Could the Dash 8-400 unlock Africa’s domestic and regional potential?

Shutterstock/Vidit Luthra

For a number of years regional connectivity on the African continent has been subject to fragmented skies which has painted a contrast to the fluid operation of flights seen in other airline markets such as Europe. However as the African aviation industry embraces a new open skies policy, Ethiopian Airlines and its fleet of Dash 8-400s stands as a case study of a successful approach to regional and domestic operations.

The reason why African carriers might consider the Dash 8-400 for future operations can be found in the aircraft’s capabilities to perform short take offs and landings. This has also landed it the name “network builder.”

Over 155 Dash 8 Series aircraft operate in Africa, of which 90 are the Dash 8-400. Ethiopia’s flag carrier operates a fleet of 32 Dash 8-400s in its fleet. To date, Ethiopian Airlines has transported over 12 million passengers with this type.

Introduced into Ethiopian Airlines fleet in 2010, the Dash 8-400 has gone on to operate on the carrier’s regional and domestic schedules for over a decade, including operations to 23 domestic destinations and to 62 destinations across Africa.

In October 2020, amidst the height of the pandemic, Ethiopian took delivery of its 30th Dash 8-400 aircraft, registration ET-AXY, and in early 2021, took delivery of its 31st Dash 8-400 with registration ET-AXZ. Group Chief Executive Officer Tewolde GebreMariam expressed the airline’s confidence in the Dash 8-400 and its positioning to support the airline’s vision to augment connectivity across the continent together with other African carriers.

“This milestone 30th delivery highlights our confidence in the Dash 8-400 aircraft and is a testament to the joint success in supporting our network and strategic partnerships with several carriers across Africa,” GebreMariam said.

But it’s not only Ethiopian Airlines that operates the Dash 8-400 on regional and domestic routes. Its partners do, too.

Ethiopian holds a 40% stake in ASKY Airlines, 49% stakes in Malawi Airlines and in Tchadia Airlines, and has 99% ownership of Ethiopian Moçambique Airlines. The combined network of these airlines serves West, South, South-East, and Central Africa.

A number of the flag carrier’s fleet of Dash 8-400s are also leased to its partners. This includes aircraft with registration numbers ET-AQB, ET-AQD and ET-AQE leased to Malawian Airlines, ASKY Airlines and Tchadia Airlines.

In addition, the Ethiopian carrier is recognized as a De Havilland Canada Authorized Service Facility on the African continent, playing a role in supporting other operators of the type by providing Dash 8-400 flight simulators.

With favorable flight capabilities, a range of 2,040 km and a seat capacity of 90 passengers – 14 passengers higher than any preceding turboprop – the Dash 8-400 could be the answer for the domestic fleets of emerging and restructuring African airlines. 

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