De Havilland Aircraft of Canada has resumed work on Dash 8-400 aircraft currently in production after a three-month strike halted operations.
However, there is still no news on future production of the turboprop aircraft, with the Downsfield set to close.
De Havilland said on November 8, 2021 that completion of Dash 8 aircraft has resumed after reaching new agreements with staff at the Downsfield site. The agreements were ratified by members of the Unifor union on October 26, 2021.
Staff at the site in Toronto had been on strike since July 27, 2021 over plans by the company to leave the site and end production of the turboprop there.
Bombardier, the previous owner of the Dash 8 program, agreed to sell the site in 2018 and the lease for the site expires in 2021. De Havilland plans to decommission the Downsfield site and store equipment while it reviews future production opportunities.
But with the aircraft industry hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis and new orders hard to come by, De Havilland says it needs sufficient market demand before it can commit to a new site and start producing new regional aircraft.
“Our objective is to resume new aircraft production at a new site at the earliest possible time, subject to market demand,” the company said in a press release. “We believe that our upcoming pause in production is a responsible and prudent measure that reflects current industry conditions and will limit strain on the market and De Havilland Canada’s supply base as the pandemic recovery occurs.”
De Havilland said it was seeking to “stimulate demand” for the Dash 8 and that its sales team were in “active and ongoing” discussions with customers. “This demand is the prerequisite to new aircraft production,” it declared.
In an October 26, 2021 press release, Unifor said that the labour agreements do not include a commitment to resume production, but they do include financial compensation and a provision that union members will be given preferential hiring treatment should production of the Dash 8 restart.
One potential opportunity for the Dash 8 could be as the industry seeks to reduce its carbon footprint. De Havilland is working with engine maker Pratt & Whitney to integrate a hybrid electric propulsion system into a Dash 8 demonstrator.
De Havilland says the plans are “further evidence of our commitment to build a long-term future for this aircraft program”.
Alaska Airlines is working with ZeroAvia on a plan that could see it retrofit its Dash 8 aircraft with hybrid-electric powertrains.