Viking Air (Hall 4 Stand C16C) is an experienced aerospace manufacturer that has specialized in de Havilland Canada (DHC) products for over 30 years. It has moved a step closer to confirming it will restart production of the widely used 19-seat Twin Otter short takeoff and landing aircraft, to be designated the Twin Otter Series 400. A total of 844 turboprop DHC-6 Twin Otters were manufactured in DHC’s Downsview (Toronto) factory between 1965 and 1989, with more than 600 still in operation worldwide.
Viking, which recently acquired type certificates for seven de Havilland heritage aircraft, including the DHC-2 Beaver, DHC-3 Otter and the DHC-6 Twin Otter, will host an operators’ forum in Victoria, British Columbia from September 13 to 14. This will evaluate and measure demand, while outlining the aircraft specifications, commercial terms and delivery program. An undisclosed number of firm commitments will be required to ensure new production, said Viking president and CEO David Curtis.
“We have had positive certification discussions with Transport Canada and having thoroughly evaluated the business case, can see no major obstacles that will prevent a production restart,” Curtis added. “Work is continuing in this area and between now and September we will continue to work with our supply chain partners and Transport Canada to further refine the business case.” Approximately 35 percent of the aircraft is in production for spares support, including complete wing assemblies.
“The Twin Otter remains uniquely in-demand in the 19-passenger transport category,” claimed Curtis. “De Havilland Canada had it right from the start. It is in a class by itself in terms of size, speed, strength and versatility. Twin Otters are in huge demand today with very few good airframes available, and prices climbing to new highs. A decent 20-year-old 300 Series fetches well over $2 million on amphibious floats, making it a viable candidate for new manufacture.”
An important element of Viking’s program will be to apply innovation and new technology in the manufacturing process, which will be critical to the program’s commercial success. Discussions continue with the Canadian government to secure this innovation and to further enlarge and diversify aerospace activity in Western Canada.
The Twin Otter has proven its performance and versatility in extreme conditions. In 2001 the Twin Otter was chosen as the only aircraft capable of executing a mid-winter evacuation of a critically ill patient from the South Pole where it was minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Further demonstrating its unique capabilities, NASA’s Glenn Research Center employs its Twin Otter to carry out icing research in treacherous conditions.
“Good design is simple; good design is timeless; good design solves the right problem the first time,” said Curtis. “With a few upgrades such as current production PT6A-34 engines and upgraded avionics and systems, we intend on making a good thing that much better.”
Curtis remarked that the production rate he anticipates, while not yet specified, will be sufficient to satisfy the market demand and will make the Twin Otter Series 400 available and affordable to operators worldwide.