With 280 Dash 8 variants already in service at 30 operators in the Asia-Pacific region, de Havilland Canada (DHC, Chalet CD19) is confident strong interest exists from airlines there in ordering many new Dash 8-400s—particularly examples of the 82-to-90 seat Extra Capacity version.
Philippe Poutissou, DHC’s v-p of marketing and sales, told AIN that the manufacturer is experiencing strong interest from Asia-Pacific carriers for the Extra Capacity Dash 8-400, particularly low-cost carriers operating in southern and Southeast Asia. India’s SpiceJet, Thailand’s Nok Air, and Philippine Air Lines subsidiary PAL Express already operate the version, SpiceJet in 90-seat configuration and Nok Air and PAL Express with 86 seats.
The Extra Capacity Dash 8-400—in which the forward auxiliary baggage compartment and its loading door are replaced by an extra section of cabin seating and an extra emergency exit—is the highest-seat-capacity turboprop regional airliner in production today. The 82-seat version offers a 31-inch seat pitch and the 90-seat version a 28-inch pitch, but Poutissou said the design of the ultra-lightweight Expliseat seating with which the 90-seat version is fitted increases the legroom available at that otherwise very tight pitch as well as the payload required for that number of passengers and their bags.
Low-cost carriers there see the type as ideally sized to operate short-haul services to local tourism destinations and on secondary domestic and regional international routes, according to Poutissou. “There’s a fair amount of interest for airlines to use it as their regional expansion tool,” he said. To showcase the version and stimulate the interest of Asia-Pacific carriers in it, DHC is exhibiting an Extra Capacity Dash 8-400 at the Singapore Airshow. Lessor Truenoord delivered an Extra Capacity Dash 8-400 in January to PAL Express on a long-term operating lease and will deliver a second in February.
While DHC already operates support facilities in Australia, India, and Japan for the Asia-Pacific Dash 8 fleet and a spares depot in Singapore, Poutissou said, “We recognize continually the need to expand our footprint [in the region] in terms of support. It’s important for our customers for us to provide the aftermarket services to keep them successful” in operating their Dash 8s. Accordingly, DHC expects in the near future to bolster its support arrangements in the region and is looking at a range of possibilities in terms of adding new aftermarket facilities there and/or participating in MRO-related joint ventures with locally-based companies, he said.
The Dash 8-400 is certificated by the Civil Aviation Administration of China to operate in that vast country, Great China Airlines having once operated Dash 8-400s, but none operate there today. DHC believes the type offers performance attributes—particularly for operating at hot-and-high airports—that would make it a good choice for operating new secondary routes in western and southern China as they are launched. But “I wouldn’t say [the Chinese regional market] is our short-term focus,” said Poutissou. “I think it’s not without some barriers to entry. You need to spend time and invest and create relationships” in the China market to generate continuing sales prospects there for the longer term.
However, DHC views the Asia-Pacific market in general as potentially a good market for “missionized” versions of the Dash 8-400, whether they are customized for military applications or for specialized civilian missions such as firefighting or a combination of passenger-and-cargo service.