Flight Review: RAC Q400CC Inaugural, from Naha to Kumejima and Back

Onboard World’s First Two Q400CC Flights

 After Ryukyu Air Commuter received the world’s first Bombardier Q400 Cargo Combi and announced its first commercial flight, I hesitated for a while. However, in the end, I could not miss the unique opportunity to fly on the inaugural flight of a new aircraft type.

Ryukyu Air Commuter and the Q400CC

Ryukyu Air Commuter (RAC) is a JAL group member based in Naha. It provides crucial air service to many of the smaller islands of Okinawa, getting people and cargo to and from these islands.

Prior to receiving the Q400CC, it operated a fleet of Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft including the shortest Q100 with 39 seats, the longer Q300 with 50 seats, and as such it has extensive experience with the popular turboprop series.

The shorter versions were recently joined by the Q400 – the longest of the Dash 8 series. Rather than increasing the seating capacity, however, RAC decided to be the launch customer of the Q400CC – a “Cargo Combi” version.

At the expense of having only 50 seats – the same capacity as the shorter Q300, the Q400CC has a cargo hold two and a half times larger than the previous Dash 8s. This is very important as many of the small islands in Okinawa depend on cargo that is brought to them via air.

Rearranging the Whole Trip

Now, let’s get into the actual trip.

After waking up around 6AM on the morning of April 15th, I made my way to the breakfast room of the hotel from where I headed to the Akamine monorail station which is just one stop away from Naha Airport.

The very convenient Okinawan monorail system – “Yui Rail.”

On the night before the Q400CC flight, I received information that NH462 – 11:30AM departure Okinawa-Tokyo flight – would be the last flight of ANA’s Pokemon Peace Jet before being repainted into the regular ANA colors. As such, I went to the ANA counter to try to change my flight to that one instead of the NH472 flight that I was supposed to be on originally.

After succeeding with that, I needed to change my return flight from Kumejima to an earlier flight – in fact, the only option was taking the Q400CC straight back to Naha after arriving. Couple of minutes on the PC later, I had a seat secured, and so I finally went to the RAC check-in counter.

After checking-in for the RAC inaugural flight, I headed back to the ANA desks to drop off the luggage that I didn’t need for my short hop to Kumejima and back, and I made my way through security.

RAC873 to Kumejima with 8:15AM STD, boarding by bus from gate 28.

Celebrating the First Commercial Q400CC Flight in the World

When I got airside to the gate, there was not much activity going on. For a while, I thought there would be no celebrations, but I could not have been more wrong.

Not much activity going on at the boarding gate…

Gradually, more and more RAC employees ranging from ground staff all the way to the President started arriving, and various banners started to be displayed.

One of the banners – celebrating the first flight of the Q400CC.
Gate decorations – several banners showing the new aircraft.
Employees Arriving
RAC employees arriving at the gate to enjoy the celebration.
Lined Up
Everyone’s lined up and the event can begin!
Both amateur photographers and enthusiasts, as well as press photographers were present.

Before boarding was announced, the President of RAC gave a short speech. Not only that, but while boarding, he was there to greet all the passengers, and even write messages into logbooks of some, including me.

Mr. Irei – the President of RAC – giving a speech. Before introducing the new aircraft, he expressed his condolences to the victims of the Kyushu earthquake that happened the day before.
Boarding Announcement
What a job to announce the boarding of the first Q400CC flight in the world in front of the President.
Thank You!
The President thanking and bowing to each and every passenger of the flight.
Mr. Irei signing my logbook.

The boarding took a bit more than usual, since the large number of enthusiasts was taking pictures at the gate and enjoying the moments before getting on the flight.

Line of employees greeting the passengers getting on the bus.

Soon, however, the “party” at the gate was over, and I headed to the bus. After scanning my boarding pass, one of the RAC staff handed me a gift bag containing a flight certificate and a RAC towel with the Q400CC on it.

Welcome Onboard the World’s First Q400CC Revenue Flight

I got on the second bus to the airplane and when we arrived at the parking spot, people from the first bus were already walking around the plane and enjoying taking photos from all possible angles. I joined them for a couple of minutes and then boarded the aircraft.

Old and New
A pair of Dash 8s – the fairly old Q100 and the brand new Q400CC.
Side Shot
No problems taking a side shot of the starboard side of the aircraft. The ramp agent even took a picture of me in front of the aircraft.

Unfortunately, as I checked in fairly late, I could not get a window seat. As such, I settled into my bulkhead seat 2C.

Everyone Onboard
View of the cabin after boarding was finished.

A couple of minutes later at 8:13, with 45 passengers onboard, the sole on the flight CA closed the door. We started our engines a minute later, and soon we were on our way to runway 36.

We took the E6S intersection, and started our take-off run at 8:26, lifting sharply into the Okinawan skies about 30 seconds later.

Climbing out of Naha with passengers on board for the first time.

Three minutes later, the seatbelt sign was switched off, and the flight attendant passed through the aisle offering a 1/100 scale model of the plane we were flying on.

Simultaneously, the enthusiasts on board started taking pictures of the cabin and the cabin attendant, enjoying the short flight to the maximum possible extent.

Cabin Attendant
Ms. Kuninaka – the sole cabin attendant on this flight.
Ms. Kuninaka explaining how the Q400CC is faster than the older versions to a couple of interested enthusiasts.
One more view of the cabin, this time in-flight.
The divider between the passenger and cargo section – interestingly, the combi version of the aircraft has a cargo door instead of the passenger L2 door, and the passenger R2 door is inoperable.

In fact, the flight was so short that less than ten minutes later, the seat belt sign was switched back on as we started our descend. The gear was lowered at 8:39, and three minutes later we landed on runway 21 of Kumejima airport..

Beautiful Okinawan sea seen shortly before landing at Kumejima.

Being a small airport with no taxiway, we backtracked via runway 03 to the small apron in front of the terminal. To my great surprise, a pair of fire fighting trucks was waiting there to welcome us with a water gate.

Welcome! First time for me to pass through a “water gate.”

We arrived at our parking spot at 8:47, and after saying “see you in 25 minutes” to the cabin attendant, I walked down to the apron.

Very nice Okinawa-themed postcards that passenger can take as a memorabilia from their RAC flights.

Some more photography of the aircraft as well as the group of people welcoming us with a banner followed, but not for too long since…

Passengers disembarking and taking photo of the Q400CC on the sunny Kume Island.
A nice welcome by the locals.

Hello Again – Flying Back to Naha

…since I had only about 20 minutes left before my next flight – the flight back to Naha onboard the same aircraft that brought me to Kumejima would depart.

I was the last one to check-in for that flight, and as such, the only seat left was 1H – a bulkhead aisle seat again.

The Japan Transocean Air and Ryukyu Air Commuter titles at the check-in desk were joined by the commemorative Q400CC poster.
There was also a separate board showing the aircraft from the outside and the inside right next to the check-in desk.

With the boarding pass in my hand, I headed through the security into the small waiting room. Shortly, boarding commenced, and I was given another gift bag with the same content (only the flight data on the certificate was different).

View of JA81RC – the Q400CC – through the terminal window. Notice the Jimbe colored truck.
Boarding Area
The small, yet more than sufficient waiting area of Kumejima Airport adjacent to its sole gate – Gate 1.
Ryukyu Air Commuter and Japan Transocean Air are the two airlines serving this tiny airport with Naha on the main island being the sole destination.
Gift Bag
The RAC staff was more than happy to pose for a photo while handing out the gift bags.
Boarding in progress.
…and time for me to get on board.

Shortly after boarding was finished, at 9:26, we took off from runway 21. This time, the flight was full with 50 passengers onboard, some of which I could recognize from the previous flight.

The flight back was uneventful with a lot of people sleeping through it and not a single person (except me) bothering to stand up and take pictures of the cabin, etc. This showed me how big the difference is even between the 1st and the 2nd flight, and it made me want to participate in even more of inaugurals.

In-Flight Sales
The cabin attendant with the in-flight sales items.

After mere 18 minutes of flight time, at 9:44, we landed on runway 36 of Naha airport bringing the second flight of the Q400CC to an end.

Urban feeling – we must be in Naha, the capital of Okinawa.
Final Approach
Seconds before landing.

Before disembarking, I bought the 1/100 scale model (could not resist), and headed back into the terminal where I had only slightly more than an hour to spend before boarding the last Pokemon Peace Jet flight (or so I thought). …more on than in a separate report, though.

Before disembarking, I took photos of the empty cabin. One from the back…
…and one final photo of the aircraft on the Naha apron with Ms. Kuninaka in the door.


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