Interest by de Havilland Canada (DHC) in offering missionized versions of the Dash 8-400 to civil and military operators includes a potential OEM program to convert older passenger Dash 8-400s into freighters. Philippe Poutissou, DHC’s v-p of marketing and sales, told AIN operators are expressing interest in a DHC program to convert Dash 8-400s into either package freighters (which would retain their existing doors) or full-freighters. Full-freighter conversions would require DHC to give Dash 8-400s full cargo doors.
Freighter conversions exist of formerly passenger-carrying examples of the Dash 8-100, Dash 8-200, and Dash 8-300 models, according to Poutissou. “We’re seeing some interest in the Dash 8-400 as that type of aircraft as well,” he added. “So we’re actively considering converting dash 400s into package freighters or with large cargo doors. There is an STC in the market” for a Dash 8-400 package-freighter conversion (offered by Abbotsford, British Columbia-based Cascade Aerospace), “but we’re considering bringing the OEM solution as well.” DHC hasn’t yet decided which freighter version its own program would offer.
Poutissou also revealed DHC has “had some inquiries about [offering] a brand-new Dash 8-400 freighter.” A new-build freighter version of the ATR 72-600, the Dash 8-400’s closest rival, is available as the ATR 72-600F and FedEx has ordered 30 and optioned 20. However, DHC reckons Dash 8-400 “conversions are more likely to be done on in-service aircraft” because most freighter operators find residual values for older aircraft make more sense economically for conversion programs than do new aircraft.
“That’s not to say conversion doesn’t make sense for new aircraft,” said Poutissou. But DHC also takes into account that it already offers a new-build Combi version of the Dash 8-400. That version, which seats 50 passengers and also has a main-deck cargo hold, is already in service with Japanese carrier Ryukyu Air Commuter.