Dash 8 Cargo Conversion Heads South

Dash 8-400 F-LCD conversion mock-up with ATSA livery
Credit: De Havilland Canada

Aero Transporte S.A. (ATSA) will become the first South American operator to opt for De Havilland Canada’s Dash 8-400 freighter conversion program. The OEM announced on Feb. 1 that it had signed a firm agreement with ATSA for a Dash 8-400 freighter conversion with a large cargo door (Dash 8-400 F-LCD).

ATSA currently operates two Dash 8-400s from its base in Peru, from which it supports the country’s mining sector. ATSA President Carlos Cueva says the conversion will support its expanding cargo operations.

“Our country’s complex geography that includes arid coastal plains, the Andean mountains and the rain forests of the Amazon basin, make the Dash 8-400 aircraft the ideal choice for this type of operation,” says Cueva.

According to Philippe Poutissou, De Havilland’s vice president for sales and marketing, the OEM will complete the conversion in Canada under its Transport Canada-approved OEM service bulletins.

The Dash 8-400 F-LCD is equipped with a large cargo door and a cargo loading system that enables transport of unit load device containers or pallets. It was one of three cargo conversion options formally launched by De Havilland at the 2022 Farnborough Airshow, alongside a quick change and a package freighter option.

De Havilland paused production of the Dash 8 in 2021, but in addition to its launch of cargo conversions last year, it also announced retrofit options aimed at boosting passenger traffic for the aircraft. At Farnborough it announced retrofit options to increase the aircraft’s payload by up to 3,000 lb. and enhance the cabin with features designed to improve passenger experience, including installation of an active noise and vibration suppression system, inflight entertainment and connectivity systems, and upgraded cabin materials. The retrofit programs indicate that De Havilland is betting on increasing the Dash 8’s potential aftermarket revenue streams.

Dash 8 aircraft are also being tapped for potential hydrogen propulsion modifications. De Havilland is working with ZeroAvia to develop a hydrogen-electric powertrain for Dash 8-400s. Universal Hydrogen is also testing the use of a hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion system on a Dash 8-300.

According to Aviation Week Network’s 2023 Fleet & MRO Forecast, there are currently 526 Dash 8-400 aircraft and four Dash 8-400 freighters in service, with the global fleet expected to dip to 456 by 2032. However, the forecast does predict 14 Dash 8-400 freighters by 2032.

The majority of Dash 8-400s are currently between 10-15 years old. WestJet Encore, Jazz Aviation and SpiceJet currently operate the world’s largest Dash 8-400 fleets, followed closely by Sunstate Airlines, Porter Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines. Ethiopian, which operates 26 Dash 8-400s, signed a proposal with De Havilland at Farnborough last year to purchase two Dash 8-400 F-LCD conversion kits.

Aviation Week’s 2023 Fleet & MRO Forecast predicts just over $759 million in MRO demand for the Dash 8-400 this year, dropping to just over $700 million by 2032. It predicts MRO demand for the freighter version to reach $20.8 million by 2032.

Aviation Week has reached out to De Havilland about its estimates for Dash 8 aftermarket demand over the next decade.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for AviationWeek.com, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.