Passenger turboprops back to market
Currently dominated by ATR category should receive new and old competitors like the Dornier 328
In the 1980s, regional aviation was the target of strong competition between turboprop aircraft manufacturers. After years of using adapted or uncomfortable aircraft, the market has had several options like the EMB-120 Brasilia, Dash-8, ATP, Jetstream 31, Saab 340, CN-235 and ATR-42.
From this list, only the French-Italian ATR was successful, becoming virtually the only option on the market, except for Bombardier and its Q400, evolution of Dash-8.
The wave of regional jets has narrowed this niche, but in recent years there has been a movement to rediscover the advantages of these turboprop, economical aircraft and more suitable for short-haul flights.
One of the recent signs in this direction came from the Canadian group Longview, which this year concluded the purchase of production rights for aircraft created by De Havilland Canada and assumed by Bombardier nearly 40 years ago, including the Q400.
The company decided to rebuild DHC and rename the high-wing turboprop again as Dash-8 and prepare a market offensive to further expand its sales.
Another possible revival is to be announced this week. Sierra Nevada, a US company that is an Embraer partner in the production of Tucano in the country, intends to resume production of the turboprop 328, created by the extinct Dornier. With 30 seats, the model had low acceptance even with a jet version launched years later.
Now, the aircraft can return to the market in a segment that today has no more competitors. The main ones were Saab and Embraer, which disputed orders with the 340 and Brasilia turboprops, both out of production for a long time.
Embraer itself is considering returning to this segment and has been studying ideas for some time. However, the Brazilian company prefers to wait for the evolution of electric technology before embarking on a new venture. In the manufacturer’s view, the market may abandon combustion engines in favor of electricity, which would be much more efficient.
While this does not happen, regional airlines should gain a Chinese turboprop option. AVIC is building the prototype of the MA700, a plane extremely similar to the ATR and expected to go into service in 2021.
A sure sign that propellers will still be a viable technology more than 100 years after the first plane flew.