ATR 72 vs. Dash 8 Q400: A Side-by-Side Comparison

While jets dominate the air when it comes to international flying, regional operations tend to prefer using smaller aircraft, often, turboprops. When traveling within the country or at least to closer destinations, the two types you might find yourself sitting in a lot can include ATR 72 and Bombardier Dash 8 Q400.

So what’s the difference between these ATR and Dash 8 models? Let’s take a look at their key features and find out.

ATR 72 vs. Dash 8 Q400
Bangkok Air ATR 72 taxiing at Phuket airport.

History

While the ATR 72 made its debut in October of 1988, the Dash 8 Q400 actually had its first flight in June of 1983. Both models are quite young in terms of aircraft, that said, their predecessors were what lead to the manufacturing of these models.

ATR was a company created when a French and an Italian group decided to merge their work in order to create a new line of regional aircraft. The original ATR was the model 42, named after its passenger capacity of 40 to 52 people. The ATR 72 was designed as a stretched model of the 42, also receiving its name due to passenger count.

The De Havilland Canada Dash 8, is most often referred to as the Dash 8. The Dash 8 model followed the Dash 7, equipped with stronger engines to improve cruise performance at a lower price.

The Q400 models of the Dash 8 came along in 1999, well after De Havilland Canada’s acquisition by Bombardier. The aircraft can be equipped with 68 to 90 seats. The Q in its name was code for “Quiet”, as these models were given active noise canceling systems in order to reduce the level of sound from the engines that are mounted right next to the fuselage.

RAC Dash 8 Q400CC
Ryukyu Air Commuter is the world’s sole operator of the Q400CC, a combi version of the Q400.

Range

The range of aircraft is dependent on a number of factors. The weather, weight, and performance of the aircraft itself are just a few. When it comes to range a regional carrier will choose the aircraft that best suits its needs. Oftentimes the more distance the aircraft can travel, the better fit it will be.

The ATR 72-600 model has a range of 929 miles. This is with two Pratt and Whitney P100 engines that carry 2,475 horsepower each and consume about 5.3 lbs of fuel per mile. The Dash 8 Q400 has a range of approximately 1,267 miles. This is also with the Pratt and Whitney engines, but the P150 model. Each engine has 5,071 horsepower, more than enough strength for the plane to take off and maintain a climb on one engine.

Although the Q400 has a longer range than the 72, the increase in fuel burn from the extremely powerful engines is enough for some companies to decide that they are too expensive to operate.

Dash 8 Q400 Engine
Dash 8 Q400 engine.

Capacity

Naturally, by being smaller aircraft, the number of passengers that can be carried along with their baggage is limited.

While the ATR and the Dash 8 come at a certain size and are expected to carry a certain number of seats, companies can actually choose the number of seats they desire in the aircraft. Later on, they can even decide to customize their aircraft by adding or removing the number of seats that they see fit.

The ATR 72 can be installed with 72 to 78 seats. The spacing of the seating is the deciding factor for how many seats can be installed, as fewer seats provide more legroom. Around 2010 there was mention of increasing seat capacity to 90 seats by stretching the ATR once again. Thoughts of increasing seating to 100 were abandoned in 2018, and the different model ATRs maintain a lower seat capacity to this day.

The Dash 8 Q400 tends to have between 68 and 90 passengers, depending on the company that is operating the aircraft. Typically the aircraft is equipped to fit 82 passengers, but this can greatly affect comfort and legroom.

Many regional airlines have settled on 78 passenger seats in order to maximize passenger comfort as well as capacity.

Dash 8 Q400 Cabin
Dash 8 Q400 cabin.

Routes

Due to their small capacity, there’s a limit to the distance these aircraft can travel at full loads. Airlines and cargo companies alike need to take this into consideration when choosing destinations for these aircraft.

The Dash 8 Q400 is well known for its long routes, especially in Europe, where many trips are over 800 miles. Luxembourg to Bucharest, for one, is offered by Luxair using a Q400 and is 998 miles long.

Luxair is, in fact, known for its long Q400 routes including to Barcelona. With the speed produced by the Q400s powerful engines, the flight is only 20 minutes longer than that completed in a Ryanair Boeing 737-800. This makes the Q400 more appealing for the route, as it is cheaper to operate than the large jet.

