New Startup Believes A Turboprop Revival Could Occur In The U.S.

Dash 8
Credit: De Havilland of Canada Limited

The head of Connect Airlines believes the benefits of turboprop flying could lead to a revival of turboprops in the U.S. 

John Thomas, CEO of Waltzing Maltilda Aviation, which aims to launch scheduled service with Connect, recently explained during the CAPA Live September conference that on sectors of less than 400 miles, Bombardier’s Q400 has emission levels that “run approximately 40% of those of regional jets, a huge reduction in CO2 levels.”

Thomas stated that Connect aims to launch service by year-end, and it has reached an agreement to lease two Q400s previously operated by Flybe from Chorus Aviation. He added the company has forged letters of intent on its next three aircraft scheduled for delivery in 2022. 

Connect initially plans to operate Q400s from Chicago O’Hare and Philadelphia to Billy Bishop Toronto City airport. Thomas explained “the Q400 provides the most reliable and certain path to zero emissions with the work currently being undertaken by Universal Hydrogen to change the power system on the Dash 8 series of the aircraft. So part of our core business model is a 60% reduction in carbon emissions today, and a total elimination in five years time.” 

Thomas concluded that other than Horizon Air, which operates Q400s in the Pacific Northwest and Fort Lauderdale-based Silver Airways, which operates ATRs, “the U.S. has lost the benefits of turboprop flying.” 

He calculated that prior to the COVID-19 crisis there were roughly 165 million passengers in the U.S. that flew on sectors less than 400 nautical miles, “where the economics of the Q400 are far superior to regional jets.” 

“We believe there is going to be a real resurgence in the use of turboprops in the U.S. domestic market,” Thomas said. 

Connect’s initial focus is to provide passengers in Toronto with extensive U.S. and global networks they can access over the airline’s stations in the U.S. “However, given the attractiveness of the U.S.-Canadian market, we see this initial route structure as an excellent springboard into a broader U.S. domestic network,” Thomas said. 

Lori Ranson

Lori covers North American and Latin airlines for Aviation Week and is also a Senior Analyst for CAPA - Centre for Aviation.