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Can Bombardier’s Q400 Save Regional Air Service in the US?

America’s regional airlines are faced with an acute and worsening pilot shortage. The threat of the pilot shortage, combined with the pre-existing decline in the fortunes of small air travel markets, could see between 40 and 50 US airports wiped off the commercial airline route network in the United States. But the solution to these problems might already exist–in the form of Bombardier’s Q400 turboprop. ( Mehr...

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WtfWtf 7
Firstly, the pilot issue is too many barriers to entry, high cost of education, QOL and low pay hands down. But aside from that the Q400 makes a lot of sense especially for places like Philly International or the satellite airports (Trention, ILG, etc)... It can use shorter runways and right now runway 17/35 is basically only used for landings and smaller Dash 8 departures.. Imagine if they could use that for more departures on longer routes (Q400 range routes)? Guzzling gas just for customer perception is stupid. The Q is one of the most advanced aircraft out there and is totally safe, reliable, and efficient. I'm all for it.
sparkie624 2
That 17/35 is real close to the regional terminal at PHL and it has really helped Piedmont over the years... They get to it very quickly and out of there without waiting inline... A Perfect combination... I do not think that runway would work for a full 400 as a full 300 cannot use it, It is perfect for the 100's however.
A heavy Dash 8 can't come off in 6500 ft.???
sparkie624 2
A Fully loaded 100 can, the problem is with a fully loaded 300 at max weight won't have enough runway left for Rejected Take Off... At least that is the way it is listed in the Piedmont Manuals. I used to work for them in maintenance and maintenance control for a number of years.
seahawker01 1
The 400 has loads of power and can utilize 6500ft full. Its a great airplane and I miss the hell out of it.
Tim Marks 5
Before embarking on a turboprop purchase, the airlines had better poll the paying public and ask if they would fly on one first. I remember seeing a similar poll done years ago and the US flying public does not like turboprops due the noise and vibration. If anyone has flown in a Dash 8 (-100,-200,-300,-400) they are much noisier than any jet RJ and tend to be about 100 knots slower. Unless your flight is 1 hour or less there will be an aversion to flying on a turboprop.
sparkie624 2
I agree, but the TurboProp does have its place. They are much more fuel efficient and they can land and take off on much shorter runways... There are some areas service that you cannot get a TurboFan into... There is a niche in the market for these birds even though people do not like them, but in some cases that is their only option... I think that the new Q400 Combi ( will fill a big gap for smaller regional airports.
wx1996 1
I would fly the Q400 over any of the CRJs - even the new CRJ 900\100. The Q400 is much more comfortable and quieter. A really nice plane. But the older 100\200\300 shake rattle and roll, I really try to avoid.
Doug Herman 1
It will be a real serious strategic and marketing decision. The public aversion to turboprops vs the inability to get out of town on an airplane. If the projection is correct that upwards of 40 markets will lose air service, and if the savior comes with props on the wings, it's going to be an easy choice. Do you fly out of, say, Cheyenne on a shiny new turboprop or drive all the way to Denver to fly on one of the big guys. I "get" the flying public's dislike of the older turboprops like the Dash 8 and the (shudder) Beech 1900 still in use on some short-hop commuter lines, though.
preacher1 1
Don't forget them early ATR's. LOL. Or them good old SAAB's that NWA used to run
Derek Vaughn 4
Concerning perception, I think the flying public needs to be educated a little bit about turboprop aircraft. The average person hears "prop" and they think archaic, outdated airplanes that are potentially dangerous. Airlines have not done a very good job addressing this perception among their customers. They could illustrate that turbofans and turboprops operate the same way, except turboprop engines drive a propeller instead of a fan. I've had to explain this a few times when I worked in the industry.
sparkie624 2
LOL... I have tried to explain that hear and have had a very hard time of it.. I know what you are saying and totally agree.
Alan Dahl 2
The first thing I think of when I see a flight is anything smaller than a 737 is that the pilot is likely inexperienced, underpaid and likely sleep-deprived. Even though the FAA has tightened up the rules to help this somewhat this is still the public's perception after the Colgan Aur crash.

WRT to the Q400 specifically It could also be that people recall the problems SAS had with the Q400 landing gear a decade or so ago. I know it would certainly color my opinions of flying the type even though our local operator, Horizon/Alaska has had no gear issues with their Q400s.
sparkie624 3
That may be true in many cases, but many cases that is not true.. I know a lot of great pilots with VERY HIGH time still flying regionals because they like it and are more comfortable there... I can name several experienced Dash 8 Captains that have over 50,000 hours each in the Dash 8 (1,2,& 300's) and one of them started with S/N 001 (Dash 8 100) when he was the captain taking delivery of the plane... I know CRJ Pilots that have been around equally as long, and one even worked for Bombardier as a Test Pilot on the CRJ planes when it first came out (he has some GREAT STORIES). Just assuming that the Regionals are all in experienced is not always a good assumption.

Right her amongst us we have a VERY experienced CRJ Captain with Many Many hours in it and other larger planes... If you fly with him and expect inexperience then you expected wrong.... Preacherman... You know who I am talking about here, and you may have meet the person that was the test pilot as well...

