Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Bombardier has acknowledged the need to rethink the marketing strategy for its de Havilland Dash 8 family as the growing success of regional jets makes selling turboprops airliners more difficult.

"The road is going to be bumpy, as the excitement is around jets," says Bombardier Aerospace president Bob Brown, conceding: "We will have to repackage our turboprops and aim for niches."

The Canadian company has sold 17 Dash 8s so far this year, compared with 23 Canadair Regional Jets (CRJs). In 1997 regional jets took over 60% of the orders in the regional market place and their backlog is double that of the turboprop types. Production of the CRJ has been increased to six a month, while deliveries of the Dash 8 are expected to be around the same 30-aircraft level as last year.

Bombardier has not revised its forecast for regional aircraft sales, however, and still sees turboprops making up 60% of the 8,250 deliveries projected over the next 20 years in the 15/90-seat market. One reason is its belief that the noise and vibration suppression (NVS) system in its latest Dash 8Q will "-change the way people look at turboprops," says Steve Ridolfi, vice-president marketing and aircraft programmes for Bombardier Aerospace Regional Aircraft.

The company points to carriers such as Horizon and Tyrolean, which are revamping their Dash 8 fleets with NVS-equipped aircraft. "There is no solution on really short-haul routes [under 370km] other than turboprops," Ridolfi says. Initial orders for the 70-seat Dash 8-400 now in development have been from European and Asian airlines, but he expects sales in North America "simply because of the economics" on short-haul, low-yield routes.

US consultancy AvStat Associates, meanwhile, is projecting that more than two-thirds of the aircraft delivered to US regional airlines over the next 10 years will be jets.

In a study for the USRegional Airlines Association, AvStat forecasts deliveries of 435 turboprops, compared with 845 jets. "The market for the large turboprop will be stronger outside the USA," AvStat acknowledges.

Source: Flight International