Many people sing the praises of the quiet cabin of the A380, or the comfort of flying on the Boeing 787, or the nostalgia of flying the Queen of the Skies. But there are other aircraft out there that I really enjoy. One of my favorites is the Bombardier Q400.
Bombardier Q400: One of the Last Turboprops in the U.S.
Over the years we’ve seen the slow retirement of turboprop aircraft at the major airlines and their regional partners. I distinctly remember my first flight out of our tiny local airport on a turboprop. Arcata-Eureka (ACV) was served for years by trusty Embraer Brasilia planes. There are days where I really miss them. We now primarily have the awful CRJ-200 instead.
But you still have the opportunity to fly a turboprop. You just need to get yourself to the Pacific Northwest and take a flight with Horizon Airlines, a subsidiary of the Alaska Air Group that flies exclusively for Alaska. Their fleet of 32 Bombardier Q400s is still alive and well. The aircraft is one of the Dash-8 series, originally manufactured by de Havilland.
Aside from Alaska regional flights in the U.S., you can also find the aircraft in the fleet of Porter Airlines (who operates them exclusively) and among the aircraft operated by Air Canada Jazz.
You might be thinking you’d want to avoid the Bombardier Q400 due to how noisy and small these 76-seater aircraft are. But then you’d really be missing out. Here’s why you should try to work a flight on a Q400 into your travel plans.
Runway Acceleration Is Intense
Unlike the lumbering takeoff of a wide body aircraft or your typical 737, the Q400 accelerates quickly. The takeoff force aboard regional aircraft is typically greater than larger jets, but the turboprop seems to be the king in this regard. They are far more efficient at generating thrust than your turbofan jet engine. You’re up in the air within seconds.
It’s a thrill every time. I remember my last adventure aboard one on a trip to Montana back in 2017, and it was so much fun. I’d forgotten what takeoff was like.
You’ll Likely Enjoy a Free Drink
There is no first class section on a Horizon Q400, but everyone enjoys the benefits anyway! Well…I guess this is the only first class benefit you’ll enjoy. When flying aboard Alaska Horizon on a Bombardier Q400, everyone gets a free beer or glass of wine.
The selection is typically pretty limited, but you can count on a craft beer or wine from the Pacific Northwest. There are typically around a half a dozen or more options shown in the Alaska menu. I do recall that they only had a stout and Chardonnay aboard my last Q400 flight.
Porter Airlines offers free beer or wine as well. They even serve it in glassware! Honestly, I was really impressed by Porter on the whole. Very classy little airline.
There Are Certainly Some Cons
The Q400 is certainly not a glamorous way to fly. It’s barely more spacious than a CRJ-200 or ERJ-145, and it has a very noisy cabin. The noise might be the biggest complaint that I have aboard turboprop aircraft, but these days I have gotten into the habit of flying with a good pair of noise-canceling headphones.
The lav is also missing a sink (at least they are on the Horizon fleet) and only offers a bottle of hand sanitizer. So plan accordingly. Finally, there isn’t a first class section. Or maybe everything is first class?
Not sold on the idea? Give the Bombardiere Q400 a chance. It’s a fun ride on a short hop, and I hope to enjoy them until Horizon eventually phases the aircraft out completely. The delay in the 737MAX certification has slowed Alaska and Horizon’s plans, but it will certainly be a sad day when they eventually ditch the Q400.