Voyageur Aviation Ltd. unveiled on April 20th, 2017 to dignitaries and members of the media, the first-of-its-kind Dash 8-100PF Package Freighter aircraft.
Scott Tapson, President of Voyageur Aviation, introduced the exciting new aircraft which has been designed, engineered and prepared at the Voyageur Aerotech facility in North Bay, Ontario. Executives from Bombardier, Wasaya Airways and the full staff of Voyageur Airways were on hand for the milestone event.
Wasaya’s New Ride
Wasaya Airways (WG/WSG) is expanding its fleet with the newly acquired Package Freighter based on the legacy De Havilland Canada dash-8-100. It is adding the first ever dash-8 PF initially to begin replacing its elderly HS748s, some as old a 50 years, in the dedicated cargo role.
It previously operated several De Havilland Canada dash-8s including dash-8-300, c/n 442, C-GMWT acquired in in September 2010, and dash-8-100, c/n 129, C-FDND starting in February 2011. It also currently operates another former Jazz dash-8-100 in passenger configuration; C-GJSV, c/n 085 added in November 2016.
Besides the dash-8s, Wasaya operates a mixed fleet of aircraft including Pilatus PC-12 (6), Cessna C208B Caravan (5), Beech 1900D (8) and Hawker Siddeley HS748 freighters (3). The airline’s plan is to rationalize its fleet to down two aircraft types, the Dehavilland dash-8 and the Pilatus PC12. The dash-8PF will be instrumental to this plan, filling the top end cargo capability currently filled by the vintage HS748s.
Wasaya Airways LP is 100% First Nations owned by twelve First Nations: Bearskin Lake; Fort Severn; Kasabonika Lake; Keewaywin; Kingfisher Lake; Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug; Muskrat Dam; Nibinamik; Pikangikum; Sandy Lake; Wapekeka; and Wunnumin Lake.
The Thunder Bay-based airline was founded in 1989 and has typically operated smaller aircraft types on scheduled and charter service to remote communities throughout Northwestern Ontario, and soon Manitoba.
Its bases are in Thunder Bay, Pickle Lake, Red Lake and Sioux Lookout. Wasaya serves 25 destinations in Northwestern Ontario with 60 daily flights and employs 350+ employees, of which over one-third are First Nation. Celebrating its 27th year in operation, Wasaya Airways is proud to the leading provider of quality air transportation services to these communities.
“The addition of the Dash 8-100PF is an innovative game changer and an essential strategic advantage for Wasaya in our new business model,” said Michael Rodyniuk, President and Chief Executive Officer of Wasaya.
“The Dash 8-100PF is built and converted here in Canada, designed for our rugged environment and perfectly suited to move cargo into and out of our remote communities with short, unimproved, gravel airfields. The Voyager team has done an amazing job developing this cost-effective program for us, taking the DHC-8 100 passenger aircraft and converting it into an effective Cargo aircraft with great range, payload, and operational efficiency. This aircraft gives Wasaya a unique competitive advantage, helping us in our mission to improve the quality of life for the people living in communities we serve by reducing the cost of delivering essential goods like groceries, fuels and building materials, into the Canadian North,” Rodyniuk remarked.
Fuel is a big part of Wasaya’s business and is the lifeblood of Northern communities. Climate change has in some cases been problematic with the traditional ice roads operated by transport trucks. Recent years has seen the season only allowing as few as 20 days for this kind of operation to some remote communities, thus the increased importance of air deliveries.
Voyageur Aerotech’s Dash 8-100PF is a passenger to freighter aircraft conversion. It offers an economically sound option in the regional aircraft freight market. It is based on the legacy DeHavilland Canada / Bombardier dash-8-100.
Jazz is gradually retiring its fleet of elderly dash-8-100s, some of them the earliest ones built, replacing them with modern Bombardier Q400s, so it has many airframes available for conversion. An Extension Service Program is under way to lengthen the life of the dash-8-100s, from 80,000 cycle limit to 120,000. This will make the older airframes, the first built in 1984, an attractive and economical solution for many cargo operators.
The dash-8-100 Package Freighter was first conceived in 2014 to solve a Request For Proposals from a Canadian cargo company (which never panned out). Voyageur decided to proceed with the engineering of the project about 18 months ago and had been in discussion with Wasaya for about 2 years. Designed with a 10,000 lb payload, which can occupy up to 1380 cubic feet, the dahs8-100PF can move more cargo faster and at a lower unit cost than other comparable freight aircraft such as the SAAB 340 and Embraer 120.
The package freighter uses the original OEM 50 x 60″ cargo door built on the DeHavilland dash-8. It is ideal for remote operations with a cargo spill to the floor level of only 40 inches off the tarmac. Voyageur adds safety placards and hi viz markings on the inside of the door and within the cargo compartment to enhance safety. The Class ‘’E’ Cargo compartment consists of a reinforced cargo floor which can accommodate 75 pounds per square foot loads, separated by 9G cargo nets between the six loading zones.
The main modifications include with a sealed metal cabin liner to mitigate potential fire damage. It has an advanced fire suppression and smoke detection system, which will detect smoke within a minute, and a ventilation system shut off the system. The cockpit remains virtually unchanged, the standard legacy dash-8 configuration, with only the fire suppression system controls and displays added. The cargo bay is equipped with new LED lighting. A cargo floor roller system is under study to fulfill future customer requirements.
The purchase of Voyageur Airways by Jazz parent company Chorus Aviation in 2015 has been a boon to the Voyageur. It was renamed Voyageur Aviation Corporation, and is subdivided into three divisions: Voyageur Airways for airline and charter and air ambulance operations worldwide, Voyageur Aerotech to continue to serve its MRO and special missions conversion unit, and the newest division, Voyageur AvParts to handle its extensive aircraft parts distribution, consignment, and reclamation business.
All of these businesses excel at operating and working on Bombardier and deHaviland Canada airliners. Voyageur’s new partnership with Chorus has allowed capital expansion to develop new Aerotech division’s proprietary conversion projects including the packet freighter. One of Voyageur’s most successful previous special modification projects is the long range fuel tank option for the dash-8.
“The new cargo aircraft hits a definitive sweet-spot in the regional aircraft cargo marketplace. The payload to operational cost ratio is extremely favorable,” commented Scott Tapson, President of Voyageur Aviation Corp. With a full 10,000 pound load, it can boast an 800-mile range.
The first Dash 8-100PF airframe was originally an Air Nova aircraft C-GANF (c/n 042), delivered in 1986. The airline was eventually merged into Jazz, but this particular aircraft has a special place in the heart of Chorus Aviation president and CEO Joseph Randell. He was president of Air Nova when it was first delivered, and feels it is very appropriate that it has come full circle as such a key aircraft under the Chorus corporate umbrella.
C-GANF was transferred to Voyageur Airways from Jazz on March 13th prior to flight testing in the Package Freighter configuration. It was painted at Muskoka Aircraft Refinishing in full Wasaya Airways colors in February. The aircraft is currently completing final regulatory approval from Transport Canada in anticipation of the awarding of a Supplemental Type Certificate and will be delivered to Thunder Bay in May.
The second Dash 8-100PF is presently is under conversion at Voyageur, also for Wasaya. C-FABA (c/n 92) will be the second PF, another former Jazz aircraft, and is slated for delivery by end of 2Q 2017.
The newly engineered dahs-8-100 Package freighter variant of the Legacy dash-8 will fill a unique niche in the cargo regional aircraft market, and will undoubtedly prove itself in the Canadian market, as well as others around the world.