On 4 July 2018, Piedmont Airlines, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines, retired its de Havilland Canada “Dash 8” fleet after 33 years of flying. Flight 4927 departed from Charlotte Douglas International Airport at 6:33 p.m. and touched down at sunset at Salisbury Wicomico Ocean City Regional Airport in Salisbury, Maryland, completing the Dash’s final revenue flight.
The Dash 8 fleet has been Piedmont’s pride and joy since the first Dash was delivered to company headquarters in Salisbury on April 4, 1985. The first revenue flight, from Salisbury to Baltimore, took place on May 2, 1985.
The Dash 8 revolutionized the regional industry. The turboprop was ideal for connecting passengers in small communities to major airports, a business model known as “hub and spoke.” Piedmont, formerly Henson Aviation, flew the Dash 8 first as “Henson, the Piedmont Regional Airline” and later for parent companies US Air/US Airways and American Airlines. The plane could take off and land on short runways, making it ideal for small airports not served by larger jets. Piedmont’s first Dash, N906HA, is estimated to have flown 14.8 million miles and carried nearly 2 million passengers in its lifetime.
Richard Henson, a pioneer in commuter aviation and founder of Henson Aviation, was instrumental in designing the Dash 8. The Dash 8 cost significantly less than its predecessor, the four engine Dash 7 and according to Henson, was “the money maker!” The Dash 8 was faster than the Dash 7, more fuel efficient and provided a better quality of service compared to other turboprops. The airplane had an excellent safety record and could fly in weather that other airplanes could not due to weight restrictions. Mr. Henson would eventually become one of the largest customers for the efficient and reliable Dash 8.
Over the years, Piedmont has flown 109 Dash 8s in three different models: the 37 seat Dash 8 – 100 and -200 and the larger, 50 seat Dash 8 -300. The Piedmont Dash 8s have served over 121 different cities from Ottawa, Canada, to Key West, Florida, over the last three decades.
“The Dash 8 was one of those rare airplanes that stood out in a crowd,” said Piedmont Captain Michael Schirmann. “It had the performance and ability to handle tough weather conditions that, when paired with a skilled pilot, allowed it to routinely and safely complete flights that other airplanes simply couldn’t. From a pilot’s perspective, the Dash 8 was a lifelong friend that commanded respect and taught so many of us what flying was really about.”
Forty-year Piedmont pilot, Captain Ricky Snyder, and 28-year Piedmont pilot, Captain Malcom Ferrand, operated the last Dash flight. Both pilots are retiring with the Dash on July 4. Gwen Clark, a flight attendant with Piedmont for 32 years, provided cabin services.
“The Dash was the workhorse of the regional network, and it has served us well for years,” said Lyle Hogg, CEO of Piedmont Airlines. “It was a true pilot’s airplane. The Dash’s outstanding safety record, reliability and short runway capabilities will be missed in communities all over the East Coast. We know that passengers prefer the regional jets and we want to provide the best service we can for American and for our customers, but it was a bittersweet day for Piedmont.”
— Charles Wight (@charleswight) July 5, 2018