Viking Air is looking to relaunch production on the de Havilland DHC-5 Buffalo following strong interest in an upgraded version from existing operators of the 50-year-old twin-engined turboprop.
"We launched a market study last month to gauge customer demand, determine the potential size of this market globally and to fully assess the feasibility of relaunching this legacy product," says Rob Mauracher vice president of Viking, which owns the Buffalo's type certificate. "We know there is demand from both commercial operators and governments worldwide as we have already received a couple of letters of intent."
The Buffalo made its first flight in April 1964 and was certificated a year later. Over 120 of the General Electric CT64-820-4-powered aircraft were built until production was halted in 1988. Today 29 of the types remain in service: the D variant, with the governments of Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia and Kenya and the E version, with commercial operators DAC Aviation International, Artic Sunwest Charters and Sky Relief. The relaunched Buffalo would be called the DHC-5NG and would include a host of refinements including Pratt & Whitney PW150 engines, a six-blade composite propeller and a modern cockpit, says Mauracher,
"The Buffalo has amazing short take-off and landing capabilities. It is extremely robust and fits into a niche all of its own," he continues. "The aircraft can take off and land on mud or sand with 40 passengers from a strip of land the size of a football pitch. It will be affordable to purchase, operate and is very versatile," he adds,
The market study should be complete later this year and the decision on whether to proceed with the relaunch "could be made very quickly," says Mauracher.