One of the world’s longest non-stop turboprop routes is done by Air Tahiti, a 1,028 mile trip completed by the ATR 72-600. Because it is so economical to fly, many airlines choose the ATR 72 to complete their flights, rather than a jet that burns excessive fuel.

Production

As companies attempted to produce a more efficient airliner, the ATR 72 and the Dash 8 Q400 were created to provide the best passenger experience, while being cost-efficient for their operating company.

The most current model of the ATR 72 is the -600 series. Their efficiency was improved with lower fuel burn and operating costs. Because of its efficiency, the aircraft is in high demand, and ATR expanded its production by introducing more hangar space for development and a more modern assembly line. These upgrades increased production to 120 aircraft a year.

In 1986, prior to Bombardier’s acquisition, Boeing purchased De Havilland Canada, improving the production of the Dash 8 aircraft that were in high demand. Because the market was switching more towards jet aircraft in the 1990s the company introduced the series 400 of the Dash 8. With a new Active Noise and Vibration System, the aircraft was able to compete with the quietness of jet aircraft, re-introducing its popularity in the market.

Porter Airlines Dash 8 Q400
Porter Airlines Dash 8 Q400 seen in Toronto.

Price

While the cost of the aircraft is the first number noticed by investors, the operating costs of fuel, insurance, and maintenance also play a part when deciding which aircraft to choose.

A 2012 ATR 72 averages at about 12.2 million dollars, while the newer -600 model is listed at 26.8 million dollars. Older models cost less but don’t carry the same level of performance as the newer models.

The Dash 8 Q400 comes in at a slightly higher price and can be purchased new for 27 million dollars. Older models can be purchased at a reduced price or leased.

Comfort

As much as their design is of importance, the comfort of an aircraft for its passengers is a crucial consideration for potential investors.

With two powerful engines propelling the aircraft, sounds can become quite loud in the cabin. Passengers experience some noise in the ATR 72, while the quietness provided by the Q400 rivals that of a state-of-the-art jet.

Seats are spaced depending on the passenger count in the aircraft. With the ATR 72 having a maximum capacity of 78, and the Q400 having a max capacity of 90, seating can begin to feel cramped depending on whether the airline chose to have more capacity in the aircraft.

Seats in both aircraft are set in two rows with two seats, one window, and one aisle seat.

Both aircraft are equipped with significant overhead stowage for baggage. Many airlines also allow the placement of bags under the seat in front of you, so you have easy access to your belongings and more storage space.

While there is no in-flight entertainment, flights in these aircraft are generally short. Most seats are designed with a table tray that can be used in flight for individuals to complete work or have a place to put a laptop or tablet.

ATR 72 Cabin
Some ATR 72s feature a pair of seats facing each other.

Safety

Since safety is of utmost priority, many passengers will be pleased to know that both aircraft have a reasonable safety record.

The ATR 72 has been in a total of 46 aviation accidents and incidents. Only 29 of those accidents have resulted in hull losses, and only 11 of these accidents resulted in fatalities. The most recent of these fatalities were from an accident in 2018, in which passenger flight 3704 from Iran Aseman Airlines was flown into bad weather and collided with Mount Dena due to pilot error.

The Dash 8 has had 80 aviation accidents and incidents in total, including 31 hull losses. Only three instances did the Q400 model result in fatalities. Most deaths came from an accident on US-Bangla flight 211, in which the flight crashed on landing due to pilot error.

The most recent Q400 accident, the one with the lowest number of fatalities, was in 2018 when an airport employee stole a Dash 8 in Washington and crashed intentionally. This resulted in only one death.

ATR 72 vs. Dash 8 Q400: Summary

There is no doubt that the ATR 72 and the Dash 8 Q400 are extremely similar aircraft. With similar missions, sizing, and power, the two are found to be excellent aircraft by all the operators that use them.

Airlines choose which aircraft is best for them from a number of factors. Those who are looking for something with a bit more power and seating capacity will choose the Dash 8 Q400, while those focusing more on shorter distance flights might prefer the ATR 72.

Since both aircraft are comfortable and more than capable of safely bringing passengers to their destination, the choice comes down to the airline and their desired routes for the aircraft.

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