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A De Havilland Dash 8-400 plane sits at the company's facility in Toronto.

George Moffatt/Reuters

De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd said on Monday it landed an order for 20 Dash 8-400 turboprops from lessor Palma Holding, as the plane maker bets on airline and energy sector demand in the Middle East and Africa to help turnaround its recently acquired aircraft program from Bombardier Inc.

De Havilland signed a letter of intent with Dubai-based Palma during the Dubai Airshow, which runs between Nov. 17-21.

If finalized, the deal would be a record single-order for the turboprop from a lessor, De Havilland vice president sales & marketing Philippe Poutissou told Reuters.

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On Saturday, Toronto-based De Havilland also announced a firm order to deliver three Dash 8-400 props aimed at the oil and gas industry to Nigeria’s Elin Group.

The prop generally ranges from 70 to 90 seats, depending on configuration.

While Boeing forecasts about half of long-term aircraft demand in the Middle East for larger wide-body planes, privately held De Havilland also sees opportunities for turboprops which are more efficient on short routes.

“There are domestic markets or intraregional markets where the demand is growing,” Poutissou said.

African carriers are also seeking smaller, fuel efficient aircraft for trips up to two hours, while the oil sector eyes durable planes that can land on unpaved strips at remote exploration sites, he said.

Longview Aviation Capital closed its deal for the Q400 turboprop aircraft program from Canada’s Bombardier this year and revived its previous model name – Dash 8 – under a restored corporate brand of De Havilland Aircraft of Canada.

While De Havilland does not divulge its financials, Bombardier had previously disclosed the delivery of 15 Q400s, and 24 net orders for the turboprop in 2018, about half the amount from a year earlier.

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Bombardier, which listed the plane for about $32 million, was under pressure to lower the aircraft’s costs. While faster and larger than its European rival ATR, the Canadian-made plane came with a higher price tag, hurting sales, analysts said.

Co-owned by Airbus SE and Leonardo SpA., ATR is the world’s largest maker of turboprops with about 75 per cent of the market, according to analysts.

An ATR spokesman said the company is expecting demand for 350 deliveries of new turboprops over the next 20 years in Africa and the Middle East, mainly for 70-seaters.

ATR, also sees opportunity as oil and gas exploration expands in Latin America, Africa and Asia-Pacific, although the company sees “demand being stable,” the spokesman said on Friday.

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