The twin-engine Bombardier "Dash 8" (Q-Series) was developed by de Havilland Canada (DHC) as an extension of the previous four-engine "Dash 7" series. The Dash 7, itself, originated in the 1970s (from the DHC-6 "Twin Otter") to fulfill a presumed market need for a regional passenger airliner with inherently excellent short-field performance, giving it access to many city-based airports around the world. However, there proved little market need for such a specialized product so the company then focused on the strengths of the Dash 7 (namely economy, low noise, low fuel consumption) and adopted it to what would become an all-new design in the twin-engined Dash 8 (DHC-8).
Work began in the late-1970s and transitioned into the early-1980s, involving Pratt & Whitney Canada supplying an equally all-new engine fit, the "PW120" turboprop. A first-flight, by way of prototype, occurred on June 20th, 1983 and the series was introduced in 1984 through launch customer NorOntair. Since then, Dash 8 production has been ongoing and total units has exceeded 1,225 aircraft.
NOTE: The aircraft is now marketed / produced under the Bombardier brand label after Bombardier's acquisition of de Havilland Canada in 1992.
The Dash 8 design relies on a basic planform made up of a slim, tubular fuselage with the flight deck overlooking the nose and a T-style wing arrangement at the tail. The key to short-field operations is the high-mounted wings (which provide good lift and drag) and excellent range stems from the use of turboprop engines. Each wing features an underslung Pratt & Whitney Canada turboprop driving a multi-blade propeller unit. The nacelles also house the main landing gear legs while a short leg is positioned under the nose for ground-running. While the early Dash 8 marks featured a conventional, "steam-gauge" style cockpit, the more modern iterations, namely the Q400 series, sports a sleek, all-glass digital cockpit instrument panel. Two pilots are seated in a side-by-side arrangement.
The Dash family of aircraft is divided into four distinct models led by the Series 100 (Q100). This encompasses the original DHC-8-100 passenger hauler of 1984 as well as the DHC-8-101, DHC-8-102/-102A, DHC-8-103 and the DHC-8-106 (each differing in engine installations). The DHC-8M-100 became a maritime surveillance platform and the Canadian military versions were the CC-142 and CT-142. The E-9A "Widget" was a USAF range control model equipped with radar. The Series 100 saw production reach 299 units.
The Series 200 (Q200) introduced the PWC PW123 engine for better overall performance and included the DHC-8-201, DHC-8-202 and Q200 models. The Series 200 saw production reach 105 units.
The Series 300 (Q300) was given a longer fuselage and carried PW123, PW123B or PW123E engines and encompassed the DHC-8-301, DHC-8-311, the DHC-8-314 and the DHC-8-315. The DHC-8-300A was the DHC-8-300 with an increased to its payload rating. The DHC-8-300 MSA was developed as a maritime surveillance model and the RO-6A was a US Army reconnaissance variant based on the DHC-8-315 (PW123E engines). The Q300 marked DHC-8-300 aircraft with ANVS. The Series 300 saw production reach 267 units.
The more modern Dash 8 offering is the Series DHC-8-400 / Series 400 (Q400). These are mainly passenger haulers and include the DHC-8-400, DHC-8-401 and DHC-8-402. The DHC-8 MPA-D8 is a maritime patrol model and the DHC-8-402PF is a cargo-mover. The Q400 marked an improved form with lengthened fuselage and the Q400NextGen is, itself, an improvement of the line. The Q400-MR is used in the fire-fighting role and the Q400CC is a combination hauler, convertible for the passenger or cargo hauling roles as needed by the customer.
The series can be internally configured for 50, 74, 82 or 90 passengers in a single-aisle arrangement.
By number, the Series 400 is the most successful of the family line with production having reached 554 units with dozens more on order (2017).