WARSAW – On the 94th anniversary of LOT Polish Airlines’ operational launch, January 1 this year marks the end of the era of propeller aircraft in the carrier’s fleet.
With flight LO3836 from Gdansk to Warsaw, the DeHavilland Canada Dash 8-400 (SP-EQL) finally bid farewell, and the last flight with callsign BYEDASH for the airline was made.
According to LOT, its pilots flew more than 360,000 hours on the Dash, although tens of thousands of hours from the Eurolot days should probably be added to that.
Once known as Bombardier Q400s, they were a vital part of LOT’s fleet. The last of the 12 turboprop aircraft in service with the national carrier are ending their aviation service in LOT Polish Airlines’ fleet on January 1 this year.
The turboprop aircraft had been operating the national carrier’s domestic and short-haul routes since April 2015, following the liquidation of Eurolot, while earlier, since 2012, they had been flying on Eurolot’s own routes, as well as operating some domestic routes for LOT.
The aircraft, also known as “steamers” or “mosquitoes,” were replaced by Embraers E175 and E190.
A symbolic and farewell flight for aviation fans of LOT’s turboprop Dash took place on December 6, 2022 from Warsaw’s Chopin Airport.
The flight was scheduled on a route through Poland where a routed flight line with callsign LOTQ400 contributed to the “inscription” LOT on the map. The PR department had prepared many surprises for travellers.
DHC 8-400 statistics at LOT
The planes made more than 168 thousand flights at LOT Polish Airlines on 72 routes, and carried 8.8 million passengers on board. They spent more than 138,000 hours in the air, with 187 female pilots at the controls.
To this would probably have to be added hundreds of thousands of passengers and dozens of flights and hours from the Eurolot era.
End of propellers at LOT
The withdrawal of the DHC 8-400, also marks the end of the era of LOT’s propeller aircraft. In LOT’s more recent history, the carrier used turboprop ATR 72-200s, and then the aforementioned Dash 8-400s known initially as Bombardier Q400s.
In the post-war reality, LOT Polish Airlines used propeller aircraft with star and turboprop engines, including Lisunov Li-2, Convair CV-240, Ilyushin Il-14, Ilyushin Il-18 or Antonov An-24/26. Will we ever see this type of aircraft in LOT’s fleet again?
It’s hard to answer unequivocally, but rather not, as the movements of European network carriers indicate that this type of aircraft is not returning the favor. In recent years, SAS, the Lufthansa Group and airBaltic have given up flying their turboprop aircraft.
Q400’s first flight in the colors of Eurolot
On its first flight in the colors of Eurolot (flight number K2 555), Bombardier flew from Warsaw to Rome on May 25, 2012. (the destination port was Ciampino). It was a charter flight, and the captain of the flight was Igor Augustyniak, then chief pilot at Eurolot.
Presentation of the new aircraft
On May 28, 2012, in the presence of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Eurolot CEO Mariusz Dabrowski, Canadian Ambassador to Poland Daniel Costello and other officials, the Eurolot airline presented the Bombardier Q400 NextGen.
The machine, with serial number SN:4407 and registration marks SP-EQB, was shown in one of the hangars at the Warsaw airport.
Transition from Eurolot to PLL LOT
The first Bombardier Q400, which flew in Eurolot’s fleet until the end of March 2015, was added to LOT’s fleet on April 14 of that year. This was the beginning of the end of the problems for passengers and the carrier, which from the beginning of April had to patch up shortages in its fleet with short-term leases.
After the liquidation of Eurolot at the end of March 2015. LOT was short of aircraft for short-haul flights. Previously, the carrier had used turboprop Q400 bombardiers operated by Eurolot on such routes.
At the time, the carrier reported that the Q400 bombardiers would eventually replace the Embraer 170s in LOT’s fleet. LOT had 10 Brazilian jets of this type.
However, this did not happen, and it has now turned out that it is the Dashes that are leaving LOT’s fleet faster than the not very economical Embraers E170.
All the signs in the sky, as well as the earlier pandemic situation, indicated that LOT should nevertheless consider abandoning most if not all Q400 aircraft.
These planes, contrary to the prevailing belief after emergency situations, were indeed and safe and provided the opportunity to develop various routes.
They were also the backbone of the fleet during the grounding of the MAXs and the anticipation of additional aircraft from the E-Jet family.
A former ATR spokesman claimed that if Eurolot or LOT return to flying Q400s only domestically, sooner or later it will become unprofitable.
For the time being, it’s hard to comment on the whole situation without seeing what costs LOT incurred by using the Q400. Despite minor or major problems, the Dash planes in LOT’s and Eurolot’s fleets have done a good job.
However, carriers of the size of LOT cannot afford so many types of aircraft in the fleet these days. Therefore, ultimately, LOT should build its fleet for European routes based on regional jets and strive to standardize it.
As, for example, Latvian airBaltic has done by withdrawing Q400 aircraft, among others. LOT should focus on a few types of aircraft, and in the near future finally decide to switch to more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly airbus aircraft, such as the A220-100/300 or the Embraer E-jet E2 family.
A proposal was also once made by Japan’s Mitsubishi, but for now that program is on hold due to a pandemic, and the SpaceJet aircraft still has not received type certification.