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 - April 30, 2007, 5:33 AM

British Columbia-based Viking Air, which purchased a number of de Havilland Canada type certificates from Bombardier last year, announced last month it was going to begin production on the turboprop Twin Otter. This will be the company’s first venture into aircraft production, having provided service and support on its DHC type certificates since last year.

According to Viking, a number of significant events transpired for it to be able to restart production on the 19-seat twin-turboprop workhorse. The company received sufficient firm orders, there was further investment from the majority shareholders of parent company Westerkirk Capital and, not least, federal funding in the form of research and development loans became available. President and CEO David Curtis said he expects the company to receive funding from the Canadian government’s Strategic Aerospace and Defense Initiative program.

Viking is calling the new aircraft the Twin Otter Series 400, marking the fact that it succeeds the Series 300, last produced by de Havilland Canada before the line went quiet. Deliveries of the aircraft are expected to begin within two years; the $3.2 million price tag will be adjusted for the respective consumer price index at the time of delivery. Major components will be built at the company’s Victoria, British Columbia facility, with final assembly and customer delivery in Calgary, Alberta.

The price as quoted includes the bare bones in interior and avionics. Customers wishing to upgrade will likely have the option via a supplemental type certificate.
Though no contract with a provider has been announced yet, a Viking Air spokesman told AIN that Garmin is offering the G1000 cockpit.

As the aircraft is perhaps best known for its off-airport capabilities, including ice, water, snow and dirt, Viking said appropriate options will be offered. However, at this time, the company said, popular options such as skis, floats and full de-ice will be aftermarket only. Standard engines will be two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34s, with an option for the more powerful -35s. Four-blade propellers will also be an option.

Viking expects stellar demand for the updated Twin Otter. Market research firm Conklin & de Decker confirmed that the company could be looking at demand for more than 400 aircraft over the next 10 years. This number isn’t surprising when you consider de Havilland Canada built 844 copies of the aircraft between 1965 and 1988. And with many doing hard time on water, snow and dirt, companies will be clamoring for replacements, not to mention additional aircraft to support expansion.