Flying Icelandair This Summer? You May Wind Up on a Turboprop Plane
When flying to and from Iceland, you may not expect to find yourself on a plane with propellers. But that's exactly what will happen this summer. Two flights a week from Reykjavik to Dublin, Ireland, and Manchester, England, will be served by De Havilland Canada Dash 8 turboprop planes beginning July 15.
The flights have a similar scheduled duration as those operated by jet aircraft on the route, and aside from the different method of propulsion, they should be fairly on-par to those operated by jets.
"The Dash 8 is a terrific airplane," said Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel industry analysis firm. "From the passenger standpoint the airplane can offer a similar kind of experience to a regional jet."
The Dash 8 was formerly known as the Bombardier Q400 until the De Havilland name was revived earlier this month after Bombardier sold the turboprop line to Longview Aviation Capital.
Turboprops are usually used on commuter routes between nearby cities or islands, though they do also fly North Atlantic routes between Iceland and Greenland already. Harteveldt acknowledged some passengers may worry about flying a prop plane over the open ocean though.
"Icelandair may face some challenges," he said, if passengers have a choice between turboprops and standard jets on the same route. The tickets for the jet flights may be easier to sell. Although turboprops do have turbine engines, just like jets, those turbines are used to drive propellers instead of acting as pure jets. And that leads some passengers to feel like they are getting on a lesser plane, although modern turboprops can fly almost as high and as fast as jets and with far less vibration than early models.
The Dash 8 has a great safety record, Harteveldt said. and people should feel comfortable flying it on any route.
"The airplane doesn’t know if it’s flying over the ocean or over land," Harteveldt said.
According to Bombardier, the Q400 can fly up to 1,300 miles, 30 percent more than the 1,000-mile distance between Reykjavik and Dublin or Manchester. It has a maximum altitude of 27,000 feet and cruises at up to 360 knots, well above 400 mph.
Icelandair's Dash 8s are being leased from regional operator Air Iceland.
"We are using them to best optimize our current fleet," Icelandair spokesman Michael Raucheisen said in a statement.
Icelandair's fleet is made up primarily of Boeing 757 aircraft, though the carrier also has added Boeing 767s in recent years. But it also includes six of Boeing's now-grounded 737 MAX model. Like at other 737 MAX operators, the grounding of the plane has affected Icelandair's operation, forcing it to lay off pilots and suspend certain routes.