Twin Otter and other heritage types to be reborn as Viking buys de Havilland Canada type certificates

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Canada’s Viking Air has acquired the type certificates for seven de Havilland Canada (DCH) heritage aircraft from Bombardier, including the DHC-2 Beaver and the DHC-6 Twin Otter, and is evaluating the market demand for each type to assess the potential for restarting production.

The deal “elevates Viking to a first-tier original equipment manufacturer in the Canadian aerospace industry”, says president and chief executive David Curtis, and comes nine months after the Victoria, British Columbia-based company bought the heritage aircraft product support business from Bombardier’s Commercial Service Centre (CSC) division (Flight International, 10-16 May 2005). “Since that time, Viking has successfully integrated the CSC responsibilities, expanded its operations in Victoria and opened a warehousing and distribution facility in Calgary, Alberta,” Curtis says.

Viking has exclusive rights to restart production of any of the aircraft and “with no comparable aircraft available on the market”, Viking says, the Twin Otter is the most likely of the types to be put back in production. “Historically, de Havilland has manufactured aircraft of unmatched quality and reputation, and the global demand for these products remains incredibly strong,” says Curtis.

The acquisition “elevates Viking to a first-tier original equipment manufacturer in the Canadian aerospace industry,” says Viking president and chief executive officer David Curtis, and comes nine months after the Victoria, British Columbia-based company purchased the heritage aircraft product support business from Bombardier’s Commercial Service Centre division (CSC) (Flight International 10-16 May 2005). “Since that time, Viking has successfully integrated the CSC responsibilities, expanded its operations in Victoria and opened a warehousing and distribution facility in Calgary, Alberta and almost doubled the workforce,” Curtis says. 

He adds: “This acquisition opens up a number of new market opportunities for Viking.  It represents a major opportunity to establish a product oriented aerospace industry in Western Canada and help build a critical mass of aviation in the region.”  Around 3,500 DHC aircraft were produced from 1947 to 1988, the largest fleet of aircraft produced in post-war Canada, these include the Dash 7, Twin Otter, DHC-5 Buffalo, DHC-4 Caribou, DHC-3 Otter, Beaver and DHC-1 Chipmunk

A large percentage of these aircraft are still in use today. The prototype Beaver, Twin Otter and Dash 7 are housed at the Canadian Aviation Museum in Ottawa-Hull, along with several other de Havilland Canada heritage aircraft.

 

HISTORY OF DE HAVILLAND CANADA

DHC was established on March 5, 1928 as a sales and assembly arm for its parent company, British de Havilland Aircraft Company. DHC’s first sales included large orders for the DH-60 Moth from the Ontario and Canadian governments and the newly formed flying club movement.

Over the next 15 years, DHC produced Moth aircraft of various types, adapted to suit the Canadian climate.

Perhaps the most widely recognised de Havilland aircraft is the DHC-2 Beaver. With its inaugural flight in 1947, the Beaver became the first all-metal, Canadian-designed bush plane. Affectionately dubbed the “half ton truck of the air” due to its prowess in the harsh environment of the Canadian bush, the small yet astonishingly sturdy Beaver quickly brought worldwide attention to the Canadian aviation industry. By the time the last aircraft rolled out of a de Havilland hangar in 1967, more Beavers were built than any other aircraft designed and manufactured in Canada.

The Beaver made a remarkably strong contribution to commercial, military and recreational aviation given its short production run. The Royal New Zealand Air Force selected a  Beaver in July 1956 for the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Between 1947 and 1967, when de Havilland ceased production of this aircraft type, 1,692 Beavers were sold to 62 countries. This aircraft is still in wide use today.

Originally called the “Super Beaver”, the DHC-6 Otter is a larger aircraft similar in shape and functionality to the Beaver. First introduced in 1951, the Otter doubled the payload and increased the range for operators in the Canadian North and remote regions of the world.

With more than 800 built, the Twin Otter is regarded as one of Canada’s most successful commercial aircraft. The twin turboprop airliner first entered service in 1966 with the Ontario Department of Lands. It is designed as a utility bush airplane for the Canadian North, but found its true niche with the developing commuter airlines. The Twin Otter is the largest-selling 19-passenger commuter airplane in the world, and was instrumental in developing the regional airline industry as we know it today.

In all, hundreds, if not thousands, of de Havilland Canada heritage aircraft remain in active use today for tourism, agriculture, forestry, energy and mining, and search and rescue applications around the world.