Future of Airline Turboprops?

Ok, so we’ve gotten everyone else’s opinon on 747’s, DC-10’s, RJ’s, etc. With the rise of the RJ’s, are the Turboprops going away? I know that Northwest (via Mesaba) still uses quite a few Saab 340’s; American has some as well. US Air flies some Dash-8’s, and (as revealed on a previous post) United and Delta use EMB-120’s via their partners.

I guess their fate really hinges on the question of “how much more economical are they?” The smaller CRJ’s hold about one half more people than the Turboprops (30-ish vs. 45-ish), but I’m assuming they use more fuel so you have to offset that. I’m obviously not the most knowledgeably on the subject so hopefully someone can put me in the know.

At least one airline - I believe it is Continental - is finding that the turboprops are more economical on the shorter routes than the RJ’s. It makes sense to me.

There was a website that told you about what the airlines have for fleets but I can’t find it and I searched google but didn’t find the one I was looking for. The one that I found said that Continental doesn’t fly turboprops anymore. So if anyone knows the website could you put the link on here.

I you are just looking for what is in the fleet, not a lot of specs on the different aircraft, seatguru has them listed.

Continental (actually, Continental Connection) still operates turboprops.
They are looking to get more turboprops:

From Flight International:

Continental considers financial backing for 70-seat turboprop acquisition

By Mary Kirby in Philadelphia

Continental Airlines is in talks with regional aircraft manufacturers to potentially finance an order for new 70-seat turboprops.

A source with knowledge of the discussions says the negotiations are related to Continentals recent request for proposal (RFP) to regional carriers to operate 24 new 70-seat turboprops, a petition exclusively revealed in May by Flight’s 24h aviation news and date service Air Transport Intelligence.

The RFP called for the operation of 12 turboprops from Continentals Newark hub and an equal amount from the carriers Houston hub. Both airports will lose capacity under a new feeder deal between Continental and its regional associate ExpressJet.

Although Continental has not awarded the flying to a regional operator, the carrier is already planning to work with the selected party on financing a turboprop acquisition, says the source. The source adds that the US major is also looking at other scenarios such as contracting aircraft in existing fleets to replace the ExpressJet capacity.

ATR and Bombardier are the only manufacturers of new 70-seat aircraft. The French manufacturer was not immediately available for comment, and Bombardier, like Continental, is not commenting on the RFP.

Turboprops may be more economical than RJs, but when you start to stretch out those routes, the time factor (i.e. cost) comes into play as well. Mesaba’s Saabs are ideal for a “hop” like CAK-DTW, for example, because the flight is extremely short, no matter what a/c you fly there. But for, say, LGA-STL or so, you may be saving on fuel, but you’re talking about taking more time to move fewer ticket-buying folks from A to B. An extra hour spent on each medium-range flight adds up pretty quickly. Fewer and smaller flights=less revenue.

There will always be a place for the turboprops (at least in my lifetime, I’m guessing), but their niche isn’t by any means the same as that of smaller jets.
Please, Pika, Be Gentle!

Some of the turboprops are great for flights of up to about 500 - 600 nautical miles. The time difference between jets and turboprops on segments like that is negligible. Don’t forget some of the turboprops approach 400 kts.

Now that I’m home, I can look up Continental’s turboprops in the 2006/07 JP Airline Fleets. Continental, through its Continental Express subsidiary, doesn’t have any, as Nitro said.

Continental Connection does operate turboprops. These are:
SAAB 340B, operated by Colgan Air,
Beech 1900D, operated by Commutair and Gulfstream International Airlines.

The website Nitro is looking for is Air Fleets

I certainly wasn’t thinking about longhaul routes. But, for example, Mesaba used to always fly a couple of DTW → MLI routes (I think 3 actually) with a 340, which has dropped. Granted, Mesaba filed Chapter 11 when NWA did, but it made me wonder.

But now you have me thinking about routes such as RDU → CLT, where US Air flies 733’s, 734’s, 738’s, 319’s, and one CRJ every day- looking at a 319 last night it took 28 minutes (here). That’s a 33 minute flight for a Cessna Citation (here, and the distance is about 140 miles; so for all intents and purposes it’s the same duration. Wouldn’t a 100-140 passenger Turboprop seem like a more economical solution? I know that nobody produces them that size anymore, but that’s also because nobody is asking. I guess, if they are more fuel effecient and about the same flight times over the duration of the leg, I guess I miss out on why they wouldn’t want larger Turboprops (outside of extra maintenance to worry about).

Or, to go outside of my neck of the woods, what about the DCA/IAD to LGA/JFK shuttles? Those could easily be replaced for the same flight time, right?

That’s kinda what I mean. The turboprops would be great on a 600 mile route if there were only 1 or 2 flights per day on said route. If your airline offers 8 or 10 flights a day, then the turnaround would be quicker using RJs, and you could reduce the number of flights you have to offer (I know, the convenience factor plays in as well) because of the increase in capacity. Like I said, there will be a niche for turboprops for at least the *forseeable *future. Check my spelling, JHEM. It’s late and I’m drawing a blank.
I’ve flown on a few tuboprop flights via USAirways (Dash 8s I think), and I thought they were some of the coolest flights I’d ever been on. We flew at a lower altitude and slower ground speed, so I could actually see the landscape, and the beach resorts in particular (It was KPHL-KPHF and back both times) like Ocean City.

