Bombardier delivered the first of 20 Q400 turboprops ordered by Calgary-based low-fare carrier WestJet on June 6. Plans called for WestJet’s new regional subsidiary, WestJet Encore, to start flying the airplanes on June 24 on new routes to Fort St. John and Nanaimo, British Columbia. The airline also plans to launch service to Brandon, Manitoba, on September 3, and open several new points in Alberta and Saskatchewan later in the year.
Bombardier Dash 8
Despite some vacillation by ATR and Bombardier, who are still studying the form their respective 90-seat regional airliners might take, development of Pratt & Whitney Canada’s new turboprop engine continues on a “critical path” to an expected launch next year, according to Richard Dussault, company vice president of marketing.
Struggling Scandinavian flag carrier SAS has signed an agreement to sell its regional subsidiary Widerøe as part of an ongoing restructuring program to achieve financial stability. SAS will sell 80 percent of Widerøe to Norwegian companies Torghatten ASA, Fjord1 AS and Nordland Fylkeskommune. The sales will include seven Bombardier Q400 turboprops that SAS currently leases to the regional carrier. The transaction must be approved by Norwegian authorities, and is expected to close in September.
Bombardier is expanding maintenance capacity at its Tucson, Ariz., service center for its Q400 and Q400 NextGen twin turboprops. The airframer has added three additional lines of maintenance staff in southwestern U.S. facility, supplementing capacity already available to regional airline customers in Bridgeport, W.Va., and Macon, Ga.
Bombardier Aerospace announced last month that Nordic Aviation Capital of Billund, Denmark, has signed a firm purchase agreement to acquire four Q400 turboprops. Bombardier places the value of the contact, based on list prices, at $134.77 million.
Despite the difficulty ATR has encountered in penetrating the U.S. turboprop market, company CEO Filippo Bagnato continues to express optimism that the Franco-Italian partnership will experience a resurgence in what perhaps represents its final frontier of a sort. Now controlling some 60 percent of the market for 50- to 90-seat airplanes based on unit sales backlogs, the last Western maker of 50-seat-category turboprops sees itself as a potential lifeline for small U.S. cities and communities that can no longer support the services of regional jets of any size.
Despite some vacillation on the part of airframe OEMs still studying the form their respective 90-seat turboprop might finally take, development of Pratt & Whitney Canada’s engine offering continues on what company vice president of marketing Richard Dussault called a critical path leading to expected launch next year.
ExecuJet Aviation Group’s ExecuJet Africa is expanding its Cape Town International Airport facility’s support capability to include the Bombardier Dash 8/Q300. The MRO currently has one Dash 8/Q300 undergoing C-check base maintenance in its 64,500-sq-ft Cape Town hangar and is preparing for an influx of Dash 8/Q300s to undergo maintenance at the facility by the end of April.
ExecuJet had previously carried out C-check base maintenance on Dash 8s at its Lanseria International Airport facility.
Toronto-based Porter Airlines on Wednesday revealed itself as the “unidentified Americas-based” customer for the Bombardier CSeries. The purchase agreement, still subject to certain conditions including relaxing the airport’s limitations on jet operations, calls for a firm order for 12 CS100s and options on another 18.
The success enjoyed by outside players in providing capacity to Africa has meant regional and domestic business has assumed ever-increasing importance not just for Africa’s indigenous airlines but for the continent’s economic growth as well. The tremendous distances between population centers and the lack of convenient and reliable roads also make Africa a bumper opportunity for suppliers of regional jets with seating capacities of around 100.