The Anonymous Widower

Flybe Appears To Be On The Way Back

I was alerted to the relaunch of the Flybe airline being a serious proposition by this article on the Birmingham Mail, which is entitled Watch As First Of 32 New Flybe Planes Lands At Birmingham Airport.

These are the first two paragraphs.

The first of Flybe’s more eco-friendly planes has landed in Birmingham ready for the launch of the airline’s new city HQ.

Part of a planned 32-aircraft fleet, the De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 turboprop touched down on the runway at Birmingham Airport on Friday.

The new Flybe will be based at Birmingham Airport and will have a fleet consisting of thirty-two De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 aircraft.

The De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400

Note these facts about the aircraft.

  1. According to Wikipedia, 645 aircraft have been ordered, with 587 having been delivered.
  2. Different variants can handle between 40 and 80 passengers.
  3. All aircraft delivered since 1996 are dubbed Q-Series and have active noise and vibration suppression, which is designed to improve the cabin ambience.
  4. A Dash 8-400 is also called a Q400.

But the most interesting development of the Dash 8 aircraft, is that developments are underway, so that the aircraft will be able to be powered by hydrogen.

Universal Hydrogen And A Hydrogen-Powered Q400

This article on Future Flight is entitled Universal Assembles Hydrogen Aircraft Conversion Team In Washington State.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Universal Hydrogen and its hydrogen fuel cell partner Plug Power are joining forces with electric motor specialists MagniX and AeroTec to set up a Hydrogen Aviation Test and Service Center at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington. The partners will use the new facility to convert a Dash 8 regional airliner to hydrogen propulsion in time to start commercial operations in 2025. Flight testing is due to begin in 2022.

The new hydrogen powertrain will consist of an electric propulsion unit (EPU) developed by MagniX and fuel cells provided by Plug Power, which has extensive experience converting trucks to hydrogen. Seattle-based AeroTec will take the lead on converting the Dash 8s to hydrogen propulsion, conducting flight tests, and arranging for certification under FAA supplemental type certificates. The system installation work will be conducted at the Moses Lake facility.

This paragraph gives details of the design.

The hydrogen-powered Dash 8 aircraft, which carry between 41 and 60 passengers, will be able to operate on routes of up to around 625 miles. Universal Hydrogen’s plan calls for the fuel to be delivered directly to aircraft in capsules that are installed in a compartment at the rear of the fuselage.

These are my thoughts on the design.

Power Required

Wikipedia says this about the engines of the Dash 8-400 (Q400).

The Series 400 uses Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150A engines rated at 4,850 shp (3,620 kW).

This means that the aircraft will need fuel cells capable of delivering over 7 MW.

This data sheet on the Plug Power web site, says that the company has fuel cells  up to 125 KW, which weigh 350 Kg and need a cooling module, that weighs a further 103 Kg. Scaling up shows the power unit could weigh around 25.4 tonnes.

As the maximum take-off weight of a Q400 is around 30.5 tonnes, this wouldn’t leave much weight for the airframe, the two electric motors and propellers, the hydrogen and the passengers and their luggage.

It would appear that Plug Power must be using some form of lighter-weight fuel cell.

Or could they be using an appropriately-sized gas turbine generator from Pratt & Whitney Canada?

It should be noted that a Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150A engine, weighs under a tonne and generates over 3.5 MW.

Obviously, they wouldn’t be developing the plane, if they hadn’t figured out how to generate enough electricity to get it off the ground.

The Hydrogen Capsules

The Product page on the Universal Hydrogen web site is revealing.

This paragraph from the Product page describes how they would convert Regional Aircraft to Hydrogen.

Our first product is a conversion kit for existing regional aircraft, starting with the ATR72 and the De Havilland Canada Dash-8, to fly on hydrogen. This consists of a fuel cell electric powertrain that replaces the existing turboprop engines. It also accommodates, in the rear of the fuselage, our proprietary, lightweight, modular hydrogen capsules that are transported from green hydrogen production sites to the airport and loaded directly into the aircraft using the existing intermodal freight network and cargo handling equipment. By providing both an aircraft conversion solution for the existing fleet and a fuel services offering directly to regional airlines, we will be in passenger service with zero emissions by 2025 and in cargo service shortly thereafter.


  1. The cutaway on the Product page of a De Havilland Canada Dash-8, which has three capsules in the rear fuselage.
  2. The cutaway shows forty seats in the aircraft.
  3. If you scroll the pictures, you’ll see the design of the capsule.
  4. The product can be used to convert two regional airliners both of which are in production.
  5. Airports will need no new infrastructure to handle the hydrogen.

Universal Hydrogen has also signed a deal with Fortescue Future Industries to supply green hydrogen to fill the capsules.

 Are A First Flight In 2022 And An in-Service Date Of 2025 Over Ambitious?

The article in Future Flight says this.

AeroTec will take the lead on converting the Dash 8s to hydrogen propulsion, conducting flight tests, and arranging for certification under FAA supplemental type certificates.

FAA Supplemental Type Certificates are outlined on this page on the FAA web site, where this introductory paragraph is given.

