De Havilland Aircraft of Canada is looking at the possibility of fitting new engines to the Dash 8-400, the company’s COO.

A further stretch, and possibly also a shortening, of the regional turboprop’s fuselage is also being considered, Todd Young said.

Speaking Nov. 16 on the eve of the Dubai Airshow, Young noted that the re-engining option was at an early stage of discussions.

“We’ve been working with the engine manufacturers. We believe there’s an opportunity to introduce an engine change that would bring fuel-burn benefits to the aircraft.

“The current engine is the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150A; P&WC has been working on a variant of that and we’re evaluating it. But we’re also discussing with other engine manufacturers.

“One of our key things is we would really like [a new engine] to be ‘plug-and-play’ within the current nacelle. That puts P&W at a bit of an advantage.

 “We’re in the early stages of these assessments, but this is something we’ve started to look at.”

Since taking over the Dash 8 program from Bombardier earlier this year, De Havilland Canada has been evaluating developments of the aircraft’s design that could boost its sales prospects. The Canadian aircraft has been heavily outsold in recent years by the slower, but less expensive Franco-Italian ATR, but it retains an advantage over longer sectors in regions such as Africa, where its higher speed begins to count.

Young said that future developments included the possibility of a further stretch to the fuselage or cutting it back: “We’re in the early stages of these assessments,” he said. “When we meet Dash 8-300 operators, every time they ask us: ‘Are we getting another 50-seater aircraft from De Havilland?’ The demand is there, we just have to figure out how to make that work from the performance and economic point of view.”

Asked if shortening the fuselage would effectively mean reintroducing a Dash 8-300, he said: “It gets really complicated. When you start shrinking the aircraft, you would like to keep as much commonality [with the Dash 8-400] as possible. If you shrink it too far, you get into the problem of the engines being over-powered for the aircraft. The engineering teams are looking at what’s possible.”

If stretching the fuselage further: “You get into the actual flight characteristics of the aircraft; the same with shortening it.”

Young described Africa and the Middle East as “a solid market for us” and the company announced a firm order for three Dash 8-400s for Nigeria’s Elin Group, which has diversified business interests including real estate, mining and maritime operations.

The three aircraft, which have a list price of $99 million, will be used for servicing Nigeria’s natural resources sector, particularly for ferrying oil and gas personnel in and out of sometimes difficult airstrips in the Niger Delta. The first aircraft will be delivered in 2020.

The company also announced that Abu Dhabi’s Falcon Aviation Services, which operates three Dash 8-400s and provides MRO support to five more of the type with Qazaq Air of Kazakhstan, will become a De Havilland Canada Authorized Service Facility, offering heavy check maintenance services.

Alan Dron, alandron@adepteditorial.com