The Playbook For The Modern Man

Could This Quirky Aircraft Gain A Place In Qantas’ Permanent Roster Next Year?

If demand remains low, quite possibly.

As we reported on Tuesday, Qantas has started running a turboprop on flights from Sydney to Melbourne.

Whilst symbolic of some truly devastating times, the change could also hold an uplifting (pun intended) silver lining.

How? Even though it’s not the most practical form of Sydney to Melbourne transport, passengers appear to be developing a newfound appreciation for it.

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How did that happen? Well, thanks to the last month’s flight cuts, last weekend, on Saturday, April the 11th, Virgin Australia had no flights and Qantas had a single service down to Melbourne – the turboprop.

This has now changed as the news came through yesterday that the government would fund an increase in both Qantas and Virgin Australia’s domestic networks over the following months. But that’s not the point. The point is, Qantas, for however brief a time, used a turboprop on a non-regional route.

What’s a turboprop? A turboprop is an aircraft driven by a turbine engine, smaller than a jet, and more fuel-efficient for shorter journeys.

Big news not just for plane spotters. Why? After last Saturday’s turboprop (a 74 seat QantasLink Q400, otherwise known as the ‘Dash 8,’ if we’re being precise), flew to Melbourne via Canberra, the appreciation for the ‘it really feels like you’re flying’ experience began rolling in.

Geoff Power, a cattle and vegetable grower in Western Australia, took to Twitter to herald the decision, and suggest it become a permanent addition to the roster.

Seeing this, DMARGE got on the phone with frequent flyer and owner of Flight Hacks, Immanuel Debeer, who said: “I’d take a turbo prop over a 737 any day. I think most people would too because seating is more spacious, there are less passengers (which equals less waiting around) and they make you feel like you’re flying.”

The only negative? “Downside is that they are very noisy.”

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Another downside we can see is that last Saturday’s turboprop journey was slower than a typical jet (the typical flight time on a 737 from Sydney to Melbourne is an hour and a half, and the flight time on last Saturday’s turboprop, which flew to Melbourne via Canberra, was almost three hours). Though the stopover in Canberra may account for much of that.

Despite this, the appreciation for what we thought was a fairly antiquated technology was backed up by comments under our reporting of Qantas’ decision to temporarily use the turbo-prop (which is usually dedicated to short hops like Rockhampton to Brisbane) for the Sydney to Melbourne route.

“Don’t be so disdainful of turboprops, and the Dash-8/Q400 in particular. There are a few of us who love them,” one wrote.

Of course, there was a healthy dose of realism splashed in, too: “Turboprops hardly common? There are hundreds and hundreds of Dash 8’s and ATR42/72’s around the world,” one commenter wrote, “plus a few Brasilians, F50s, and the like. Rex wouldn’t be around were it not for the Saab 340.”

“Personally I’ll take a jet anytime as these smaller props can get very bumpy… but most Aussie regional routes cannot afford small regional jets like the E170 so expect to see turboprops around well into the future.”

Another wrote: “It may not be ideal, but at least it’s practical for the short term. Considering a Dash 8 400 costs only about $3-$4k + an hr give or take to run, compared to about $12-14k+ an hr give or take for a 737, the Dash wins no argument. Won’t in the race for speed or distance, but does for efficiency!”

“Given the choice between a seat on a q400, or no seat because it isn’t economical to fly a 737 I think most will take the Dash,” a third wrote.

“I like the Dash which is fine for short hauls & better suited to regional areas that don’t have huge RPT numbers,” wrote a fourth commenter, summing things up nicely: “[the] 737 is far better suited to the Syd/Mel run etc, only because passenger numbers warrant it. But obviously now due to a huge change in circumstances running a 737/757/A320/330 etc is no longer viable at least at the moment.”

In other words: unless the pandemic situation keeps demand low for another year, it’s unlikely we’ll see the Dash 8 permanently assigned to the Sydney to Melbourne route. But that won’t stop those that love it dreaming of its installation. As a fifth and final commenter wrote under the aforementioned article: “I’ve particularly enjoyed my flights in Qantas Link Q400s.”

While another user retorted, “Doubt you’d be so chipper about it if you had to fly them a dozen times a month,” our Dash-loving commenter’s final comment hints at a creative solution (or at least a novelty stunt) Qantas could, in our opinion, employ, to great social (if not financial) success: run the Dash 8 alongside its typical Melbourne to Sydney jet operations, once normality resumes.

“The… real advantage is being able to slip past all the jets lined up on a Friday afternoon at Sydney and zoom off leaving them in our wake.”

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  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-beck-54380b17a John Beck

    You had to wait until paragraph #7 to mention the name of the aircraft to people? Everybody knows about regional aircraft; and most people have heard about the Dash-8. “Quirky” airplane? No, try quirky journalism. People saw the half-hidden picture on the teaser and thought there was a real story. Just another “click-bait.” “Ooh, what are click-baits?” Write something about those, please? We all want to know.

  • Perry

    Unlike Immanuel, I wouldn’t get on one of these if you paid me. They are so noisy to start with.

    In my old role, I flew to Canberra from Sydney every week. On a couple of occassions, I had the misfortune of ending up on a Q400. If this is what flying is reduced to, I’ll spend my money elsewhere thanks.

    Yes you certainly feel like you’re flying, unfortunately it also feels like you’re in 1958!

  • Michael Blain

    The scheduled time of a 737 SYD-MEL is 95 mins for for 439 mile journey (on great circle mapper). The scheduled time of a Dash 8 Q400 Brisbane to Mackay is 110 mins for a 494 mile journey. I suspect the Dash 8 would do Sydney to Melbourne non stop in about the same time as a 737. As with the noise problem,some noise cancelling headphones sort this. I find the Dash 8 a better flight experience over the 2 hour or less journey except in bad weather.

  • phodgson

    The “Q” stands for quiet, built into the wall panels are anti vibration actuators which electronically counter the noise and vibration. 5000 hp aside gives you a top speed of 450 knots, not much slower than a 737, however this is cruising at 25000 ft, the 737 has to climb to 36000.

  • Ya old m8

    I fly on the Q400’s quite regularly from Mel to Devonport and return. I quite like the extra leg room and the take off performance but I dont like boarding and disembarking out in the heat or the rain.

  • LandyMan

    How did we ever survive the DC3 and Electra, are we that precious now

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