A supplemental type certificate (STC) is a type certificate (TC) issued when an applicant has received FAA approval to modify an aeronautical product from its original design. The STC, which incorporates by reference the related TC, approves not only the modification but also how that modification affects the original design.

They are a much-used and well-proven method to update aircraft for new purposes and new power units.

I suspect that going this route will enable Q400 and ATR 72 aircraft will be flying on hydrogen by 2025.

How Far Will A Range Of 625 Miles Take The Plane From Birmingham?

I have used the Air Miles Calculator to calculate distances in miles from Birmingham.

  • Amsterdam Schiphol – 276
  • Barcelona – 791
  • Belfast City 225
  • Berlin Schönefeld – 644
  • Biarritz – 621
  • Bilbao – 635
  • Bordeaux – 529
  • Cologne – 397
  • Copenhagen – 624
  • Cork – 290
  • Dublin – 200
  • Dusseldorf – 373
  • Edinburgh – 251
  • Frankfurt – 452
  • Geneva – 556
  • Glasgow – 260
  • Hamburg – 495
  • Inverness – 364
  • Jersey – 225
  • Kirkwall – 474
  • Lerwick – 536
  • Lyon – 558
  • Munich – 660
  • Newcastle – 179
  • Newquay – 198
  • Nice – 735
  • Oslo – 726
  • Paris-Charles de Gaulle – 303
  • Paris-Orly – 315
  • Rotterdam – 265
  • Strasbourg – 494


  1. It might be possible to serve some routes without refuelling at the other end.
  2. Some routes could be paired for efficiency and still be well below 600 miles.
  3. The large intercontinental airports of Amsterdam Schiphol, Frankfurt and Paris-Charles de Gaulle should be reached easily.
  4. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport has a well-connected railway station.
  5. Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport has a TGV station.
  6. Frankfurt Airport has a long distance railway station on the Cologne-Frankfurt high speed line.
  7. If you’re flying to the South of France or Switzerland, it looks like flying from London City Airport is about a hundred miles shorter.

It would appear that the range of 625 miles could be very useful, especially if you use a long distance train at both ends of the flight.

I can certainly understand why Flybe has chosen Birmingham as its main base.


Will Flybe Convert Their Aircraft To Hydrogen?

This is obviously up to the company, but if they don’t, someone else will and Flybe will lose their regional market in the UK.


I think those behind the new Flybe could be looking to create the UK’s first zero-carbon airline.

December 2, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Monarch Goes Bust

It is not a good time for airlines with Ryanair in a mess and now Monarch has gone bust.

The CAA has announced a web site at, where passengers should look for information.

I checked the site out of curiosity and it seems to do what the chair of the CAA said it does on the BBC!

The internet would seem to help in these situations.

October 2, 2017 Posted by | Computing, Transport/Travel | , | Leave a comment

How To Buy Airliners

I found this article entitled Ryanair Orders 175 Boeings, but CEO Wants More Seats, Less Baggage, whilst looking for an article about baggage.

It really does show how Boeing and Airbus are not providing airlines with what they want.

I wonder how long it will be before we are all weighed with our baggage before we go on an airliner. I wouldn’t object, but it would probably make flying just that little bit cheaper.

June 29, 2013 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Previous White Christmas

All of this bad weather reminds me of a tale of getting home for Christmas in probably 1978.  I say probably as the BBC have said that that was a very bad winter. Ian, one of our consultants, was working in Amsterdam and joined the exodus with many fellow Brits back to the UK on Christmas Eve at Schipol.  But Heathrow was closed as many aircraft were frozen to the stands.  More by luck than judgement BA were able to get a Tri-Star to Schipol after finding out that East Midlands airport was free of snow. The jet then did several shuttles between the two airports to bring everybody home, albeit not to where they wanted to go.  BA also hired every coach they could find to complete the passengers’ journeys.

One version of the story says that the last flight came in at three in the morning of Christmas Day.

One gets the impression, that that sort of spirit no longer exists in our transport industry. Although as I said at the time, I’ll give credit to National Express East Anglia for getting me home on Saturday from Ipswich.

December 20, 2010 Posted by | Transport/Travel, World | , , | Leave a comment

Evian on Cathay Pacific

I suppose they fly it halfway round the world, but surely there is something good and more local to Hong Kong.

June 11, 2010 Posted by | Food, Transport/Travel | | 2 Comments

Tête-Bêche or Herringbone

BA and Cathay Pacific have very different ideas about how Business Class should be laid out.  In the former you sleep head to tail, whereas in Cathay, you’re arranged on either side of the aisle.

In my view BA’s layout is much better, as you can leave your seat so much easier, without taking the seat out of the sleeping position. Apparently, the herringbone gives a wider seat, but I don’t need that.  I also found the Cathay seat a lot more uncomfortable, probably because I couldn’t lay on my stomach and because my spine sticks out at the bottom.

I should also say that the gluten-free food on BA was much better than that on Cathay, but this might be because it was out of Hong Kong. Strangely, the best I had, was on Astraeus on a charter to Gambia. It had been produced by a small Welsh company.

