Be sure to read my review of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee!
my review of the Honda Civic Hybrid
Bombardier CRJ700 vs. Embraer ERJ-170
Embraer E190 regional jet
Given a choice most flyers will choose a flight on a regional jet over a flight on a turboprop, even if it means flying at a less convenient time. I have to confess that I generally shy away from flights on turboprops for two reasons:
1) I wrongly assumed turboprops are less safe than jet aircraft
2) My experience is that turboprops are rather cramped inside, and carryon space is minimal
(A third reason might be that flights using jet aircraft may have slightly shorter travel times and will therefore be listed first on many travel websites.)
It has been widely-publicized that "commuter" aircraft have a fatality risk roughly ten times that of large aircraft. That generalization is true, however, it applies to aircraft under 30 seats, and if you examine the actual accident experience, you will find that almost all the accidents involve the smallest planes, those under 15 seats. And once you get above 30 seats, the fatality rate is typically as low, if not lower than for large aircraft.
For example, the 30-37 seat Saab 340
turboprop is one of the safest planes in the air, even though it is often flown by pilots with less flying experience than is typical for jet pilots. (I have to say that the last Saab 340 I flew on seemed really
old. Maybe older than the pilot.)
PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THESE CHARTS ARE OUT OF DATE. Please check the source websites for more recent data.
Note: accidents may include hijacking, etc. ...................... http://www.airsafe.com/events/models/rate_mod.htm
Sources: AirDisaster.com, Boeing, FAA.
Statistics valid through June, 2001.
Few flyers bother to research accident rates, and even if you are aware that many turboprops are as safe as jet aircraft, if you make a reservation over the phone, the airline agent often is unable to specify what particular turboprop is used on a specific flight. So you lump them all together. Furthermore, many business travelers simply issue a blanket edict to their secretary or travel agent to avoid booking flights on propeller aircraft.
The part of the aircraft market where there is now direct competition between turboprops and jet (turbofan) aircraft is the 70-seat regional aircraft segment.
Horizon was the initial US airline to fly the 74-seat Bombardier Q400 Turboprop. Only a handful of other US airlines fly the Q400, even though its fuel consumption is much lower than that of the 70-seat Bombardier CRJ
700 Series 701 or 75-seat Bombardier CRJ700 Series 705 Regional Jets. (The Q400 is a stretched version of the Dash 8, with low noise levels due to Bombardier's Noise and Vibration Suppression system using Active Tuned Vibration Absorbers.)
It's kind of funny that Horizon made its initial order of Q400s because Bombardier was backlogged on CRJ orders:
Seattle-based regional carrier Horizon Air, owned by Alaska Air, was a hard sell on the Q400 until it couldn't get deliveries of the CRJ-700, a 70-seater regional jet, from the Canadian company. So Horizon grudgingly ordered 12 turboprops, and the airline hasn't looked back.TIME Magazine: Giving Props to the New Turbos
UPDATE (April 2008): Due to rising fuel costs, Horizon will replace its entire regional jet fleet with the Q400 turboprop.
UPDATE (October 2006): Porter Airlines
, based in Toronto, has begun service using 70-seater Q400 turboprops. Porter flies from Toronto Island Airport, near downtown Toronto, rather than the suburban Pearson International (YYZ).
In September 2006, Frontier Airlines announced that they are purchasing 10 Q400s, for 2007 delivery.
Island Air in Hawaii and Continental and its regional partner, Colgan Air, also fly the Q-400. Continental In Flight Magazine
USA Today travel blog, Feb 07, 2008'New era' as Continental begins Q400 flights at Newark
Continental inaugurated its new Bombardier Q400 turboprop service at Newark, putting two of the planes into operations there. Continental's Q400 presence there will grow. The [Newark] Star-Ledger says Continental's "new fleet of 15 twin turboprops are superior [to] regional jets because they are 33% more fuel efficient and generate less noise when they fly. They also are able to land on shorter runways because of their engine design, which enables them to land and take off on a little-used crosswind runway at Newark."
(I'm not sure using crosswind runways is such a brilliant idea.)
The Q-400 is flown by several European airlines including flybe and SAS Commuter.
Bombardier claims the Q-400 is "is easily as fast as most jets on airline routes under 500 miles."
