Why Are There So Many Flybe Planes Parked In Canada?

Eagle-eyed planespotters might have noticed an uptick in DHC Dash 8-400s at airports across Canada recently. Since Flybe’s collapse, many of its huge fleet of turboprops have gone on to new homes, but several are still awaiting their next owner. A large number are parked at airports around Canada – we take a look at where they are, and what’s next for these aircraft.

Thomas-Boon-Flybe (1)
A significant number of Flybe aircraft have ended up in Canada. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

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Muskoka Airport (YQA)

The small regional airport of Muskoka in Ontario is more accustomed to seeing small, general aviation planes frequenting its runways. Until it pulled back from scheduled services, Porter Airlines used to fly the Dash 8 into YQA but hasn’t since September 2019.

Nevertheless, several airlines have chosen to store their larger turboprops here, with images from Google Earth showing at least 14 Dash 8s and ATRs parked around the site. In amongst all the Cessnas, Beechs and Pipers, these large aircraft stand out from the crowd.

Why Are There So Many Flybe Planes Parked In Canada?
A crop of Dash 8s can be seen around the airfield at Muskoka. Photo: Google Earth/Landsat/Copernicus

One of the most recent arrivals was a LIAT ATR-42, which flew in on June 28th. V2-LIK is marked as in for maintenance at the airport, according to ch-aviation. Also present and correct are two Dash 8s from Porter Airlines – C-GLQJ and C-GLQH – both in for maintenance and storage until the airline picks up again.

But there are three new arrivals with a rather unusual heritage. G-ECOM, G-FLBD and G-ECOG are both former Flybe Dash 8s, still in their previous operator’s livery. According to information from ch-aviation, all these aircraft will be converted to water bombers for Conair Aviation.

Why Are There So Many Flybe Planes Parked In Canada?
A purple Flybe aircraft can just about be made out on the webcam. Photo: Muskoka Airport Webcam

A local spotter has advised Simple Flying that there are as many as nine or 10 Flybe aircraft at this airport. Sadly, we don’t know any further registrations as yet, as these may be very new arrivals to the facility.

Why Are There So Many Flybe Planes Parked In Canada?
Conair is turning ex-Flybe aircraft into state-of-the-art firefighting planes. Photo: Conair

Halifax Robert L Stanfield International (YHZ)

Halifax Airport is far more accustomed to seeing large aircraft fly in and out. The international Nova Scotia airport regularly has service from Porter’s Dash 8s, United’s E-Jets and WestJet’s 737 NG and MAX. Pre-COVID, it even saw service from Lufthansa’s A340 and Condor’s Boeing 767.

With such a variety of planes flying in and out, the two little Flybe’s parked up there are unlikely to have attracted much attention. Nevertheless, there they are, awaiting their new jobs.

G-ECOH wore a special ‘Scotland’ livery when it flew with Flybe, likely due to its registration’s similarity to Ecosse, the French word for Scotland. Photo: Tony Hisgett via Flickr

G-ECOH flew in on April 29th via Reykjavik. It is marked to go to Connect Airlines, with delivery estimated in November this year. G-ECOF has been in Halifax since early April, although it hopped off for Muskoka for about three weeks in July. Muskoka has a paintshop on-site, so it was likely getting a fresh livery applied, as it will also be soon heading to Connect Airlines, with delivery estimated next month.

Abbotsford (YXX)

The British Columbia airport at Abbotsford is not a small operation. Having grown from a World War II aerodrome, it is fully equipped to handle international flights, handling more than a million passengers in 2019. It sees service from Flair, WestJet and Swoop, with Boeing 737s most regularly operated to the airport.

As well as handling operations for these and various general aviation movements, the airport now has two Flybe aircraft parked at its facility. G-ECOT flew in in July 2020, and is awaiting conversion for none other than Conair Aviation. When complete, it will fly under registration C-FFAQ.

G-ECOT wore the white livery of Flybe, but will soon wear the red and white of Conair. Photo: Rob Hodgkins via Flickr

G-ECOJ arrived in March this year, and is also awaiting conversion for Conair. Its new registration will be C-FFAQ. These two could potentially head to Muskoka for their repaint, and may already have done so, which would partly explain our spotter’s information.

