De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited, with head offices in Toronto, Ontario, is an aircraft manufacturer incorporated in 1928. It has designed and built iconic Canadian bush planes such as the Beaver, the Otter and the Twin Otter, as well as transport and commuter aircraft. Owned by Longview Aviation Capital, de Havilland currently manufactures the Dash 8 commuter plane.
Early YearsDe Havilland Aircraft of Canada was founded as a subsidiary of England’s de Havilland Aircraft Company in 1928. During the Second World War, de Havilland produced the multi-purpose Mosquito and training airplane Tiger Moth at its Downsview facility in Toronto. The DHC-1 Chipmunk, another training aircraft, followed in 1946. The Chipmunk was de Havilland Canada’s first all-Canadian design.
In the postwar years, the company built the DHC-2 Beaver and the DHC-3 Otter bush planes. These short-takeoff-and-landing (STOL) aircraft were crucial for transportation in the North (see Bush Flying in Canada). The DHC-4 Caribou, a twin-engine aircraft used mainly for military transport and commercial cargo, followed in 1958. Its successor was the larger turboprop DHC-5 Buffalo. In 1965, de Havilland introduced the DHC-6 Twin Otter, a larger, twin-engine version of the original Otter.
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De Havilland Canada built 99 CS2F Trackers for the Royal Canadian Navy during the Cold War. The CS2F was a Canadian version of the Grumman S-2 Tracker, which was used in navies around the world. The plane was designed to be flown off aircraft carriers for antisubmarine warfare. The Tracker’s wings folded to save space, while the Canadian version was 18 inches shorter to fit in the smaller hangars on Canadian aircraft carriers. After the HMCS Bonaventure was decommissioned in 1970, the Trackers became shore-based aircraft.
During the 1970s, de Havilland faced financial troubles. Commuter airlines did not create the high demand that the company had expected for its 50-passenger DHC-7 Dash 7. In 1974, the year before the Dash 7 first flew, the Canadian government purchased de Havilland Canada from its British owners, Hawker Siddeley Aviation. The government invested in research and development to finish the Dash 7. It was not until 1978, however, that sales of the plane started to climb. That year, when the United States’ new Airline Deregulation Act freed airlines to start serving more routes, demand for the Dash 7 grew. Another factor was the Dash 7’s fuel efficiency in an era of high fuel costs.
The Dash 8 Series 100, 200 and 300 appeared between 1984 and the mid-1990s. These were regional airliners like the Dash 7, but they had lower operating costs and flew with two engines instead of four.
During the 1980s and 1990s, de Havilland saw two changes in ownership. In 1986, the federal government sold it to Boeing of Seattle, Washington, for $155 million. (In the years leading up to the sale, the government had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in de Havilland.) In 1992, Montreal-based Bombardier and the Ontario government bought de Havilland from Boeing.
The de Havilland brand remained an integral part of Bombardier’s aerospace arm for more than two decades. Bombardier continued to build the Dash 8 in Toronto. In the late 2010s, however, Bombardier sold its assets in commercial aviation to focus on the business jet market. In 2019, it completed the sale of its Dash 8 program, along with the rights to the de Havilland name and trademark, to Longview Aviation Capital, of British Columbia. Longview subsidiary Viking Air is certified to provide parts and service for de Havilland aircraft that are no longer in production.
Photo taken 20 August 2011.