I was disappointed and perplexed that an excellent service run by Regional Express (REX) between Melbourne and Canberra was discontinued a few years ago. The tickets were a fair bit cheaper than the competition – and you just had to sit in a turbo prop for an extra half hour or so reading away quietly.
Oddly, the planes weren’t very full, so perhaps it was discontinued from lack of demand rather than because of predatory pricing from the majors. In any event, Qantas has been running turbo props on the same route for a long time. Then I read the story below the fold on Crikey! and I might start asking if they’re jets – or go with my preferred carrier – Virgin Blue.
Qantas sinks $1.5 billion into crash-prone turbo props
Ben Sandilands writes:
Pay more attention than usual to the safety announcement if you still get to fly on the long thin Q400 turbo props operated by Qantaslink to Canberra or on many regional routes.
The biggest operator of the type Scandinavian Air Systems (SAS) has just permanently discontinued using the Canadian built aircraft after a third undercarriage collapse occurred over the weekend, following two similar crashes in September.
It is the first time since BOAC grounded the early Comets in 1954, in much more tragic circumstances, that an airliner has been ejected from an airlines fleet on safety grounds.
Qantaslink has seven 72 seat Q400s in service, mostly out of Canberra. Two more are (or were) due in service soon.
It recently poured scorn on Virgin Blues choice of the wider, faster Embraer E-jets for such routes when it slapped down $400 million for a further 12 of the turbo-props plus options for an additional 24, which would take its bet on the Canadian planes made by Bombardier to around $1.5 billion if all of them were delivered.
In September the cause of the SAS crashes was found to be a faulty undercarriage design fortunately different from the one used in the older smaller Dash 8 turbo props also made by Bombardier and widely used down the years by Qantas.
However, the statements and assurances made by Bombardier and BF Goodrich the Q400 main gear maker and the safety authorities that approved remedial work and a resumption of services briefly suspended in September are now void as far as SAS is concerned.
The Qantas Q400s are much younger and consequently less at risk from the second rate design of the turbo prop than early adopters like SAS.
But to say Qantas will face issues with its choice of prop jets is an understatement. Disintegration on landing is a bad look. It is dangerous. It has “future litigation” in neon lights blinking right above it. And compared to an E-jet, which the Virgins call a “Capital Jet”, a Q400 is a stuffy, slow tube crammed with absurdly small seats flying at low speed and low altitudes that maximise turbulence and discomfort.
Somehow, it seems reasonable to anticipate a sharp U-turn away from Q400s in Qantas fleet planning in the not too distant future.
Click on the image to go to the video which is quite spectacular.