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Flying Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 and Jazz Air / Air Canada Express for the first time

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Flying Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 and Jazz Air / Air Canada Express for the first time

Old 4th Jun 2019, 08:52
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Question Flying Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 and Jazz Air / Air Canada Express for the first time

I am prone to some anxiety, and I've suffered from panic attacks before. I have kids overseas, so I have dedicated the last several years since they were born to going back and forth between N. America and Asia for them. Sometimes it's been hard.

I have a major anxiety about flying about a decade ago (around 2009 - 2010), but I have done some mindfulness work, taken a fear of flying course online, and a bit of counseling. Generally speaking, it helps when the flights are with an airline with a stellar safety record (ANA, Singapore, etc.) on the "top 20" lists. It helps with the aircraft that are bigger too.

I am getting ready to return overseas. I booked flights a month ago. At the time the flights seemed good. I booked "Air Canada Express" from the northwest U.S to Vancouver.

I have neither taken a regional airline before nor a turboprop plane before. At times, I also purposely avoided taking both due to the perceived slightly higher risk of an accident. This trip I booked Air Canada Express thinking I should be alright.

As I inch closer to the flights at the end of this week though I'm just getting nervous. I did see that Jazz Air (now Air Canada Express) has had a pretty large amount of incidents in recent years. In fact, on this web site, they seem to have the 5th largest number of incidents according to the list that ranks airlines by number of incidents on the index page.

I want to post a link to AeroInside Jazz incidents list but it won't let me include links because I'm a new member.

I'm just looking for a bit of reassurance from community members here. Because I'm nervous about flying. It's my first time taking a turboprop and I've never taken one before. I was preparing myself to take my first turboprop, but then I saw the large number of incidents with Jazz Air / Air Canada Express.

Most importantly, I saw at the end of this week there is bad weather forecast for the day I'm supposed to fly. The forecast is calling for thunderstorms and some heavy rain. It's been very sunny in Portland for the last few weeks. That day looks like the first day with bad weather. So I keep worrying thinking about my first time in a turboprop and having bad weather.

I'm just worried that the turbulence might be terrifying? The sound of these engines will be unfamiliar. I also worry and seeking some honest advice, feedback, and perhaps reassurance (if it's warranted) both about this aircraft the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400.

I thought that generally I was 'cured' of my fear of flying, though unfortunately it's come back for the first time in a few years. This just feels like a moment of weakness for me perhaps.

I feel kind of embarassed to post this actually. I'm just not sure what kind of replies I may get. But hopefully some replies would be good that are educational or reassuring.

Thank you
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Old 4th Jun 2019, 13:07
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You will find the Dash 8 400 different than riding in a jet. They have a slightly narrower cabin than you're probably used to, and will be more noisy, with more vibration. Depending upon where you sit, you'll have a good view of the propeller, and main landing gear operation (don't let it startle you!). The turboprops necessarily serve different routes and markets than jets - they will go places jets don't. And, they are more efficient on shorter routes.

A have flown as a passenger on nearly every kind of aircraft for half a century. I am equally relaxed on either turboprops or jets, even with the differences. I worked for deHavilland at the time that the original Dash 8 was developed, built and tested. I was amazed at the incredible strength and durability of the airframe. Since those days, that airplane has demonstrated itself to be incredibly reliable, and worthy of the routes it serves.

No one can tell you that there will not be an unpleasant event while you flying, or driving, or taking a train, or walking to the store, or stepping out of the shower, or..... It's up to you the risks you take in life, and the benefits you enjoy as a result. I can say that in all those decades, in all those types, I have never felt unsafe as a commercial air passenger. On top of that, I have also been a pilot for more than 40 years. A few of the non commercial and flight test aircraft I have flown were a little less reassuring than commercial turbo props and jets, but we're not discussing flight testing and training flying.

Put your faith in the very complex system of training and maintenance which the world's authorities impose, and go for the ride. I suggest choosing a seat more aft in the cabin, just behind the wing, it is extra strong and safe there, and a little less noise and vibration. Watch the safety briefing, and understand it. Read the briefing card, and understand it. Consider what you will actually do, if you had to exit quickly. For the few accidents, passengers who exited safely, generally did so because they were mentally prepared. Keep your mind sharp (no drugs nor booze to dull your senses/reactions).

