MIAMI – Today in Aviation the De Havilland Canada DHC-8 aircraft, known as the Dash 8, took its maiden flight on June 20, 1983, beginning the history of a series of turboprop-powered airliners that continue to be produced to this day.

Known for its short-field performance expertise, manufacturer de Havilland Canada (DHC) developed the Dash 7 project during the 70s.

However, airlines’ demand to employ the aircraft was low due to its short-circuit limitation, so the company decided to adapt the type into a new model, the Dash 8, in 1980.

Piedmont Airlines Dash 8-100 (N914HA) (13641530343). Photo: Cory W. Watts from Madison, Wisconsin, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Development of the Dash 8

The advanced design of two first prototypes featured only two engines, which were more powerful as the supplier Pratt & Whitney Canada launched new PW100 series engines.

With over two years of testing five PW100 series, DHC flew the Dash 8-100 for the first time on June 20, 1983.

In September of the same year, the engine, later known as PW120, received the Canadian certification to enter into the market.

Dash 8 cabin. Photo: abdallahh from Montréal, Canada, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Market Performance

The twin-engine turboprop airliner was finally introduced into service in October 1984 by NorOntario. Piedmont Airlines, later rebranded as US Airways Express, would become the first US customer to receive the Dash 8.

In comparison with the previous model, the Dash 8 improved cruise performance and lower operational and maintenance costs, carrying between 37 and 39 passengers.

As a better aircraft option for short-haul regional airlines, the project gained more popularity than its predecessor. However, DHC did not satisfy the demand with sufficient production.

Due to this, the company and its designs were sold to Boeing in 1986 and later purchased by Bombardier in 1992, holding production rights until 2019.

DHC Dash 8-200 (C-GGMP) (15820978031). Photo: Alan Wilson from Stilton, Peterborough, Cambs, UK, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dash 8 first Variations, Same PAX Capacity

During those years of repurchase, the Dash 8 was enhanced in four series with, at least, 30 variations in total for commercial and military aviation.

The series 100 was introduced in the first preproduction aircraft while the next series, 200, maintained the same passenger capacity but was re-engined with the PW123.

Air Canada Express Dash8-Q400C-GIJZ YY JAugust 2019. Photo: Johnnyw3, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

PAX and Engine Improvements for the Dash 8

In the 300 and 400 series, the airframe of each variant was boosted to allow 50–56 and 68–90 travelers, respectively.

For the series 300 enhancements, PW123 engines were used with improved performance while for the series 400, PW150A engines were introduced.

In 2019, Longview Aviation Capital bought DHC and the Dash 8 project to revive the original brand and continue to produce the aircraft. Pratt & Whitney Canada continues being the engine supplier of the Dash 8-400 variant in production.

Today, the Dash 8 is known as the “network builder” due to its short take-off and landing capabilities and efficient regional operations. According to DHC, the Dash 8-400 is the most productive turboprop on the market.

Featured image: De Havilland Canada DHC-8-102 Dash 8, NorOntair AN1305956. Photo: Alain Rioux (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons