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A Horizon Air Bombardier Dash 8 Q400. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

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.

A Horizon Air Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 in a San Diego State University Special Livery (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ryan Krautkremer)

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.

 

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.”

An Alaska Airlines E-175 operated by Horizon Air at Paine Field. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

Author

  • Andrew Chen

    Andrew is a lifelong lover of aviation and travel. He has flown all over the world and is fascinated by the workings of the air travel industry. As a private pilot and glider pilot who has worked with airlines, airports and other industry stakeholders, he is always excited to share his passion for aviation with others. In addition to being a writer, he also hosts Flying Smarter, an educational travel podcast that explores the complex world of air travel to help listeners become better-informed and savvier travelers.

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