Bombardier Commercial Aircraft announced it signed a firm purchase agreement for six new Q400 aircraft with African Aero Trading on behalf of the consortium forming Air Connection Express, Transportes Aereos S.A, based in Luanda, Republic of Angola. The airline will operate the Q400 domestically to connect smaller communities and increase frequencies as a regional feeder airline to TAAG Angola Airlines – flag carrier of the Republic of Angola.
At the end of last year, Africa had 355 turboprops on record, of which only 39 were parked. The African market is ideal for turboprops because there are so many opportunities to open new markets. Three-quarters of this market are accounted for in nine countries.
As the above table illustrates, among the in-service aircraft, Bombardier has a comfortable lead and the average youngest fleet. 96 (30%) of the fleet comes from OEMs that no longer make turboprops. Besides the continent being attractive for new short-range service, there are opportunities for replacement as well.
The chart explains how the fleet has aged and why replacements are important. For the past 20 years, the African market has been a duopoly. It is also clear that over half the market is 20 years old. Africa is clearly a promising market for ATR and Bombardier.
Given the paucity of hubs, turboprops that work best are going to be those with range to serve these hubs. The Angolan move serves to support this thinking. The Q400 has just under 1,000NM range compared to the 650NM for the ATR72. The map below shows how much of a difference this is – the inner circle is the ATR72 and the outer circle is the Q400.
TAAG will be able to get a feed from almost the entire Angolan market with the Q400. Plus useful markets across the eastern border (Congo). These markets are small and also likely carry high fares. The road and rail infrastructure is poor. You fly in a day or travel by road for several days, if you’re lucky.