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End of an Era: Alaska Retires the Dash 8 Q400
Alaska Airlines subsidiary Horizon Air has retired its Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 fleet, with the last passenger flight operating on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023.
A 22-Year Legacy
The Dash 8 Q400 flew its first revenue flight for Horizon on Jan. 26, 2001, exactly 22 years before its final commercial flight for the airline on Thursday. Throughout its two decades of service, the Horizon Air Q400 was a staple at airports throughout the Pacific Northwest. The turboprop populated the commuter gates at Seattle–Tacoma International Airport’s Concourse C and at Portland International Airport’s B gates, shuttling passengers to destinations such as Spokane and Wenatchee in Washington, Boise in the adjacent state of Idaho and Vancouver in the neighboring Canadian province of British Columbia.
Between the retirement of Horizon’s older Dash 8 models and Canadair Regional Jets in 2011 and the introduction of its Embraer 175s in 2018, the Q400s were the backbone of the Horizon Air fleet. Horizon operated more than 50 Q400s over the last two decades, with over 30 in service as recently as last year. While the Q400 fleet previously carried a distinct Horizon Air livery, the turboprops later flew in Alaska Airlines colors under the branding of Alaska Horizon. Horizon’s Q400 fleet was also known for having special liveries with the colors of colleges and their sports teams.
The final flight was operated by N421QX, a 16-year-old Q400 wearing a Horizon Air retro livery. The aircraft flew from Spokane to Seattle, arriving shortly after 7:00 p.m. on Thursday.
Major props to such a beloved aircraft! Yesterday, we celebrated the end of an iconic era in aviation with the final flight of our Q400s. Even though we’re saying goodbye, we know good things are always on the Horizon! https://t.co/Zw5HO96qpG pic.twitter.com/6PfDaRGB30
— Alaska Airlines (@AlaskaAir) January 27, 2023
Shifting to an All-Embraer Fleet
While it appears that most of Horizon’s Q400s will be sold or scrapped, it has donated one to Portland Community College in support of its aviation maintenance and aviation science programs. The carrier also previously announced that a second Q400 was being donated to ZeroAvia, a company that recently made its first hydrogen-powered flight, with the goal of developing a hydrogen-electric powertrain.
The retirement of the Q400 leaves Horizon with a fleet of around 30 Embraer 175 jets. Alaska joins other major airlines across the United States in moving away from turboprops in favor of jet aircraft. While the Q400 will be missed by aviation geeks and plane spotters, the transition to a jet-only fleet is likely a welcome move for most travelers. The turboprop was not known for passenger comfort: the cabin felt cramped, there were very few amenities on board and the lavatory did not have a sink.
An Alaska Airlines news release about the Q400 retirement also noted the cost efficiencies in operating a single type of aircraft. The carrier pointed out that having two types of aircraft required two sets of parts, training programs and pilots, adding that the Embraer-only fleet will allow for a more efficient use of resources.
“We’re at a unique moment in time,” Horizon Air President Joe Sprague said in the news release. “With our shift to a single fleet of E175 jets, we’re laying a major new cornerstone of the foundation for our future.”
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