St Thomas Municipal (YQS)

St Thomas is another small airport unaccustomed to large aircraft arrivals. The airport has no scheduled services, but provides facilities for general aviation and a local flight school. But since December 2020, the airport has been home to three somewhat larger Dash 8-400s.

The first two arrived on December 23rd, with C-GUCQ flying in from Maastricht via Reykjavik. The 17-year-old Dash flew for Flybe from 2004 to 2017, but had been stored for some time even before the company went bust. It spent 18 months working for PassionAir in Ghana, but is now parked awaiting its fate.

PassionAir Dash 8
PassionAir has been downsizing its fleet of Dash 8s, and St Thomas is looking after them. Photo: Sm105 via Wikimedia

G-CUDC arrived on the same day, and had a similar history. After 15 years or so of service with Flybe, PassionAir operated it for a while. It’s now been returned to Bombardier Services, ready for a new owner (or for scrapping).

PassionAir has struggled to maintain its operations amid COVID, and is now down to just one Dash 8-400 and one Dash 8-300 in its fleet. The third former Flybe aircraft, C-GUBU, arrived in March 2021, also from the Ghanaian operator. With all these planes getting on in years, it remains to be seen whether there is still a working life left for them.

What about the rest?

Of the remaining aircraft out of Flybe’s fleet of 79 Dash 8-400s present at its collapse, sadly, most are yet to find a new home. You’ll find most of these aircraft parked around Europe, with large numbers at Maastricht Zuid-Limburg (MST), Saarbrücken Ensheim (SCN), Düsseldorf Weeze (NRN).

Checking out Google Earth at Maastricht, we can see a line of purple and white Dash 8s parked to the south of the airport.

Why Are There So Many Flybe Planes Parked In Canada?
A line of Flybe Dash 8s at Maastricht. Photo: Google Earth/Landsat/Copernicus

There’s a clutch of Flybe Dash 8s visible at Saarbrücken also.

Why Are There So Many Flybe Planes Parked In Canada?
Huddled together at Saarbrücken. Photo: Google Earth/Landsat/Copernicus

But not all the Dash 8s are sitting without jobs to do. Two were leased to Cobham Aviation Services in Australia, both arriving ‘down under’ in April this year. Cobham is a leading regional carrier in Australia, with a fleet of 17 aircraft, including ARJs, BAe 146s, the Dash 8s and a single ERJ-190.

Cobham Dash 8
A former Flybe Dash 8 looking splendid in Cobham livery. Photo: Cobham Aviation

Private charter jet company Luxwing has taken two of the Dash 8s on lease. While it would be super cool to see these converted into private aircraft for Luxwing’s services, that was sadly not to be. Instead, they are providing wet lease services for virtual startup airline Sky Alps. They fly around Olbia, Rome Fiumicino, Dusseldorf and Berlin for the new carrier.

Sky Alps Dash 8-400
Sky Alps operates out of Bolzano Airport in South Tyrol, Italy. Photo: Sky Alps

But the biggest fan of Flybe’s used aircraft is, without doubt, aerial firefighting specialist Conair. The Canadian company has already taken delivery of five DHC 8-400s, four of which came from Flybe. Three are undergoing conversion right now, while one is in active service.

Why Are There So Many Flybe Planes Parked In Canada?
Conair is putting the ex-Flybe aircraft to good use. Photo: Conair

Data from ch-aviation shows that a further six ex-Flybe aircraft are set to join the company in the coming months. This includes ECOD, ECOG, ECOM, FLBC, FLBE and JECZ. Three of those aircraft are already at Muskoka awaiting conversion, while the other three are still stored at Dusseldorf.

Why Are There So Many Flybe Planes Parked In Canada?
The Flybe planes will eventually get their new livery to join the Conair fleet. Photo: Conair

Conair’s commitment to the Dash 8 is good news for these older aircraft. Clearly, the type has been performing well for the operator, and will form the backbone of its firefighting fleet going forward. Perhaps it could even take more of the stored ex-Flybe aircraft in the future. We’ll just have to wait and see.