The Dash 8-400: A History Of The Iconic Turboprop

The Dash 8-400 is very much the poster child for the Dash 8 production line. Conceived in 1997 to fill strong demand in regional air travel, the plane has since become a well-loved model. We take a look back at the history of this iconic aircraft.

Dash 8-400
How did the Q400 come about? Photo: Getty Images

What happened before the Q400?

The Dash 8-400 did not just simply happen. It was the product of years of engineering to produce an excellent regional aircraft that delivered.

The Dash 8 series was first introduced in 1984 by de Havilland Canada and was sold Boeing four years later in 1988. The aircraft series was transferred to Bombardier’s ownership in 1992 who owned the development of the Dash 8-400.

The Dash 8-400 is the fourth series iteration of the Dash 8, which was brought into service in 1983. Back then, the Dash 8-100 was a regional turboprop aircraft with a maximum passenger capacity of 38 people. It did its job, but as the plane fell into different ownership, it became apparent that more could be done with it.

Many of the changes that the then Dash 8-100 went through was to improve its performance. For much of its lifetime, before the Dash 8-400 (or Q400) came along, the aircraft continued to offer a similar capacity.

Dash 8-200
The Dash 8-200 still only sat 38 people. Photo: carpkazu via Wikimedia Commons

For example, the Dash 8 Series 200 (Q200) was altered to offer more powerful engines. The Q300 was adapted for better service life as well as additional seating put in. However, the maximum capacity of the aircraft was still only 56 passengers.

Why was the Dash 8-400 needed?

It soon became apparent that there was a market the Dash 8 was not fulfilling. Seeking to create an aircraft that filled the gap for a high-speed turboprop with reduced operating costs and better fuel efficiency, the Q400 was made.

The development of this aircraft gave the Dash a competitive edge on other turboprop aircraft that were about at the time. It was very distinct from previous Dash 8 models, which won it an advantage.

QantasLink Q400
What makes the Q400 so popular? Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

Rather than 56 seats, the Dash 8-400 can be configured to offer a maximum of 90 seats. However, it also has another notable feature. The Q400 was also stretched by 6.83m in comparison to the Q300. That gives the Dash 8-400 an overall length of 32.8m. What’s more, with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150A engines, the aircraft can fly faster and further.

Longer and stronger does seem to be the winning recipe for the aircraft range. According to De Havilland Canada’s website, the aircraft can fly “30% faster and 40% farther than conventional turboprops.”

The Dash 8-400 experience

Thanks to updates on the model, the Dash 8-400 offers a more relaxed passenger experience. On a maximum journey of 2,040km in the aircraft, passengers can enjoy a quieter flight and windows that allow in more natural light, illuminating the cabin.

Dash 8 cabin
Large windows illuminate the cabin. Photo: Getty Images

That said, there is a slight drawback. The seat pitch on the Q400 is slightly smaller than on other models. It’s just 28 inches to allow for the extra seats. Previously, seat pitch had been between 30 to 31 inches.

However, that’s a minor inconvenience. It’s not only passengers that feel the benefit of this aircraft. Airlines can also enjoy reduced operating costs as well as reduced need for maintenance. One of the selling points of the Q400 is that it can operate for an additional 270 days before it needs a C-Check, which is usually performed after 20-24 months.

Consequently, De Havilland Canada believes that operators of this aircraft get $8m more value per aircraft than a conventional Dash 8 turboprop. Now that’s good sense.

Who operates the Dash 8-400?

Over the years, a number of airlines have operated the Dash 8-400 for their regional operations.

airBaltic Dash Q400
airBaltic has 12 Dash 8-400. Photo: Getty Images

The largest operator of the aircraft on record is Horizon Air. Horizon Air, which is a subsidiary of the Alaska Air Group, has owned a total of 56 Q400 aircraft, according to In its history, it has also owned 24 Q100s and 28 Q200s though it no longer operates either.

Another notable owner of the Dash 8-400 is Westjet Encore. The airline is the regional arm of WestJet Airlines and services destinations across Canada. It owns 47 Q400, which make up its entire fleet.

Outside of North America, QantasLink owns many Dash 8 aircraft. It currently has 31 Dash 8-400 with an average age of 11.2 years. In addition to this, it owns three Q200 and 16 Q300.

Eurowings Dash 8-400
Eurowings owns the Q400. Photo: Getty Images

Other notable operators of the Dash 8-400 include:

  • airBaltic;
  • ANA Wings;
  • Ethiopian Airlines;
  • Eurowings;
  • Jazz Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines; and
  • Spicejet.

What is the future of the Dash 8-400?

The Dash 8-400 is the only model of the Dash 8 range that’s still being manufactured. Throughout its life, around 645 orders have been placed for the aircraft, which makes it incredibly popular as it is.

So, what’s next?

Well, the idea had been floated to capitalize on the success of the elongation of the Dash 8-400. The Q400X, which would be a stretched edition of the 8-400, has been on the cards for some time.

Q400 horizon Air
What would make the Q400 even better? Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

It was first brought to the table back in 2007, where the viability of a 90-seater stretch was being looked at. At the time, it was thought the aircraft could compete in the market by 2014 at the latest. That time frame is long gone, and we are still without the aircraft.

The development of the aircraft was put on hold, but 2019 was supposed to provide some hope. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2012 that a South Korean consortium was looking to take on the project with a launch date of last year.

It is unclear if the Q400X will now ever get off the ground. In light of recent events, it will see a pushback for sure but is the idea still viable?

WestJet Q400
The Q400X would capitalize on the existing benefits of the Q400. Photo: Martin Kulcsar via Wikimedia Commons

Back when the idea was new, interest in the aircraft was high. With brilliant seating options, it would really help airlines in the regional market. The stretched version of the Q400 would translate into direct savings for any airline that operated it. That would mainly be prevalent for cost per seat.

That said, the airlines that operate the Dash 8-400 at present seem content with the model. It does the job it was intended for with sound economics. Do these airlines really need a new and improved version?

Do you think the Q400X will ever materialize? Got a particular story to share about the Dash 8-400? Let us know in the comments.