You'll see the mainwheels vibrate with rotation and runway contact - they're suppose to. You'll see the wings flex a little - they're supposed to. Indeed, we watched the final "iron bird" destructive test of the original Dash 8 wings, after tens of thousands of hours of fatigue testing. The wingtips were pulled up hard relative to the fixed "fuselage" by immense hydraulic cylinders. The eight foot stroke of the hydraulic cylinder was not long enough to bend the wing when pulled, so it sprung back to its original shape, and the test was declared a pass far in excess of expectations. Have faith in the aviation industry, as you'd have faith in any other regulated industry. Nothing is perfect, but we really do work at being safe!
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Old 4th Jun 2019, 22:13
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Just remember - the guys in the cockpit know what they are doing. That is what they are paid for.

Like the previous post states, turbo props are narrower, noisier but safe nevertheless.

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Old 5th Jun 2019, 02:17
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You might consider mentioning your anxiety to the gate agent or flight attendant and asking if you could introduce yourself to the pilot. I know that might sound strange but several years ago I was operating a flight and the gate agent approached me about a passenger with anxiety that wanted to speak with me.
It turned out that the passenger was part of a support group for fearful flyers and this flight was her first. Fortunately I had a bit of free time before departure and was able to show her weather reports and a few things in the cockpit.
It seemed to be reassuring to her to meet the pilots.
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Old 5th Jun 2019, 15:18
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I think the fear of flying is quite common so it's nothing to be embarrassed about. Statistically speaking flying is the safest, fastest, and efficient (given a certain distance) mode of transportation. A simple understanding of how lift is generated should keep your mind at ease, just remember that in the unlikely event of dual engine failure the guys in the front have been trained to glide the plane to safety. I would be more afraid to get into a helicopter than a plane.
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Old 6th Jun 2019, 04:12
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Hi jumpberry,

I've got close to 5,000 hours on Dash-8's, split evenly between the classics and the Q400. While they feel the turbulence a little more because of the aforementioned reasons, they're a very safe airplane. They've always brought me home and in all that time, I can count only three or four times where something happened that required us to divert because of a system failure. But even then the diversion was as a precautionary measure, not because the failure was dire. The Q400 can lose an engine at rotation speed and still climb at 1,000 to 1,500 feet per minute on the remaining engine. The old classics would climb at around 300 to 800 feet per minute. That's far in excess of what is required by regulation. The Q400 can lose an engine at altitude and, depending on weight and temperature, will be able to maintain an altitude of 15,000 to 21,000 feet. That means you can lose an engine anywhere in North America and still be at least 1,000 feet above the highest terrain, if not more. It can sometimes feel like a rollercoaster, but it is far safer than one.

As for Jazz itself. I'm not a Jazz pilot, but like the people above and over on AvCanada who answered your question there, I'd fly on them any day of the week. They have a very robust training program and their maintenance department is second to none. They've successfully kept some of the highest time Dash-8s and CRJs in the world flying. Yes, they've had their fair share of incidents and they are among the top airlines on AeroInside and AvHearald for reported incidents. But there are two reasons for that:

a) they have a large fleet that flies a lot. They fly over 200,000 sectors each year. Even though they have the fifth highest number of incidents on AeroInside, you have to look at the other airlines that share the top of the list with them. American, Delta, United, Lufthansa, Southwest, BA; All very safe airlines, with a very large footprint. As the number of sectors flown goes up, so too will the number of reported incidents. That's just the nature of the beast.

b) Canada has a very strong reporting culture. Simon over on AvHearald states he will not publish all the reports that come out of Canada as we'd look like the most unsafe country in the world. Canada, despite our faults, has a very safe and transparent transportation industry. We report on times that pilots are being safe (rejected takeoffs, go-arounds, etc.) in the same manner we report an engine shutdown. Not all jurisdictions do this, and it skews the data to make Canadian airlines look unsafe. That's the same reason you'll find our American cousins in the same boat, a very robust reporting culture. I'd rather work in this system any day of the week.

The flight from PDX to anywhere is always a beautiful one, especially once you go north from the Pudget Sound toward YVR. I hope the weather turns out decent and you can enjoy the scenery. It's one of the most scenic flights in the world that way - distracting for passengers and crew alike!
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Old 11th Jun 2019, 16:14
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There's plenty of sound reasoning and advice here. I would only add that you cannot find a more professional and dedicated group of people in the industry than you will at Jazz. I know of multiple cases where their management team has taken safety actions that were well above regulatory requirements, not because it was the easiest thing to do, but because it was the right thing to do. And finally, it's important to remember that everyone involved in making your flight happen are just as invested in a safe and successful outcome as you are.
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