Viking Air might revive Twin Otter

 - September 19, 2006, 6:18 AM

Viking Air, the Vancouver-based specialist in support, STCs and airframe mods for de Havilland Canada (DHC) Beavers and Otters, has acquired full production rights for the full line of DHC aircraft up to the DHC-7 Dash 7.

In addition to allowing Viking Air to provide complete product support, the agreement between Viking and Bombardier Aerospace gives the Vancouver company the rights to build new aircraft as markets dictate.

The greatest demand is expected to be for the civil products, as the fleet of DHC-4 Caribous and DHC-5 Buffalos has diminished through attrition. The Caribou was FAA certified, while only the later-variant DHC-5D Buffalo Transporter was certified with the FAA and Transport Canada.

As a prime target, Viking is currently assessing the demand for new DHC-6 Twin Otters. More than 600 of the 844 built are still airworthy, serving as 19-seat transports, bush planes and parachutist droppers.

Dave Curtis, Viking president, said his company has completed “phase one” of the market assessment for new aircraft and will make a go/no-go decision later this summer. Viking is currently the sole manufacturer of complete wings for the Twin Otter, in support of the type.

“The Twin Otter seems to have its own niche in the STOL 19-passenger market,” Curtis said. “It is incredibly, uniquely versatile. We are intrigued,” he added. The company will support other models in the DHC lineup with spares and engineering.

Immediately after World War II, during which de Havilland Canada produced more than 1,300 Mosquito fighter/bombers in a three-year period, the company embarked on its first in-house design. The DHC-1 was named the Chipmunk, somewhat “after” its chief designer, Walter Jakimiuk. After that, each DHC design took the name of
a fur-bearing Canadian animal, until the advent of the Dash 7.

The de Havilland Canada-designed fleet was born in 1945. Its Chipmunk was designed, flown and certified in less than 12 months. It was designed for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as the replacement for the venerable Tiger Moth biplane. The RCAF ordered 107 examples; however, when the Royal Air Force selected it as its basic trainer, the Chipmunk was built under license by the parent company in England, where 1,000 were manufactured.

Keeping the Fleet Flying

In 1946 DHC began its long run of STOL aircraft with the ubiquitous DHC-2 Beaver (1,692 built); its big brother, the DHC-3 Otter; and then, as the war in Vietnam escalated, the twin-engine DHC-4 Caribou troop transport; and the company’s first turbine aircraft, the DHC-5 Buffalo. The DHC-6 Twin Otter introduced the regional airline market to its first 19-seat commuter and set the stage for the Dash 7.

Famous around the world, de Havilland Canada’s success in its markets continues to this day, with its Dash 8 and derivatives enjoying renewed vigor.

Curtis said his mission is to keep the fleet flying. “We intend not only to produce spare parts for this fleet but also to continue to engineer and manufacture performance enhancements, which we have been doing for many years now.

“The demand from many quarters to restart the Twin Otter production line based on the original type certificate is the lead influence here. This airplane has a bright future, whether we decide to build new or simply support the existing fleet,” he added.

“We are also excited about the opportunity of becoming more of an OEM center in western Canada, balancing somewhat the sheer weight of the aerospace industry in the east, particularly in Quebec and Ontario.”

The author’s father, engineer/marketer Bob McIntyre, was involved in every DHC manufacturing program and support department until his death in 1985. On May 27, Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame will induct McIntyre in recognition of his efforts and successes in aeronautical and mechanical engineering, marketing and product definition– from his work as project manager on the Chipmunk through his involvement in design definition of the Dash 8.