Time Magazine had a feature this week about an old kind of plane that’s making a big comeback. That’s because this new breed of turboprop plane gets 30-40% better fuel economy and holds eight more passengers than one of the popular 70-seat regional jets that many airlines are flying in the US.
One Alaskan carrier, Horizon Air, wanted a fleet of small jets. But the wait was long, so they settled, begrudgingly, to 12 of the Turboprops, made by Bombardier, in Canada. Now they are thrilled and ‘we just look smarter and smarter.’ A big part of the breakthrough is the six-bladed propeller. This makes for much less cabin vibration, and coupled with other new technologies that mitigate sound, after it’s aloft the Q400 is 4 db quieter than a jet.
So sales are brisk, because with those eight seats and that fuel savings, there’s simply more money to be made for routes under 500 miles on these turboprop planes.
Bombardier is building something that airlines will love even more. A 90-seat turboprop is coming out in just a few years. It will be the biggest one ever. Oh, and another thing publicity conscious airlines love about turboprops–they emit half the cO2 that a jet spews out.