Bombardier planes ‘are much safer’

AS Tanzania looks forward to receiving the second bombardier Q400 plane of two the government purchased from Canada this week, it has emerged that the aircraft are safer, fuel-efficient and ideal for cheap local flights.

The popular global Forbes Magazine writes in an article titled; “Can Bombardier’s Q400 Save Regional Air Service in the US?”that comparing to other aircraft offering regional flights in the US, the Bombardier Q400 proved to have more advantages.

It was reported that the planes have appropriate speed to cater for needs in regional airline transport, including having more commercial benefits as compared to aircraft of its like such as the ATR. “Essentially, on a 350 nautical mile route, our analysis finds that the Q400 has about a 65 to 72 per cent advantage in terms of fuel burn per seat versus the E170/CRJ-700, and a 100 to 110 per cent advantage versus a 50-seat regional jet,” the Forbes says.

This, along with rising RJ maintenance costs, translates into roughly a 15 to 17 per cent and 48 to 52 per cent advantage in terms of operating costs per seat on the route.

However, increasing the distance to 450 nautical miles causes that cost advantage to evaporate, as the slower speeds (RJs are about 80 knots faster than the Q400) lead to longer flight times, which in turn lead to higher capital and labour costs.

But until that threshold, the Q400 presents a unique opportunity to replace RJ services at a lower cost. The trip costs up to about 350 nautical miles for the Q400s and present day RJs are similar, which means that the same revenue pool (let alone a market stimulated with lower fares) would allow 50-seat RJ routes to be replaced.

Moreover, because the Q400’s fuel costs are lower, airlines could afford to pay higher pilot salaries, thereby offsetting some of the severity of the pilot shortage.

“At present, we estimate that the Q400 would be an effective replacement aircraft of between 50 to 60 per cent of the routes in question, and help preserve service at more than 20 airports,” it explains.

It further notes that the real opportunity on the Q400 lies in a re-engined, upgraded Q400X turboprop, which has been rumoured for launch since 2011. “If Bombardier opted for a higher speed Q400, the cost equalisation point would bend outwards to around 700 to 750 nautical miles.

“While our sources at Bombardier do caution that a higher speed Q400X would require significant aerodynamic re-design, such a product would allow the Q400 to do 90 per cent of RJ routes worldwide, most of them with superior economics than present and next-generation RJs,” it adds.

President of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, Mr Mike Arcamone, said the perception was changing: “I think a lot of operators are starting to realize its quiet...So there are a lot of markets where the Q400 could absolutely replace… at the lower end…. jets.”

Experts argue that among other reasons, Tanzania was forced to purchase such planes after realising that high operational costs brought by Boeing as well as few passengers were among major factors behind failure by the Air

Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) to do business. Making price comparison, the Boeing is sold at 296m US dollars while the Bombardier Q400 price stands at 35m dollars. Which is to say the price of one Boeing could buy 9 Bombardier planes.

According to the experts, these nine Bombardiers could help the ATCL to operate profitably. Regarding time used to cover a certain distance, for instance, 1100km from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza, the Bombardier can use one hour and 40 minutes whereas Boeing can take 1 hour and 15 minutes, which is a difference of 25 minutes only.

The experts went on explaining that Bombardier uses 1.187 litres of fuel to cover a distance of one mile.

For example, travelling from Songea to Dar, a distance of 537km (335.625 miles), the Bombardier would need 398.386 litres of fuel, costing about 796,773/- at a price of 2,000 per litre.

But, for Boeing, covering the same distance would require spending 28.8m/- on fuel alone.

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