EASA Authorises Increased Capacity For The De Havilland Dash 8

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has given approval for European operators to fly the De Havilland Dash 8 to its maximum capacity of 90 passengers. While the 90-seater Dash 8 variant can be flown in other parts of the world, European regulators had only authorized variants of up to 78 seats up until this week.

airBaltic Dash 8
European airlines have been granted approval to use the Dash 8 Q400 with 90 seats. Photo: Getty Images

The Dash 8 can now be flown with 90 passengers

The Dash 8 Q400 is usually fitted with 70-78 seats, and it is these variants that are approved for operation in European airspace. However, back in 2016, when the Dash 8 program was still under Bombardier’s control, a 90-seater variant, the Q400NextGen Extra Capacity, was announced and entered into service with Indian carrier SpiceJet in 2018.

De Havilland Canada Dash 8 Q400
The extra capacity plane affords greater efficiency and lower costs per seat for airlines. Photo: Getty Images

EASA had previously approved Dash 8 aircraft up to 78 seats but has now increased this to up to 90 seats. The European regulator made the decision on March 23rd, which will now allow European operators to operate the increased-capacity model. De Havilland claims that, “based on consultations with current and prospective customers,” there are many favorable opportunities for the 90-seater to be deployed.

De Havilland also said,

“In general, the higher capacity of the Dash 8-400 creates opportunities for increased airline profitability while also reducing the aircraft’s already low carbon footprint per passenger.”

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What does the high-capacity Dash 8 offer?

First and foremost, flying up to 90 passengers will make routes more profitable for airlines. As explained by De Havilland, it will also allow operators to reduce carbon emissions per passenger. However, additional capacity comes at the expense of cargo space due to the modifications needed to fit the extra seats. To make space, designers moved the aft pressure bulkhead back and placed the galley into the cargo hold, reducing cargo capacity by 20%.

SpiceJet Q400
SpiceJet was the launch customer of the 90-seater Q400 variant. Photo: Getty Images

While the added seating capacity is a plus for airlines, it comes at the expense of seat pitch which is reduced by one inch to 28 inches (70.5 cm). Given the additional seating, Bombardier also increased the maximum payload weight of the 90-seater to 30,481kg, up by 900kg. The aircraft also requires more frequent maintenance checks compared to standard variants.

Colin Bole, Senior Vice President of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, said after delivering the first 90-seater to SpiceJet in 2018,

“The increased passenger capacity allows 15 percent reduction of seat cost compared to the previous standard Q400 aircraft and provides an enormous benefit for airlines.”

The Q400 program is on hold for now

Earlier this year, De Havilland announced it was suspending production of the Dash 8 Q400 until further notice. The manufacturer currently has 17 outstanding orders for the plane and has informed suppliers to stop delivering parts to its factory in Toronto. If no further orders are received, De Havilland will stop producing the plane altogether. Additionally, with its factory lease running up in 2023, many are speculating that the end of the Dash 8 program is nigh.

Have you ever flown on the extra-capacity Dash 8 Q400? Let us know all about your experience in the comments.