Changes under study include the addition of GPS as well as modifications to cabin layout and new derivatives

Bombardier is looking to broaden the market application for the Dash 8 Q400 turboprop with avionics and cabin configuration enhancements, along with possible development of civil-freighter and special-missions derivatives for the military. A reduced-capacity version is also being produced in lieu of grafting Q400 technology onto smaller versions of the Dash 8.

The Q400 as a regional aircraft is not compliant with communications, navigation and surveillance/ air traffic management. However, "several airlines have expressed interest in expanded mainline-like capabilities," says Bob Fear, Bombardier manager Q400 product planning. Options include the addition of GPS satellite navigation and upgrades to the flight management system to meet more precise navigation performance requirements.

Satellite communications is also being considered as an option by one airline, while Horizon is equipping its planned fleet of 15 Q400s with the Flight Dynamics head-up display guidance system for CAT3A approaches in restricted visibility. There is also European airline interest in the system, says Bombardier.

Bombardier currently configures the 70-seat turboprop with a single-class four abreast cabin, but is studying a two or three-abreast business-class layout. "We've not yet scratched the surface at getting the airlines that are out there to recognise the real benefits the aircraft has to offer," adds Fear.

The company is looking at a dedicated freighter version of the Q400 equipped with a large side cargo door, and has talked to a number of potential customers like FedEx Express and UPS. The aircraft would be capable of carrying a payload of up to 8,630kg (19,000lb).

Other possibilities being studied are a special missions configured Q400 such as maritime patrol, search-and-rescue or electronic intelligence gathering.

Major Q400 operator SAS Commuter is poised to take delivery of its last batch of five aircraft, which will be configured with a spacious 58-seat interior rather than the standard 72-seat layout. The airline, which has taken delivery of 23 aircraft, had planned to acquire the proposed Q300X - a version of the 50-seat Dash 8-300 incorporating the new flightdeck and other improvements from the Q400 - but the studies were dropped.

SAS' 58-seat Q400 is dimensionally identical to the standard aircraft but features lower weights and a reduced purchase price. If the airline wants to reconfigure the aircraft to the standard 72-seat layout it has to pay Bombardier for a "paperwork" weight upgrade.

Source: Flight International