UK regional carrier Flybe will this week provide a shot in the arm for Bombardier's struggling Dash 8 Q400 programme with an order for around 20 more of the 70-seat turboprops. The deal is expected to be announced on 23 April.

The carrier has been negotiating the purchase for months as part of its strategy to rationalise its fleet on just two types - the Q400 and the BAe 146-300. It is understood Flybe, which already operates four Q400s, will trade back its three Dash 8 Q200s and four Q300s to the Canadian manufacturer as part of the new order. The airline is also planning to phase out its three CRJ200 regional jets and seven 146-200s.

Exeter-based Flybe originally intended to base its regional jet operations around the BAE Systems Avro RJX, a proposed third-generation 146, and committed to take up to 20 before the programme was cancelled in late 2001.

Bombardier has been struggling to bolster the Q400's order backlog in the face of the airline downturn and a troubled introduction to service which saw some airlines encountering reliability problems, which the manufacturer says it has since rectified. Production of the Q400 was recently suspended for two months due to weak demand.



Source: Flight International