De Havilland Canada Proposes Freighter Conversion Trio

De Havilland Canada VP, sales & marketing, Philippe Poutissou.
Credit: Alan Dron/Aviation Week Network

FARNBOROUGH—De Havilland Canada (DHC) is tapping into the global demand for more freighter capacity with the launch of three cargo conversion options for the Dash 8-400.

The initiative forms one of a series of changes to the aircraft that DHC believes will keep it relevant through the current production pause. DHC now says the company is looking at somewhere between 2025 and 2027 for a decision about whether to resume production of the large turboprop.

The freighter options launched at the Farnborough Airshow include Quick Change (QC), Package Freighter (PF) and Freighter with Large Cargo Door (F-LCD) configurations to address a variety of operational business models.

The QC essentially formalizes the “simplified package freighter” version that was introduced during the pandemic, when the aircraft’s seats were removed and cargo nets installed on the aircraft’s seat tracks. The QC installs the necessary fire detection equipment to allow the aircraft to operate as a Category E freighter. Without the need to carry an attendant, larger nets can be installed across the entire fuselage, increasing cargo capacity.

The PF is a dedicated cargo aircraft with the existing cabin sidewalls replaced with new panels, the option for a floor loading system and nine 9G nets that allow loading through the existing rear and forward doors.

The biggest modification is the F-LCD, which will have a 109-in. x 69-in. cargo door installed on the forward right side of the fuselage that will allow the aircraft to handle a maximum load of eight LD3 containers.

The need to certify the new door means the projected time in service is the second half of 2024. The simpler PF version will be ready in about a year, while the QC will be available in the fourth quarter of this year.

“As the cargo market continues to grow, our cargo conversion solutions will easily enhance the overall value and extend the already high revenue-generating capabilities of the Dash 8-400 aircraft,” DHC VP programs Jean-Philippe Côté said July 18. “De Havilland Canada will offer the three launched cargo conversion solutions through original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Service Bulletins approved by Transport Canada, and we are ready to provide a wide range of OEM support as desired by our operators—from kit installation to on-site support through our global support infrastructure.”

Speaking at the air show, DHC VP sales & marketing Philippe Poutissou said the F-LCD version is regarded as “a real winner,” given its combination of payload capacity and the aircraft’s existing performance, plus its ability to operate in hot and high environments or into rough airstrips.

The new variants will be offered as retrofits. One possible source of airframes to convert are those from airlines that failed during the pandemic, such as UK regional Flybe, and others that have been repossessed by lessors.

“In the near term, the priority is to ensure that we have as many of these stored or parked aircraft back into service,” Poutissou said. “That helps everyone. It helps the value of the aircraft, owners and lessors.”

Asked if the Dash 8-400’s production pause until potentially later this decade could see the market for the type go cold, Poutissou said the cargo conversions would ensure that the type’s value proposition would live on.

“We believe the Dash 8’s very large installed base will be present for a very long time,” he said. “When we return to the market, the intent is that the aircraft will be competitive with any other competitors.”

Alan Dron

Based in London, Alan is Europe & Middle East correspondent at Air Transport World.