Props gain altitude at Horizon Air
The News Tribune, Tacoma, Washington, December 1, 2005
BY JOHN GILLIE
Turboprop versus Jet
Bombardier Q400 Turboprop
List price: $24.5 million
Range: 1,200 miles
Cruise speed: 414 mph (360 knots)
Ceiling: 25,000 feet
Total Bombardier Q-400 orders: 163
Bombardier CRJ-700 Regional Jet
List price: $36.2 million
Range: 2,000 miles
Cruise speed: 577 mph
Ceiling: 41,000 feet
Total Bombardier CRJ-700 orders: 317
When Delta Airlines’ regional airline operator Comair converted all of its 309 daily flights from the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Airport to regional jets five years ago, the airline industry treated the event as an aviation milestone.
A new generation of small regional jets was rapidly replacing the propeller-driven aircraft that had been an airline fixture since the business began.
Passengers bound from Asheville, N.C., and other smaller cities to Cincinnati would ride in jets just like their big-city neighbors going from New York to Chicago.
Regional jets became so popular on less-traveled routes that jetmakers booked hundreds of orders.
Meanwhile, turboprop aircraft orders dwindled. Several major manufacturers halted prop airliner production.
Fast forward to 2005.
SeaTac-based regional airline Horizon Air canceled commitments last month for new regional jets and substituted orders for 12 more Bombardier
Q-400 turboprops. It also took options on 20 more of the 74-seat propjets.
Horizon, already the only U.S. operator of the slow-selling Q-400, could become one of the largest modern turboprop operators in the world if it exercises all of its options. The airline already operates 18 Q-400s.
Is Horizon a hopeless holdout against the trend to converting regional airline fleets to jets? Or does the airline have good reason to keep its fleet a mix of prop planes and jets?
Horizon Air executives say changing competitive conditions and the airline’s regional route structure make buying the big propjets a smart move.
Horizon’s decision to go to big turboprops even could foreshadow a trend.
“The day of the regional jet is over, in terms of demand,” airline consultant Mike Boyd told USA Today. “They can’t make money.”
Most of Horizon’s thinking revolves around the superior costs of operating the Q-400s vs. Bombardier’s similar-sized jet, the CRJ-700. Horizon operates 19 of the jets.
“A new Q-400 costs significantly less to own and operate than a CRJ-700, and it carries four more passengers. On flight segments under 500 miles, its higher capacity and lower ownership and operating costs make it more economical than the CRJ-700,” said Horizon vice president of finance Rudi Schmidt.
With the advent of dramatically higher jet fuel prices, the turboprops’ superior fuel efficiency on short and medium-length routes make the prop planes less costly per passenger mile.
The prop planes also cost the airline less to acquire than a jet. And on short and medium-length trips, they can match a jet’s performance.
Jet, prop times similar
Consider the Sea-Tac Airport-to-Spokane route, for instance, where Horizon operates Q-400 props and its sister airline, Alaska, operates Boeing 737 jets.
The gate-to-gate schedule varies from 55 minutes to 1 hour and five minutes, depending more on the time of day and any air traffic congestion than on the type of aircraft.
On the longer Boise-to-Sea-Tac route on which the sister airlines employ a mix of props and jets, times typically vary less than five minutes.
The Q-400 can cover the 398 miles in as little as one hour and 20 minutes. Alaska’s jets fly the same distance in as little as one hour and 15 minutes.
Unlike many of the turboprop planes that were workhorses of the regional airline industry, the Q-400 is almost jet-fast. The Q-400’s maximum cruise speed is 414 mph. Alaska’s Boeing 737-400s have a maximum cruise speed of 483 mph.*
The Q-400’s noise attenuation system and its slower-turning, many-bladed props reduce the noise and the vibration that some customers find annoying in other propjets.
Nationwide studies have found most airline passengers have a clear preference for jets over props. One regional airline calculated its business went up 20 percent when it introduced a jet on a route formerly served by a prop plane.
But Horizon hasn’t found that “prop-avoidance syndrome” applies in the case of its Q-400s. The Canadian-built aircraft are bigger, faster and smoother than the 19-seat commuter liners that once served smaller airports, and customers seem not to mind that the aircraft’s turbine engines turn big propellers.
“The aircraft has enjoyed widespread customer acceptance because of its speed and comfort,” said Pat Zachwiega, Horizon’s vice president of planning and marketing.
*I have seen 508 mph listed elsewhere for the 737-400, but that may be with a different configuration.thenewstribune.com