No problem, glad to oblige!

I used to often take a Dash 8 from ISP to PHL and thoroughly enjoyed the low altitude and relatively sedate speed. On more than one occasion the flight track would make a beeline straight down route 70 in Jersey after wheels dry at Point Pleasant, passing right through our little town and offering a great opportunity to see the local sights.

Damn, I had the “e” there, then removed it. Oh well, sometimes your gut is smarter than your brain!!

While I agree that it is strange, we really don’t know what the next destination of that plane was. If an airline, even with 50% of the seats filled, get passengers, that lightens the loss it will take repositioning the plane. Years ago, AA used to do this with the MD80 that flew the DFW-BFL flight. An hour after landing, the MD-80 was boarded for LAX. The next morning, it was the first flight to land from LAX-BFL. Then, it would go back to DFW. I asked the pilot where that plane goes from LAX and he told me typically it would actually be back in DFW and the MD-80 that showed up the next day would be a completely different one.

Hope that made a little sense.

Funny. I somehow missed this post before. Two questions come to mind:

  1. What does the Citation/319 comparison have to do w/ the speed of a turboprop?. Are these not both jets?
  2. Does USAirways fly 738s? I thought they quit buying from Boeing a decade ago…? Could it be an A320, or am I missing something? Just curious.

Horizon/Alaska have invested pretty heavily in Dash-8’s to serve small feeder routes and sometimes even flights between larger airports such as KSEA-CYEG. I’ve done a few flights in the Dash-8 Q400, and it was cool to look through the curtain (was at just the right angle so even when closed I could catch a glimpse in) and watch the pilots during flight.


  1. You’re right. I had actually written that post the night before (before the forum database went down apparently) and was flipping through a bunch of windows. Here’s a Fairchild Dornier 328 that took 32 minutes for the flight: flightaware.com/live/flight/BYA3 … /KRDU/KCLT

  2. Another late night casualty. It’s a 737-300, not 800. Looked the same about about 11:30!

Gotcha. Point taken on the Fairchild. I too suffer from damnit’slateitis. :wink:

i know for a fact that us airways express is using saab 340s

Turbo props certainly serve a purpose. For instance, NW Airlink has been flying turbo prop service out of MEM (saab) to pretty much any small city in the southeast, I personally used to fly AEX-MEM all the time and there were constant flights to tupelo, ms, muscle shoals, al, and many places like that.

Additionally, here in ASE, mesa flies Dash 8s for United and America West for all of the midday schedule due to air density restrictions. The CRJ 700s (sky west) and the old BAE jets (air wisc, maybe…not flying here anymore anyway) could not be counted on to take off on a hot day up here around 8, 000.

I know that AE also serves a similar turbo prop market as NW out of DFW. Delta connection to an extent, but the are way up there in that tangential area of the southeast so their main markets are the tenn valley etc.

The only problem I have ever had with the turbo props is flying in winter when we get the big sweeping troughs that come down and just suck moisture and warm air out of the gulf. when you are only cruising for 300 nm at 18,000 you generally feel every bump.

In fact it has been said that quite a few operators that went out of business when fuel prices went up and bookings down would still be in business if they had flown turboprops iso fancy guzzling jets. I have flown the dhc-8 and am now on the bae-146 and RJ 146 for about 7 years. From what I can see the dhc 8 can do almost anything the 146 does for a fraction of the price, even though it is limited to 25000’, prossibly only due to certification lazyness of dhc. I have had a few opportunities to speak to our CEO and other managers and, at the risk of being shot by my fellow pilots, discussed the subject turboprops only to find out that this matter is not approached in a rational way. “Real airlines don’t fly turboprops”, “passengers don’t like propellors”, “they fly in the weather” (some of our jet planes are limited to FL280 anyway so 3000’ is quite an issue here) and many other non-rational arguments. A Dornier 328 prop will do FL 330 if you request this from the once-manufacturer and the Saab 2000 has a likewise limitation so the altitude limitation is not valid as a concept problem. Quality management of a decent airline with an ordinary hand calculator, some common sence and a nose for environmental issues will approach manufactures to build a turboprop plane, engine and propellor up to the standards of a Saabn 2000 or Dornier in the 70-120 seat region. The dash 8 and ATR’s are not to be compared with that standard and are probably mainly sold due to a lack of a properly designed machine. The fact that they are sold anyway only proves that the concept of accellerating more air to a lesser propulsion speed works more efficient. Props pride - Jets suck (at least until FL 400 or that sort of level where mach effects makes problems for todays propellors). A regional aircraft with one or more jet engines has an uncorrectable design flaw. I did some aerodynamics work at the once proud Fokker Aircraft Factory in my aeronautical engineer days in a life before this so I give myself a right to make this bold statement.

It’s Friday, I’m working with idiots, it’s nice weather outside, and I’m stuck inside when I’d rather be at home (in other words, in a bad mood) so I need to ask guppiebugs a question: Does your computer have an “enter” key? I grew tired of reading your posting, even though it seemed interesting, due to the lack of paragraphs.

More people will read long postings if they have paragraph breaks.

lover of the enter key