Tales from the Road: Why I love the Dash-8

I’m sitting on a Dash-8, that’s one of those noisy slow propeller planes, where anyone over 6 foot has to bend over to get in, and there are only 10 rows (but it is big enough to have window & aisle seats!) . As I sit here mid-flight, I am quite content. Strange for a semi-frequent traveller, you would think I would want my Airbus or Boeing with the built in entertainment system but somehow this feels just right. But why?

The Dash-8 is like the school bus of airplanes, it’s loud, it’s bumpy, it’s slow, but it will take you where you are going. I went through a period where I had a horrible fear of flying, during that time I was taking a Dash-8 every week. In discussions with the staff I discovered the Dash-8

  • has one of the best glide ratios of all commercial planes (meaning if the engine dies it won’t immediately just fall to the ground, it’ll do it a little more gradually so I can kid myself that we might even be able to land safely, please no-one tell me that’s wrong, I am still slightly nervous about flying Winking smile)
  • can land in a football field (I have been at the airport and seen jets stranded on the ground unable to take off due to the weather while the Dash-8 planes took off, they are real workhorses!)
  • Can handle huge drops in elevation (one of the attendants told me the pilots take them up and do a few big drops so they can learn exactly what the plane can handle, that way when they are on windy landings into St Johns, which is notorious for bumpy, windy landings, they understand, it may be bumpy, but everything will be fine. They told me stories of passengers screaming during landings at St Johns, mental note, take the ferry to Newfoundland.

So for a slightly nervous flier, the Dash-8 is strangely comforting.

I think another aspect is my sheer familiarity with the plane, having spent over a year working in Fredericton ages ago and flying back and forth from Ottawa every week in a Dash-8.

  • the rattle of the chassis during flight that you can sometimes stop if you put your hand up against the rattling bit of the interior.
  • The bumpiness and change of pitch coming from the propeller when you fly through the clouds
  • Row 7-10 the quiet rows in the back
  • Row 3&4 to be avoided because you have a propeller buzzing in your ear
  • Seat 1B to be avoided because you end up playing footsie with the flight attendant
  • Seat 1D excellent if you are a regular because the snacks are stored in the little cupboard in front of you, however sneaking your own snacks is not recommended until the attendants know you by name Smile
  • Seat 10E for those who need extra leg room, its the last row in the plane and you can stick your legs down the aisle

Or maybe it’s because I don’t have enough status for special treatment from the airlines, and the Dash-8 is a great equalizer.

  • I don’t have to worry about all those status folk boarding before me taking up all the overhead room. They have skycheck, I just throw my suitcase on the rack before I walk up the stairs onto the plane, knowing it will be waiting for me when I deplane.
  • No executive class seats full of fliers with more status than me looking smug to walk past as I go to my assigned cattle class seat

Yup, the school bus of airplanes, without the gum on the seats, it’s good to be back. Am I the only one who actually enjoys flying in an old beater of a plane?



3 responses to this post.

  1. Susan, don’t fret about flying on the Dash-8, it’s one of the best small airliners out there. Just to hit a few of your concerns:
    – glide ratio is essentially irrelevant to airliners. There have been very few, almost no, incidents of multiple engine failure in airliners – that’s one of the reasons all larger airplanes have two or more engines. However, it’s likely true that the Dash has better gliding characteristics than many airplanes;
    – land in a football field – no. Marketing. Previous de Havilland aircraft such as the Buffalo are famous for their short take off and landing abilities, but the Dash wasn’t designed to be STOL. However, it has tons of power, and very respectable performance (other than speed – as you note, it’s rather slow);
    – if you can stop the “rattle of the chassis” by putting your hand on it, you’re actually not touching the “chassis”. All airliners’ interiors are attached to the structure by plastic “yo-yos” – kind of a tongue in groove attachment, but only in a few places along the wall. As a result, the cabin sidewalls can often vibrate. That doesn’t indicate anything at all about the strength or safety of the aircraft;
    – calling the Dash a school bus is a pretty fair comparison (I normally say it’s like a Greyhound). However, you will likely be happy to know that the Dash is designed to the same standard as the Airbus A320 and other modern airliners, with multiple redundancy built into systems, and with the same modern instrumentation.


    • I figured the term ‘chassis’ wasn’t the right term, but there is a rattling noise that comes and goes, maybe a resonant frequency issue who knows 🙂

      Interesting the other facts though, thanks for passing them along! I’ll be back on another Dash-8 Saturday morning 🙂


  2. Posted by ann on November 28, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    One of the best (proven) prop aircraft in the world! Safe, fast, eco friendly etc! I get onboard everyday of my working living life – and have no hesitation! go Dashies!!!


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