De Havilland Canada says goodbye to Downsview

Avatar for Frederick K. LarkinBy Frederick K. Larkin | June 13, 2022

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 39 seconds.

In April 1929, De Havilland Canada (DHC) purchased a 70-acre property in Downsview, Ontario – just north of Toronto. By the end of that summer, a 20,000-square-foot plant had been constructed and Moth biplanes were being produced. Almost a century later, DHC is saying farewell to Downsview as the land is due to be redeveloped for residential and commercial purposes.

C-GCEV, a 41-year-old DHC-7-103 Dash 7 operated by Air Tindi of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Frederick K. Larkin Photo
N302PT, a 54-year-old DHC-4A Turbo Caribou operated by Rampart Aviation of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Frederick K. Larkin Photo

On June 11, DHC held a special event to honor the thousands of employees who had designed, built, and flown the generations of aircraft produced at Downsview over the past 93 years. To assist in the celebration, the company convinced the owners of many iconic models to bring their airplanes back to the place where they had been built for one last visit.

Upon arrival, the 10 aircraft were parked on the ramp beside the oldest surviving hangars at the manufacturing facility. Hundreds of former and current employees, members of their families, and guests were able to walk amongst the aircraft and speak with their owners. Inside the delivery hangar, a detailed account of the company’s history by decade was posted along with many memory-prompting photographs. Meanwhile, an informative video provided a thorough review of the history of each aircraft family built at that historic location.

C-FMJO, the 100th DHC-6-400 Twin Otter. Frederick K. Larkin Photo
C-GODH, a 65-year-old DHC-2 Mk. III Turbo-Beaver. Frederick K. Larkin Photo

While the sun blazed until early afternoon, the clouds quickly moved in while the 10 aircraft departed, five minutes apart, in chronological order. As the last aircraft, a Dash 8-400, completed its high-speed pass and turned on course for Calgary, the rain came down. It was a poignant moment for those watching an historic Canadian aviation organization fly west.

Aircraft on display at Downsview Airport on June 11, 2022.

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  1. Avatar for Frederick K. Larkin
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    1. You missed the show because you didn’t know about it or couldn’t make it? I’ve lived across from them for almost 30 years and wasn’t invited. My husband would have loved this.

    2. Is this the Karl Bjerke I knew? How are you? Sad that the land’s gonna be developed, but not surprising…

  1. Very fond memories as a young girl that took her first flight in 1961 in a private single engine plane at the small DeHaviland airport. I was beside myself with exhilaration and excitement. This event was part of my growing interest in aircraft of all types. I had models of airplanes hanging from the ceiling and on my dresser in my bedroom. Not much of a fan of Barbie but fast cars, airplanes, jets and boats were my thing.
    Well I’m a senior now and the passion and flight and travel are still ver strong. Although I understand that times are changing, I will always remember DeHaviland airport and the planes they manufactured.

  2. It does suck. I was at Hatfield when BAe ran it down and shut it ,now its just one big housing estate.The Flight Shed survives along with the admin block but thats about it.

  3. I worked there from 1980 until my hands gave out in 2003 and the company wouldn’t find me a job that I could do. I was the first female that DeHavilland hired to work in the Electrical Shop in Bay 2 since WWII, so I was told (not sure if that was true). I didn’t go to this because I didn’t get my invitation until this past Monday which was after the event. Oh well . . .

  4. It always interests me that in a country that is full of ice hockey rinks, soccer pitches etc., the and only remaining aircraft assembly building that produced historic Canadian designed, world beating STOL aircraft that forged this nation in the North, made inter-city air travel possible, as well as built over 1,300 DH Mosquitos in WWII, is now an indoor sports facility? Sports! Sports? Where is the show of appreciation, not to mention, pride, in the company that stood apart and did so much for Canada, Canadians and Canadian aviation?

    Now the remaining section of the aerodrome, is to become housing for ‘even more’ people, who will ultimately flood in and strain the existing facilities, crowd the inadequate roads and help create an uneasy feeling of being ‘crammed in’? Where is the big, open, Canadian sky going? IMO, crowding leads to stress, which leads to desperation, which leads to violence and crime. As a country, Canada has the second largest land mass in the world and we still insist on cramming more into existing spaces, instead of developing new towns with air and space (pun not intended) around them, making a pleasant place for Canadians to live and raise their children?

    Bye-bye DeHavilland Aircraft Company of Canada. You served us well and we are proud that you were part of us for so long. Sorry we haven’t acknowledged your contribution by preserving your pioneering and historic site but instead, we have given in to greedy developers and short sighted planners. It’s too sad for words.

    Time to move out to the country…

    Did a great job destroying the Canadian aircraft Industery
    They were given Canadair as a debt free company including Cartierville Airport
    Sold the Airport for housing pocketed the cash and moved on
    Canadair which once was a full service, airplane compsny design, build R&D
    GONE now a subcontract outfit
    Same a t De Hav given the company for nothing including the airport landRan the Company into tthe ground
    Sold the land and pocketed the cash
    Another full service design build company gone
    Move into a new facility at Pearson built and paid for by the Governments
    Another free ride
    Also killed Lear the first executive jet company on the way!!


    Alexander Hogg

    Ex Canadair and De Havilland

  6. Seeing this brings back a lot of old memories as a teenager my step father d l Buchanan buck was vice president of sales have many hours of right seat time in beaver otter turbo beaver and short ride in caribou as I now live in calgary my business requires me every so often to visit calgary airport where I see the new dash 8 400 deck out in company colors brings back a lot of memories

  7. Iconic airports being shut down also include Blatchford Field (YXD) in Edmonton which was the first registered airfield in Canada. Unceremoniously shut down thanks to then mayor Steven Mandel who had a huge stake in turning the field into housing development. They did keep the aviation museum though and kept a heavy aviation theme in the redevelopment. For me, having worked at Viking and watching the company aquire the full DHC lineup over the years, can assure the doubting Thomas’s out there that the management team behind Viking, Longview Aviation and the newly created DeHavilland Canada have nothing but respect for Canada’s rich aviation history and you will all see wonderful things develop in the near future. These are exciting times for the DeHavilland and CL415/515 lineup!

  8. Treated poorly as an employee of Dehavilland / then Bombardier.
    Total bureaucratic set up and lots of old boy cronies.
    Once acquired by Bombardier, they ran the place like a rinky dink Mom and Pop store. We had to get approval from Bombardier Montreal to purchase office supplies!
    Glad that I wasn’t invited
    Good riddance

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