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Beaver to bring back bush aircraft

KATE SARSFIELD / LONDON

Canadian manufacturer reveals goal of reviving production of 35-year-old utility lines and refloating amphibian

A Canadian company is planning to restart the de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver and DHC-3 Otter utility aircraft lines, 35 years after production ended.

Beaver Aircraft Canada also intends to breathe life into the four-seat Trident Aircraft Tri-Gull amphibian. This programme, now owned by Canada's Viking Aircraft, was shelved during development in the 1970s due to lack of funding.

The all-metal, single-engined, high-wing Beaver made its first flight in August 1947 and around 1,650 of the six-seat aircraft were built. Of these more than half are still flying, says Beaver Aircraft director Mark Sager.

The larger, 16-seat Otter entered service in 1953 and when production ceased in 1968, around 460 aircraft had been built. Sager says: "We have an overwhelming response from the market worldwide, which is keen to see these rugged short take-off and landing bush aeroplanes back in service, particularly the Beaver, which is widely regarded as one of the most perfectly designed and robust small utility aircraft ever built."

Beaver Aircraft has acquired Viking Air, which owns the production jigs and drawings for all three aircraft. The Victoria, British Columbia-based company builds spare parts and specialises in the reconstruction and modification of Beaver and Otter designs.

Although development details are being kept under wraps, Sager says the Otter will be offered only with a modern turbine engine. The Beaver will be available in two variants. One will be faithful to the old design, perhaps powered by second-hand radial engines such as the Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp, while the other could encompass a number of modifications added to the aircraft over the years such as new avionics, engines and doors. The Beaver is likely to be stretched to accommodate nineseats, Sager says. The Tri-Gull will also be turbine-powered and is likely to be renamed, he adds.

"There are still a few balls to go through the hoops before we can turn the light back on in the factory. But when that day comes, we expect prototype, flight testing and certification [for all three models] will take about two to three years," he says. The first aircraft to enter service could be the Otter, followed by the Tri-Gull and the Beaver.

The company is predicting sales of around 600 Beavers, 490 Otters and 365 Tri-Gulls in the first 10 years, Sager says. "There is a large market for the Beaver and Otter from private owners, through to maritime surveillance, and passenger/commuter operators. The Tri-Gull will mainly be targeted at recreational flyers," he adds.

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