Monday, 21 April 2008

Aircraft: Bombardier Dash 8 v Saab 340

The first time that I came to New Zealand I started and finished my journey on a plane ostensibly run by the national carrier of the Country concerned, operated by a wholly owned 'franchise' operator and running identical Saab 340 aircraft.

The last time that I left the UK I travelled from Stornoway to Glasgow on an identical - it may even have been the same - Saab 340 aircraft operated by Loganair on behalf of British Airways. From Auckland to Napier I travelled on a Bombardier Dash 8: the Saab 340s in the Air Nelson fleet having all been replaced.

An amusing aside is that the operator with the largest number of Saab 340s after Mesaba Airlines (an American Indian name for "soaring eagle") with 49 aircraft is Colgan Air which operates 42 of them out of Logan Airport.

So why is all this of interest? I suppose only really because the Dash 8 is a far more comfortable and quieter plane.

Originally designated as the SF340, the aircraft first flew on 25 January 1983. After Fairchild exited the aircraft manufacturing business in 1985 after about 40 units, Saab continued aircraft production under the designation 340A. An improved version, the 340B, introduced more powerful engines and wider horizontal stabilizers in 1989 and all the later standard 340B's also had the active soundproofing system. The final version, the 340B Plus, was delivered for service in 1994. Loganair operates 2 A series and 13 B series.

The de Havilland Canada Dash 8 is a series of twin-engined, medium range, turboprop airliners introduced by de Havilland Canada (DHC) in 1984. They are now produced by Bombardier Aerospace, which purchased DHC from Boeing in 1992. Since 1996, the aircraft have been known as the Q Series, for "quiet" due to installation of the Active Noise and Vibration Suppression (ANVS) system designed to reduce cabin noise and vibration levels to less than those of jet airliners. Over 700 Dash 8s of all models have been built. Bombardier forecasts a total production run of 1,192 units of all -8 variants through the year 2016

However the really big difference between them from the passengers' point of view is that in the Dash 8 the wings are mounted above the windows and therefore the passenger has a view of the spectacular country over which he or she is flying.

Loganair Saab 340 in British Airways livery

Air Nelson Dash 8 in Air New Zealand livery over Napier

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