In the last thirty years, the Canadian built Dash 8 has proved a popular regional aircraft for economically operating short and low demand feeder routes around the USA, Europe, Australia and many other countries and continents.
Bombardier has been producing the Dash 8 Q-400 since taking on the production of the air frame from DeHavilland Canada.
Its a plane that is rivalled heavily by the European built ATR-42/72. But other rivals that caused a storm in its history have included the Brazilian Embraer E-145 family and the fellow Bombardier CRJ-Family.
The Dash 8 Q-Series has included the -100, -200, -300 and -400 series over the years. The Q-400 has proved the most commercially successful and the Dash 8 has since the 1990’s replaced the ageing and quad-propeller driven Dash 7 aircraft by the masses!
The Dash 8 was originally conceived by DeHavilland Canada, a subsidiary of the iconic British aircraft manufacturer which brought the Military Mosquito, and first commercial jetliner the Comet. The aircraft was eventually purchased by Bombardier, another Canadian aircraft manufacturer who continue to make the plane to this day.
British Regional Airline Flybe has had its ups and downs since the early years as Jersey European Airways (when it was founded in 1978), but now the airline looks set to become a Virgin branded regional airline alongside Virgin Atlantic thanks to a consortium buy out, but lets take a look back at a Flybe regional hop I took from the Channel Island of Jersey to the UK’s busiest regional airport in the South outside of London: Southampton Eastleigh Airport.
Flybe, easyJet and British Airways are the main three operators at Jersey Airport. Flybe offers the largest JER-UK network including destinations served by their franchise partner Blue Island.
Quick description for those unfamiliar: The Channel Islands are four islands just North of Normandy, France, but they are part of the United Kingdom’s Crown Dependencies, meaning they are not part of the United Kingdom or European Union, but the UK has a responsibility over them and the island’s have their own Government set ups. The islands use the GBP as their currency, but produce their own notes and coins for within the islands. The biggest island is Jersey, the others are Alderney, Guernsey and Sark. English is the main language, but French is also widely spoken and many residence of the islands are UK or French alongside the native citizens.
This 2008 built DeHavilland Canada Dash 8 Q-400 G-ECOD operated my short flight from Jersey to Southampton.
Jersey Airport is the main base of Blue Island (who now operates as a franchise for Flybe), Flybe and easyJet, with British Airways performing multiple daily services to London Gatwick, majority of services from Jersey are to/from the UK mainland, but a few European airlines offer a seasonal or charter service. Airbus A319 and A320 are the largest regular traffic, having replaced decades of jet services from the Boeing 737-Classic and BAC 1-11. Airside at the airport is a glass enclosed viewing observatory. Giving a wide view across the airfield.
Row 1 is one of the best seat for legroom and is a premium to pre reserve online, a standard airline practice in 2019.
When boarding, Jersey has no boarding jet-bridges, so you have to walk in the open to your aircraft, regional aircraft like the Dash 8 I was flying you can climb built in steps at the front or in the case of an ATR, the rear. Airbus A319/A320 they provide stairs.
Open board at Jersey on the Dash 8 Q-400, the Dash 8 has a built in stair at the front door.
The Bombardier Dash 8 Q-400 I was flying on was G-ECOD. A 10 year old airframe built by DeHavilland Canada in July 2008. It sports the original 2002 White/Blue Flybe colourscheme, at the time was being replaced by a bold all purple colour-scheme that a few weeks later was scheduled to be replaced by a traditional looking white/purple scheme.
I initially sat in 3D, but the man sat in Seat 1A, moved to another seat away from the door for what ever reason and I asked if I could take his now vacant seat, so I got a bit of extra legroom and a fold out tray from the middle of the seat, which I could open on 1B, keeping my area open.
The journey time from Jersey to Southampton would be a mere 45 minute ride once airborne. It was a bright clear day as we left Jersey on the sunny July afternoon. We cleared the island on a steep and very high powered climb and went to 17,000ft- our cruising altitude.
So long and Farewell Jersey! The flight time from JER to SOU once airborne to touchdown is roughly 30-45 minutes.
Like a majority of airlines in Europe, Flybe offers a buy on board menu. One of the more exotic items offered for anyone travelling on this airline from outside the UK is the Scottish drink IRNBRU. I joined this with a tub of Pringles and Malteasers for a grand sum of £5.40, pretty good especially when taken into account what some airlines have the nerve to charge.
Buy on Board does divide opinion amongst travellers, however i find the Flybe options a wide variety and reasonably priced compare to competitors. I paid £5.40 for the three items seen here.
The rest of the short flight was uneventful and we came in over the Southampton dockyards on decent around 25 minutes after take off. We flew over the city and past the airport before turning 180 degrees to come in from the North and we arrived into Southampton on time!
Arriving into Southampton from the North side, the airport is surrounded by countryside until the final minute of flight.
Getting off the aircraft, we boarded a bus that safely shuttled us to the Terminal and we passed through the UK Domestic arrivals, meaning we don’t have to wait at a passport check. Southampton is a fairly quiet airport in the South of England, in the shadow of London’s Heathrow and Gatwick, majority of the traffic is Domestic and European flights from Flybe who makes a huge majority of flights; Auringy, Blue Island KLM and Aer Lingus make up the rest of the flights, though KLM is withdrawing from SOU in late March 2019.
A modern style “Glass Cockpit” is used on the Dash 8 Q-400 series.
Final thoughts on Flybe? Great regional network out of various UK Airports, great value most of the time, the Dash 8 make a great change for a country who’s Short-Haul flights are dominated by A320 and B737s. The buy on board is a good mixture of items for these regional hops and is reasonably priced when compare to other airlines.