June 11, 2010 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , | Leave a comment

Travelling with Time to Spare

Since I’ve had the stroke, I try to make things easier for myself. 

Take yesterday, as I had to get to Heathrow for BA 027 that left at 21:25, I decided that it would be a good idea to get my taxi to drop me at Whittlesford to catch the 16:30 train for Tottenham Hale.  There it was to be the Victoria Line and Piccadilly Line to the airport for about an eighty-minute ride with just one walk across the platform at Finsbury Park.

But two things happened.

I forget to take my driving licence and we had to go back.  It was only a delay of about five minutes, but it made things tight. 

And then the automatic machine at the station wouldn’t serve me any suitable ticket.  What I wanted was an open return with my Senior railcard.  In the end I settled on a single to Tottenham Hale.  I know in the cost of the this trip, it is a small thing, but if you do look after the pennies, you can afford to do the bits where the style is worth it!

I’d been on the train for a couple of minutes, when I noticed the train was going to Broxbourne.  Weird! Then I found out the lines were down and it would be a bus from Broxbourne to Cheshunt.

Oh! Well!

I still had plenty of time.  But then we waited and waited outside Harlow for well over half-an-hour after a bit of a crawl from just before Bishops Stortford.  I was starting to get worried.  I do seem to worry more, but perhaps it’s just worried about being worried and stressed. Perhaps, I should try Yoga!

We got to Harlow about six and I saw a taxi and asked the driver to take me to the Tube.  I had thought about Redbridge or Walthamstow, but he suggested rightly that Epping would be better.

And so I had a marathon ride from one end of the Tube network to the other with just a change from the Central Line to the Piccadilly Line at Holborn.  I was safely in Heathrow at eight-fifteen after an hour and three quarters and forty stations.  Note that this isn’t far out from the formula of two minutes a station and fibve minutes for a change.

I wish though that I’d missed the first train.  I would have found out what had happened and the taxi could have taken me to Cambridge, where I could have gone to Kings Cross at speed.

But I didn’t!  In the end nothing really happened except more stress than I wanted, which could have been avoided by better thought on  my part and better information on that of National Express.

May 12, 2010 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 1 Comment

FlyGlobeSpan and BA Cabin Crew

On the one hand the Scottish airline, FlyGlobeSpan, has gone bust and on the other we have BA’s cabin crew threatening a twelve day strike.

These are in effect two ends of the same problem.  There are too many airlines chasing too little business and difficult choices have to be made.  In BA’s case, they have to cut costs to survive and as I understand it, they are just reducing the conditions at the staff they employ at Heathrow to those at Gatwick and other bases.

Perhaps, the Scottish experience will knock some sense into the BA cabin crew.  But it doesn’t look hopeful!

As Prudence bailed out the Scottish banks will he bail out this Scottish airline?

After all, there are a lot of Labour constituencies in Scotland!

December 17, 2009 Posted by | News, Transport/Travel | , | Leave a comment

Sheffield City Airport

Sheffield is one of the largest cities in Europe without a major airport.

It did have one, called Sheffield City Airport, and for a time just after it opened in 1996, it was reasonably successful.   But it closed a couple of years ago and now it is being turned into a business park.

The reasons it closed was because it was designed to take limited short take-off and landing aircraft like London City.  But unlike that airport, it couldn’t sustain the high value traffic that airports like that need for profit and growth.

On a more general point, Sheffield had too short a runway, to attract the low-cost airlines like Ryanair and EasyJet and in any case Manchester, Leeds and East Midlands were all within an hours drive.  There is now even the new Robin Hood Airport on the former RAF Finningley.

August 23, 2009 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

How to Complain – Part 2

The Times yesterday had a long article yesterday on the story I detailed under How to Complain.  Read the Time article, as there is some interesting on-line comment from other disgruntled passengers.

One thing that the article says, is complain with humour.

Years ago, I had a couple of bad experiences on PanAm, so I vowed never to fly them again.  At the time, my company had a US Head Office in Houston and I used to go a couple of times a year.  But at the time, the alternatives were fly either to fly British Calendonian direct or Braniff via Dallas.  Now, I know my flying and after various incidents, I didn’t like DC10s, so I often went by a roundabout route, changing perhaps in Chicago or Boston.

But then PanAm decided to fly TriStars direct from Houston to Gatwick.

So I thought I’d give it a try and was actually pleasantly surprised.  Especially, as the planes were often half-empty and you could usually find four seats in steerage to lie across for the flight back to Blighty.

So as the article in The Times says, I used humour not to complain, but to thank them for the service.  I remember, I started the letter with something like.

What’s gone wrong with your airline? I vowed some years ago never to fly with PanAm again, after some bad experiences, but after flying between Gatwick and Houston, I certainly will again, after the great service.

I got a very nice letter in the same vein in return and continued to fly PanAm to Houston until the company was sold.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the letters now.

But it does show, that humour is the best policy.

The problem now, is that a lot of complaints are handled in countries, where the British, American or French, sense of humour is not understood, so the jokes may fall on deaf ears.

It’s funny, but all airlines mentioned no longer exist.

July 25, 2009 Posted by | News, Transport/Travel | | Leave a comment