DC3 hub ops profitability review

When I leased Shpadoinkle Airway’s DC3, I did it for variety to try to attract pilots. Given the DC3’s higher operating costs compared to caravan ($800/hr vs $500/hr) and slower speed (allegedly, you can go about the same speed if you run it at WEP and pretend the engine is made of titanium). I expected to fly with most of the seats empty, since Shpadoinkle’s Quebec network is only low volume 2 lotters. 8 pax to, 4 pax back. In short, I expected it to do worse than the single engine, fuel efficient Caravan. BUT, I was pleasantly surprised when I realized I hadn’t even considered the full implications of 26 seats (that FSE’s DC3 operators have probably known for years):
In a regular 2 lot hub and spoke network that anyone can have without a huge amount of wealth, the set up is as follows:
You have your hub, usually somewhere in the center of the network to minimize distance from the satellites. Then you have your focus airport which is the airport you concentrate all your hub airport’s passenger terminal firepower on. This is the route you fly the most since it will produce the most income/flight, optimally 24 pax in 2 flights or 12 pax/flight. Then with the rest of the satellites, you have a PT capacity of 12 pax total per satellite.
With the 13 seat caravan, if you’re very lucky, and jobs to 2 airports near each other spawn exactly 6 jobs each, you can have 2 satellites together to fly a triangle route. At airport A you have 6 pax going to B and 6 pax going to C. At airport B you drop off the 6 pax going to B and replace them with 6 pax going to A, at airport C you drop off the 6 pax going to C and pick up 6 more pax going to A, then you return to airport A dropping the 12 pax from B and C, delivering 24 passengers in 3 flights or 8 pax/flight before needing to return to the hub. Under optimal conditions.
Under normal circumstances where pax don’t spawn evenly, you have to fly A-B-A-C at an average of 6 pax/flight, which costs time and effort, since in addition to making an extra flight, you will also have go through the process of holding and loading passengers to prevent the wrong pax from occupying the correct pax’s seats.
But with a DC3, you are guaranteed a triangle – even if there is a total passenger imbalance and the 2×12 pax from 2 satellites all spawn at the hub, you can still deliver them all in 3 stops. Under optimal conditions… you can start out with 4×6 pax and visit 4 satellites, delivering 48 pax in 5 flights or 9 pax/flight. Or better, you can start out with 2×6 pax to 2 satellites + 12 pax to your focus airport and deliver 48 pax in 4 flights, or 12 pax/flight.
The only downside is of course, the booking fees.
You won’t get too rich flying 2 lot networks in a DC3, but I made v$23,000 over 4 flights which, while only marginally higher than my numbers flying the Caravan in Shpadoinkle’s Pennsylvania network, took much less effort. Its nothing like the profit you would get flying the DC3 in conjunction with 3 lot property (~$10k/flight on a good day), but considering the very low cost of a 2 lot network, the DC3 gets my full recommendation from a business standpoint.
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