ATR 72 Vs Dash 8 – Which Turboprop Aircraft Is Better?
When it comes to turboprop aircraft, two brand names come to mind. First is the Aerei da Trasporto…
When it comes to turboprop aircraft, two brand names come to mind. First is the Aerei da Trasporto Regionale 72 (ATR 72) and the other is the De Havilland Canada DHC-8 (Dash 8). Which is better? Let us find out.
Which aircraft are we comparing?
If you have flown on a commuter route to a smaller airport, there is a chance that you have flown on board a turboprop aircraft. This type of aircraft has propellers rather than jet engines (turbofan engines specifically) and operates a little slower, but is pressurised and still able to perform a similar journey as a jet aircraft. Turboprops do have some advantages such as able to land at smaller airports and cheaper to operate.
The first aircraft we will be comparing is the ATR 72, named after how many passengers it carries and developed in France by ATR in 1984. ATR is half-owned (50%) by Airbus, and benefits from its technology.
The second aircraft is the DHC-8 (or known as the Dash 8, not to be confused with the Dash-80), built by a range of builders over the lifetime of the brand (De Havilland in 1984, Boeing in 1988, Bombardier in 1992 and now Longview Aviation Capital in 2019).
As both aircraft types are in extensive use around the world and designed around the same time, they will make an adapt comparison. There are a few types of older ATR 72s, but we will be using the latest (the -600) for this study. As there are four types of Dash 8s (Q100, Q200, Q300 and Q400), we will use the most popular one (Q400) for this comparison.
ATR 72 Vs Dash 8
We will start by examining the passenger and range capacities of both aircraft:
- ATR 72 can transport 70-80 passengers (depending on seat pitch) to a range of 1,528 km (825 nautical miles).
- Dash 8 Q400 can transport 82 passengers (with a 30-inch seat pitch) to a range of 2,040 km (1,100 nautical miles).
From the above, we can see that the Dash 8 Q400 narrowly beats the ATR 72 in range and passenger capacity. It can carry a few more passengers than the ATR 72 (but only a few more) to a slightly longer range.
However, most airlines won’t be using these aircraft to the maximum range and instead for small commuter routes. Thus, if they carry around the same passengers, how does their fuel efficiency compare?
Below is for a 555.6 km journey (300 nautical miles):
|Model||First flight||Seats||Fuel burn||Fuel per seat|
|ATR 72-500||1997||70||1.42 kg/km (5.0 lb/mi)||2.53 L/100 km (93 mpg‑US)|
|Bombardier Dash 8 Q400||1998||78||2.16 kg/km (7.7 lb/mi)||3.46 L/100 km (68.0 mpg‑US)|
(Source here for this data).
The ATR-500 is one model previous to the compared -600, and only has an increase from 74 seats to 78 seats (as well as a few avionics improvements). It does have new engines, however, which may improve fuel burn.
Looking at the table above, we can see that the ATR 72 is far more fuel-efficient than the Q400, and thus cheaper to operate.
But don’t be so quick to dismiss the Q400. The more significant fuel burn is due to the speed of the aircraft which flies 150 knots faster than the ATR 72:
- ATR 72 cruise speed: 510 km/h (280 kn)
- Dash 8 Q400 cruise speed: 556–667 km/h (300–360 kn)
This fast speed means that the aircraft gets to its destination quicker (an hour flight on the Q400 takes one hour and 15 minutes on the ATR 72). More rapid flights mean more sectors in a day and it is possible that the Q400 would be able to do an additional one hour flight every six hours more than the ATR 72.
How much do they cost?
The ATR 72 might be cheaper to operate, but will it cost more than the Dash 8?
- ATR 72-600: $26 million USD
- Dash 8 Q400: $32 million USD
Additionally, it is worth noting that the smaller Q300 which can carry only 56 passengers costs $14 million USD.
Both aircraft provide a fantastic solution to commuter routes and should be considered by airlines. However, the ATR 72 comes in at a lower price and is cheaper to operate. Unless the airline needs those extra 300 or so nautical miles, has a high demand on a short route and needs to carry ten additional passengers, then the ATR 72 is the better of the two.
What do you think? Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments.