De Havilland Offering Retrofit Dash 8-400 Cargo Options
Responding to the growing air cargo and e-commerce markets, De Havilland Aircraft of Canada is offering a variety of cargo solutions for retrofit on the existing fleet of its Dash 8-400 regional airliners.
The cargo configurations include a Cargo Combi (CC), Package Freighter (PF) and Freighter-Large Cargo Door (F-LCD), as well as a quick-change (QC) version—with the addition of a new smoke detection system and Class E cargo compartment compliance. Each variant is available as a kit under Transport Canada-approved OEM service bulletins.
“We currently offer a cargo-combi version of the Dash 8-400 for mixed passenger and cargo operation. However, we are also in discussions to launch it as a retrofit,” confirms Philippe Poutissou, De Havilland Canada’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We have had a number of requests for 50-68 seats capacity and with an increased baggage compartment size.” He notes that Japanese regional Ryukyu Air Commuter is the only Dash 8-400 CC operator, with five, purchased new, as combis.
Poutissou explains that the Dash 8-400 CC’s Class C cargo compartment is an extension of the full passenger -400’s existing aft cargo compartment, accessible via the existing cargo door on the left side of the fuselage. As designed, the CC’s compartment is for bulk cargo transport.
The modified aircraft’s passenger compartment, which can be configured to seat up to 68, is separated by a bulkhead from the cargo compartment. “The two pressurized compartments are operated independently, enabling simultaneous boarding of passengers and cargo loading at opposite ends of the aircraft for greater efficiency,” says Poutissou. “With up to 2.6 metric tons of payload in the aft cargo compartment, a cargo density of 96 kg per cubic meter and 50 passengers weighing 102 kg each, the Dash 8-400 CC’s range is 1,245 nm, “ he explains.
For the Dash 8-400 PF, the aircraft’s five existing doors will be retained, Poutissou explains. As a fully dedicated, main deck, bulk cargo freighter, the PF configuration will include a Class E compartment equipped with a smoke detection system, nine loading zones with a cargo tie-down and restraint system (commonly called “spider nets”), plugged windows and interior cargo liners. “Options, including a cargo handling system, are available,” Poutissou points out.
Maximum payload for the Dash 8-400 PF is 10.2 metric tons. Assuming a cargo density of 96 kg per cubic meter, the aircraft’s range is 1,555 nm.
De Havilland is taking the PF variant a step further with the Dash 8-400 F-LCD, enabling the aircraft to accommodate up to eight LD3 containers, with the addition of a 2.8 m by 1.8 m cargo door installed on the forward right side. The existing aft cargo compartment door has been retained for additional loading. “By modifying the aircraft to accommodate eight LD3 containers, it becomes an optimal feeder for the larger, long-haul freighter operations,” Poutissou notes.
The cargo loading system, says Poutissou, will feature rollers to maneuver the containers, plus a container locking mechanism installed on the Class E main deck compartment. Maximum payload, he notes is 9.7 metric tons. “With eight LD3 containers, plus additional miscellaneous cargo—and assuming a cargo density of 96 kg per cubic meter, the Dash 8-400 F-LCD has a 1,640 nm range,” he says.
Poutissou reports that the large fleet of aging regional freighters—such as the Convair 580 and 640, Fokker 50 and British Aerospace ATP—is ripe for replacement by the Dash 8-400 PF and F-LCD, which he says “fit well” into the 10 metric ton capacity freighter market.
“The cargo market is a natural one for the Dash 8-400 PF and F-LCD, particularly because of its range and access to markets in remote regions with harsh climates and challenging airfields where large freighters can be impractical, or prohibitively uneconomical,” Poutissou says. “With quick loading and unloading of cargo, the PF variant is ideal for the transportation of e-commerce packages and other bulk cargo.”
Asked if De Havilland is planning to offer the freighter solutions as line fits, Poutissou states that with all Dash 8-400 production currently paused, the OEM’s focus, for now, is on the cargo solutions as retrofits.
“As the industry continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect worldwide demand for the Dash 8-400 to return and will plan to resume production of the Dash 8-400 at the appropriate time,” Poutissou says. “This could include production of new Dash 8-400 cargo aircraft.”