Incorporated in 1970, Viking Air Limited began as the successor to McKinnon Enterprises, a parts and modification facility working on the Grumman family of aircraft. After specializing in flying boats for over a decade, Viking switched focus in 1983 when de Havilland Inc. selected Viking as their exclusive spare parts manufacturer and distributor for the de Havilland DHC-2 Mk I Beaver, Mk III Turbo Beaver, and DHC-3 Single Otter aircraft.
The shift to de Havilland aircraft allowed Viking to develop the repair and modification business, which helped to increase Viking’s experience and knowledge of de Havilland products. This insight of the aircraft from an operator’s perspective further enhanced the skills of the workforce, and transferred throughout the company to augment Viking’s capabilities.While developing into a specialized de Havilland support organization, Viking also utilized the full manufacturing facility to diversify the product offering and undertake contract parts manufacture for Boeing, Bell Helicopter Textron, Lockheed Martin, and Bombardier Aerospace.
The contract with Bombardier began as spare parts manufacture for the Beaver and Otter aircraft, and quickly grew in strength until Viking became a key supplier of structural sheet metalparts and assemblies for the DHC-6 Twin Otter as well. The continued efforts and growing strength of Viking’s support for the Twin Otter led to the announcement in 2005 that Bombardier was transferring the Customer Service Center (“CSC”) for the aircraft to Viking, allowing Viking to work directly with operators for supply of new parts and technical support.
Viking’s commitment to the de Havilland legacy has led to development and modernization of the versatile and reliable aircraft, through obtaining Supplemental Type Certificates (“STC’s”) for approved modifications to improve performance and modernize the aging airframes.
Viking’s first venture into the modification market began with the development of a Turbine Conversion for the Beaver aircraft, which not only replaced the radial R985 engine with a brand new Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34 turbine engine, but included structural modifications to reconfigure the airframe in line with the original Turbo Beaver delivered from the de Havilland factory.
Viking’s turbine conversion for the Beaver is identical to the factory model, and uses most of the original production tooling to create a like-new Turbo Beaver that is factory approved and supported with new manufactured parts. Viking holds the Type Certificates for the upgraded turbine engine installation, increase the gross weight (allowable load), and multiple other items that improve and modernize the aircraft for better all around performance.
Building on the success of the Turbo Beaver, Viking has expanded the line of turbine conversions to the Otter, which received certification in 2009. The modifications to this proven workhorse improve performance and reliability, while reducing operating costs and ensuring ease of maintenance, making the Turbine Otter desirable for both private and commercial operations.
Viking has developed other de Havilland specific STC’s, including the installation of Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34 engines on the DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 300, gross weight increases for the Piston Beaver, Turbine Beaver, and Turbine Otter, and other Limited STC’s to cover special “one-off” installations as requested by customers.
This continued and specialized support for the de Havilland legacy culminated in 2006, when Viking acquired the Original Type Certificates (manufacturing rights) for all of the out of production de Havilland aircraft: DHC-1 Chipmunk, DHC-2 Beaver, DHC-2T Turbo Beaver, DHC-3 Otter, DHC-4 Caribou, DHC-5 Buffalo, DHC-6 Twin Otter, and DHC-7 Dash 7.
As the Type Certificate holder, Viking became the Original Equipment Manufacturer (“OEM”) for these aircraft, naming Viking as the ultimate responsibility to operators for all aspects of the aircraft, from parts support through design engineering and technical information. However, with this responsibility comes complete autonomy to guide the fleet forward into the next generation.
After surveying the fleet, operators of the legacy aircraft immediately communicated to Viking the necessity for the STOL (short take off & landing) aircraft, as they carry out mandatory operations where no other type would suit. One of the biggest fleet requirements was presented by the Twin Otter group, representing over 600 airframes still operating worldwide.
This overwhelming demand to replace the Twin Otter encouraged Viking to put the extremely popular aircraft back into production, so in April 2007 Viking launched the Twin Otter Series 400 production program. The program takes off where the de Havilland Series 300 Twin Otter program ended over twenty years ago; Viking has taken the original design and engineering data for the aircraft and incorporated over 300 changes to modify and modernize the existing airframe.
The most notable changes include installation of higher horsepower (de-rated) Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34 turbine engines and incorporation of a fully integrated digital Honeywell Primus Apex avionics suite, replacing the round steam gauges of yesteryear. Many changes have been made to lighten the aircraft, including use of composite structures in place of metal, so the aircraft can carry more passengers or cargo within its 12,500lbs operating limitation.
The transition to aircraft manufacturer from parts manufacturer has been a challenge for Viking, however is considered a success with receipt of Transport Canada Type Certification for the Series 400 Twin Otter, delivery of the first aircraft to the customer, the second aircraft test flown and due for imminent delivery, and more than eight aircraft at various stages of final assembly at the company’s Calgary, Alberta facility.
With the success of the initial aircraft production program, the consideration to apply the same principals to the launch of other aircraft types has become apparent. Recent media coverage of the Canadian Search and Rescue Fixed Wing replacement program has brought the aging DHC-5 Buffalo into the foreground, with a requirement to replace the fleet with a similar aircraft type. With support from the Canadian taxpayers and potential export customers expressing interest, the initiative to re-launch the Buffalo has been gaining momentum.
Viking has been pursuing the viability of a “Next Generation” Buffalo aircraft, the DHC-5 Buffalo NG, which would encompass modifications and design improvements similar to those introduced in the Twin Otter Series 400 program.
Alongside the increase in operation on the manufacturing side of the company, there is a corresponding expansion to Viking’s Maintenance Repair Organization as well. Beaver, Otter and Twin Otter operators throughout North America continue to bring their aircraft to Viking for routine maintenance and annual inspections, while other major modification and rebuild projects travel from farther afield to take advantage of Viking’s de Havilland expertise and certified factory new parts supply.
An example of a recent multi-faceted large scale project was the heavy maintenance contract and major “D” check for one of eight Twin Otters operated by the Argentina Air Force that led to a follow on contract for the second aircraft to be carried out by a mobile repair team at the Air Force base in Argentina. To house the continued growth in the many different divisions of the company, and the nearly 500 employees, Viking has added a final aircraft assembly facility in Calgary, Alberta, and built a brand new manufacturing building at Victoria International Airport, where the corporate offices are located.
After 40 years in business, 2010 brings many major milestones for Viking, including the anticipated receipt of Transport Canada Certification for the new Series 400 Twin Otter, the first customer delivery for the all new Viking built Twin Otter aircraft, and the grand opening of the new Viking facility. There are exciting times ahead for Viking’s expanding work force, and for all de Havilland owners and operators worldwide, who contribute to the ongoing de Havilland legacy every day.
The best selling 19 seat regional aircraft of all time, the de Havilland Twin Otter has proven itself to be a successful and reliable multi-purpose aircraft, capable of operating in extreme conditions due to its rugged construction and STOL performance.
Powered by two PT6A-34 engines, the Twin Otter Series 400 can operate from remote and unimproved airfields due to its robust design, equalized maintenance program, and dependability of the Pratt & Whitney engines, renowned for their reliability in varied operating environments.
Available on standard land gear, or optional straight or amphibious floats, skis or wheel skis, or intermediate flotation (Tundra) gear, with multiple interior configurations available, the Twin Otter Series 400 is a versatile aircraft that can be utilized for operations such as sub-arctic research, parachute training, military and government operations, regional commuters, and private RV use.
Viking Air Defender
Wed, Sep 21 2011 3:30 PM
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