I admit that with the Colgan Buffalo flight that things were not right, and the crew was not a good crew... But things are getting better as a result of that.
preacher1 2
Like sparkie, I know a lot of high time regional guys who like it, primarily because they like to fly and they are home more. There are also a bunch that fly 135 or 90 for the same reasons.
Michael Smith 1
Alan, you said "The first thing I think of when I see a flight is anything smaller than a 737 is that the pilot is likely inexperienced, underpaid and likely sleep-deprived." When you see a black man with lots of tattoos do you see a bad man? When you see a Mexican do you see an illegal alien? You must because those two examples I gave are just as bigoted as assuming that someone piloting anything smaller than a 737 is as you described.
I agree 100%. I to like Sparkie624 tried to explain this to passengers quite a few times but it's as if I'm speaking a foreign language to them.
james sloat 3
Alaska Airlines operates a Dash 8 between LAX and BOI daily. It it always full when I am flying that route
I don't always fly on the airlines but when I do I prefer the Q400. Quiet. Comfortable if you weigh less than 300lb. Fast load and unload from stairs or jetway via two doorways (fore & aft). Intersection departures at major airports. FL250 cruise, cheap & quiet. Excellent airline and passenger economics in the mountain west for regional travel and long thin routes (ie Western US to LAX). QXE à la cart service + free wine & beer makes it a favorite of passengers who can see past the props. The cabin of the Q400 is virtually identical to the CRJ700. If they can make the Dash work to save regional air service and make it affordable while connecting more cities, I'm all for it.
rstotz 2
Correction: Should read "Wages, certainly not". Wages have not kept up with the cost to enter the field, nor remain in it.
Lane Hardison 2
There is no pilot shortage it is a salary shortage!
sparkie624 2
You are dead on the money there.. The regionals need to pay more money to be sure...
BeechSportBill 2
Alaska/Horizon has DOZENS (100s?) of Q400s feeding Seattle and Portland from as far away as Boise and even farther out. They mix right in with the big boys at Seattle, and would be at a greater advantage if there was another (shorter) runway just for them - maybe a high speed rail link from Boeing Field.
I have flown the ASA Boise to SeaTac route on both the 737 and Q400. As a passenger I was quiet pleased with the Q400. Only noticed one slight "issue", namely the slightly tighter seating arrangement. For a short haul route it really wasn't a problem. Actually found the Q400 more comfortable than the CRJ flights on another carrier between San Diego and Salt Lake City.
MrTommy 2
Acute pilot shortages, and over in the trucking industry they also talk about acute DRIVER shortages. Does no one qualify to move 'stuff' anymore?
Apparently not. These days you need to be a genius to drive
Chris Bryant 2
I've never had a problem with turboprops. I do agree they tend to be noisier (especially the Dash 8), but I don't really see much of a safety concern. I've flown in most of the ones operating today, except the Q400 :(. I think, for the route lenghts mentioned in the article, that they're just fine and make a lot of economic sense.
The Q400 is not louder. They have newer PW engines and 6 bladed swept props. Q400's also have active noise and vibration dampening systems that make a huge difference. Info on the props
sparkie624 2
The curved blades do the most to help control the noise.. The NVS system really is not that good, but the new engine and prop design is what really makes a difference. The NVS system is a maintenance headache.
The market will resolve this issue, which sounds like a business opportunity. The traveling public has choices for the short and medium range segments. Rail? - not available - yet. Bus service? - ya right. Private vehicles? The farther you go the more it costs, in time and money. So, build the business to serve the market at a price that is fair to all. 300 mile turboprop segments are the least expensive for most folks, if they do some thinking. BUT!!! That requires a thinking public. And a reasonable sharing of the code-share revenue from the bigs.
preacher1 1
Even the gray dog is going after capacity right now. About 6 months ago, they dropped some routes over here in Arkansas that have had bus service since there were buses.
CaptJohn1 1
I think the pilot shortage has a lot more to do with the minimum wage type of pay for regional pilots. They can probably make more driving a cab! As far as prop planes, unfortunately there are a lot of people in the US that would rather not fly in anything that has a propeller.
rstotz 1
Shortage of pilots? I think not. It's the shortage of skill in those that enacted the rules that created the pilot shortage. It is the shortage of real pilots, versus those that only know how to push the right buttons. It is clearly important to know how to push the right buttons, but equally important to have basic hands on flying skills first and foremost. The accumulation of 1500 hrs does not make one a good pilot. It is how those hours were accumulated. Those same flying skills could, and have been for years, been acquired with a fraction of the hours now required. What changed? Entry cost, certainly. Wages, certainly. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys.
preacher1 1
Very well said. The reaction to Colgan was knee jerk. The additional rest time and all that was enacted was good but both pilots on Colgan had way more than 1500 hrs each and still crashed. To boot, there are a lot of good young men out there now that got hired on somewhere before the 1500 hr rule came into effect and doing a dang fine job, gaining quality time, building hours and working toward that ATP.
seahawker01 1
The 400 has a crap ton of power
I think the US wouldn't have such a pilot shortage if they allowed expats to work there. But that's just my 2 cents though. But I do agree turboprops do have their market and are still viable. If it's noise the passengers are worried about then hey pay the higher fares to fly the RJs. The public has to choose between the lesser of the 2 evils eventually.
There is no pilot shortage!!!


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