Bombardier’s once beleaguered Q400 turboprop continued its steady but certain market penetration in the Far East last month when Japan Air Commuter committed to four more of the 78-seat turboprops. Options for another four of the big propjets accompanied the firm order, worth roughly $80 million. The Japanese launch customer for the Q400, JAC took delivery of the first of five aircraft in October 2002. Based on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, JAC replaced its indigenous NAMC YS-11s (low-wing turboprops powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce Darts) with the Q400s on routes between the five remote islands of the Kagoshimi Prefecture. The airline now operates 137 flights a day to 23 destinations.
All told, Bombardier has sold 112 Q400s since it launched the program in 1995. A slow seller early on and beset by a rash of technical irritants upon service entry in 2001, the airplane has risen in stature over the past year or so, particularly among airlines flying short, relatively high-density routes. Japan has become particularly important, now accounting for nearly a fifth of the worldwide market for the Q400.