2 Propeller Engines

Aircraft with two prop-driven engines on the wings are commonly known as commuter planes or turboprops. There are many of them in private aviation, but in commercial airline service the most common ones are the Dash-8, ATR-72, Embraer Brasilia, and the Saab 340. Place your mouse over the red links below to see the illustrations highlighted with the differences.

Background

  • The DHC-8, or Dash-8 as it is commonly known, was developed by DeHavilland Canada in the early 1980s. The version currently in production has the model designation “Q400” which stands for “Quiet” as they have incorporated a new noise and vibration control system. Production began in 1986. You will find the most Dash-8s in Canada, with 82 flying for Air Canada (Jazz Air) and 47 flying with Westjet Encore.  In the U.S. the only airline operator today is Alaska Airlines (Horizon Air) with 36.

  • Embraer produced its 30-seat regional airliner called the EMB-120 Brasilia from 1985 to 2001, 354 in all.  Early on a large number of them were operated in the U.S. under the United Express and Delta Connection brands but currently there are less than two dozen remaining with small airfreight operators.  The largest operator worldwide is the Brazilian Air Force with 20 of them.

  • The ATR is a French built turboprop with two versions: the ATR-42 (42 passenger) and the ATR-72 (72 passenger).  Production began in 1985 and the largest operator is Wings Air in Indonesia.  They are not used for passenger service in the United States anymore but 33 of them are in use by FedEx to carry freight from hub cities to small towns.  FedEx also has orders for a new variant of the ATR-72.

  • The Saab 340 is a Swedish built commuter plane that was built from 1983 to 1999.  459 units were built and as of June 2020 224 remain in service.  The largest operator worldwide is REX Regional Express in Australia with 57; in the U.S. Silver Airways operates 20 in regular passenger service and IBC Airways operates 10 in cargo service from Miami to the Caribbean.

What to Look For

Dash-8 and ATR

Both the Dash-8 (top right) and ATR (bottom right) have their wings on the top of the fuselage. The major difference is that on the Dash-8, the landing gear retract up into a space under the engine housing.  The ATR’s landing gear retracts up into the bottom of the fuselage.

While a Dash-8 is nearly 20 feet longer than an ATR-72, the ATR’s tailcone is longer and comes to a point. The ATR-72 is 14 feet longer than an ATR-42.

Both the Dash-8 (top right) and ATR (bottom right) have their wings on the top of the fuselage. The major difference is that on the Dash-8, the landing gear retract up into a space under the engine housing.  The ATR’s landing gear retracts up into the bottom of the fuselage.

While a Dash-8 is nearly 20 feet longer than an ATR-72, the ATR’s tailcone is longer and comes to a point. The ATR-72 is 14 feet longer than an ATR-42.

Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia

The Brasilia has a more conventional appearance and can be recognized by the low wings and long nose in front of the cockpit, which is typical of most Embraer aircraft.

Saab 340

The Saab 340 is another low-wing turboprop similar to the Embraer Brasilia but larger. The main difference is the horizontal stabilizer is at the bottom of the tail, while the Brasilia is at the top – also called a “T” tail. See illustrations to the right – Saab (top) and Brasilia (bottom).

Examples

Turboprop Aircraft
Photos of Turboprop Airliners