for 2009.

 © Bombardier

SAS Group has been pressing to secure new aircraft after last October's grounding of its entire Q400 operation after three Scandinavian Airlines landing accidents.

The order is part of a compensation deal related to problems faced last year with its Q400s and marks the "end-game" to replacement of that fleet, says SAS.

The Q400 NextGen offers a suite of upgrades and improvements (see graphic), mainly to the cabin. No engine modifications are planned but the operating manual will be altered to improve fuel burn in certain conditions.

There are also increased maintenance intervals, while landing gear modifications introduced on the in-service fleet following the SAS incidents will be incorporated, including a new metallurgy applied to the actuator piston and rod in the main landing gear.