For two decades Horizon Air’s Bombardier Q400 turboprop fleet was the way passengers reached small airports around the Pacific Northwest. Now, the ubiquitous plane will take one last spin for customers Thursday as the airline phases out the plane and completes a transition to an all-E175 jet fleet.
And Friday, some of Horizon Air’s employees will mark the plane’s 22-year history, celebrating with a flight from Seattle to Portland, where there will be retirement festivities.
“We’re commemorating an airplane,” said Horizon’s president, Joe Sprague. “But we’re celebrating the people that made that airplane so positively impactful for Alaska Air Group, Alaska and Horizon.”
Its Brazilian-built successor, the Embraer E175 jet, is quieter and faster than its predecessor and has larger overhead bins and onboard Wi-Fi connectivity. Both planes accommodate up to 76 passengers, but the E175 offers first class and premium economy seating.
Still, the Q400 has been a workhorse, operating for more than half of the company’s 41 years. During “Q400 week,” as Sprague called it, employees are sharing stories about the plane, from flying it to loading luggage. (Among its quirks: the tiny overhead bins, which meant most carry-on bags had to be placed on a planeside cart and stowed in the baggage compartment.)
Horizon made the transition to a fully E175 fleet because operating two smaller fleets isn’t sustainable or cost effective, Sprague said.
E175s have been flown by Horizon since 2017. The company currently operates 33 jets and is on track to expand to 41 by September and 50 by 2026.
Horizon began transitioning from the Q400s about a year ago when it had 32 of the propeller planes, seven of which were leased. The planes the airline owns will be sold and will likely end up flying outside of the United States, Sprague said. Two have been donated, one to Portland Community College and the other to a company developing alternative power plants and fuel technologies, the president added.
“They won’t be flying for Horizon anymore, but they will continue to do good in the world,” he said.
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