Bombardier "does not see any roadblocks" to extending the structural life of its Dash 8 Q100s by 50% to 120,000 cycles. A growing number of the type is coming close to crossing the current 80,000-cycle threshold.
Peter Bjarnason, manager, programme planning, development and customer requirements, says aged Q100 turboprops are expected to start crossing the 80,000-cycle threshold next year and by 2019 27 aircraft will have reached that point.
Bombardier intends to spend the next year and a half putting the type through rigorous tests. It will work with Transport Canada, the US Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency so that the new 120,000-cycle threshold is accepted globally, says Bjarnason.
"Ultimately, what we're looking for [during these tests] is very tiny cracks," he says, adding that preliminary evaluations have given Bombardier "confidence it will meet" its target, adding: "When originally designed, the Dash 8 was designed to withstand everything from Arctic cold to searing heat in the Middle East. So you've got this huge temperate range it is designed for. So when you operate in a fairly moderate climate, it is extremely rugged," says the Bombardier executive.
In tandem with the structural life extension programme, Bombardier will establish a maintenance programme beyond 80,000 cycles. Both elements are considered "the essential package", says Bjarnason, and these will be sold together as a service bulletin.
In addition to this offering, operators can choose to incorporate available weight increase options to improve payload by up to two additional passengers.
Separately, third-party shops are offering supplemental type certificates for installation of a new Q100 interior kit and/or cockpit upgrade to glass flightdeck displays.
Recognising that a programme of this size would require significant lead time, Bombardier initiated a study in 2008 and launched discussions with potential partners.
The company is optimistic it will establish a launch customer in the second or third quarter of this year to ensure development in the 2009 and 2010 timeframe.
Life-extension programmes for the Q200 and Q300 are also being studied by Bombardier. "We clearly don't' want to see these aircraft coming out of service unnecessarily," says Bjarnason.