Alaska Air Group subsidiary Horizon Air is to push back delivery of its 14 remaining Bombardier Q400s from a 46-strong order with the Canadian airframer, signalling the first deferral of the turboprop type.

The announcement - from the second largest Q400 operator in the world - will dismay Bombardier. However, Teal Group vice-president analysis Richard Aboulafia does not believe widespread Q400 deferrals are in the offing. "I don't think Horizon's decision is about the aircraft. I think it's about the US market."

Horizon says it wants to time the delivery of its 76-seat Q400s to coincide with the remarketing and removal of its 20 Bombardier CRJ700s, as it transitions to an all-Q400 fleet, ideally by the end of 2009. Two CJR700s are expected to exit the fleet during the fourth quarter.

In response, Bombardier has tabled a new schedule that would see Horizon take one Q400 in the fourth quarter of this year, five in 2009, and a further five in 2010. Three more Q400s would follow later.

However, Horizon is "continuing to negotiate and the schedule is subject to change", says Alaska Air Group in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

In recent years the fuel-efficient Q400 has played a major role in reviving the turboprop sector as soaring fuel prices prompted US airlines to turn their attention away from gas-guzzling regional jets.

Including the recent order from Ethiopian Airlines for eight Q400s, Bombardier's total firm Q400 orders stand at 330 aircraft.

Bombardier says it is in discussions with customers regarding their fleet mixes and delivery scenarios but that there has been no confirmed aircraft deferrals to date.

Source: Flight International