Estimated reading time 8 minutes, 17 seconds.
What’s old is new again at De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd. (DHC), with the consolidation of company names amid a busy agenda.
Operating under the De Havilland brand, the focus is on smoothly integrating assets that have been run by different entities: Longview Aviation Capital Corp. and its subsidiary, Viking Air Ltd.; Pacific Sky Training Inc.; and De Havilland itself.
But the mission goes well beyond consolidating the entities under the De Havilland name.
Through what De Havilland is touting as the “one-window approach,” the goal is to improve service and expand product offerings.
De Havilland, as a unit of Longview, operates the Dash 8-400 regional turboprop program, formerly known as the Bombardier Q400.
Viking, a manufacturing subsidiary of Longview, is based at Victoria International Airport and is best known for overseeing production of the Twin Otter Series 400 — the fabled twin-engine turboprop developed by the original de Havilland in the 1960s. (Aviation buffs will recall that de Havilland is the historic brand with a lowercase “d,” while the modern-day De Havilland opted for an uppercase “D” when it relaunched in 2019.) In 2006, Viking acquired the type certificates for aircraft that included the DHC-1 Chipmunk, DHC-2 Beaver, DHC-3 Otter, DHC-4 Caribou, DHC-5 Buffalo, DHC-6 Twin Otter, and Dash 7.
Pacific Sky, Viking’s Calgary-based sister company, provides flight testing and pilot training for the Twin Otter and also the Canadair CL-215T and CL-415 series of water bombers.
The common thread today is Longview, which is owned by the family of Sherry Brydson, niece of the late billionaire Ken Thomson.
Boeing Co. bought the original de Havilland in 1986 from the Canadian government, and later sold it to Bombardier Inc. in 1992.
In 2019, a Longview affiliate acquired the type certificates from Bombardier for the original de Havilland product line — notably the Dash 8 aircraft program, which entered service in 1984.
“Our acquisition of the De Havilland Dash 8 program from Bombardier in 2019 united the entire De Havilland product line for the first time in decades, and we are proud to consolidate our aviation assets under the iconic De Havilland banner,” said Brydson in a statement in February.
In addition to the consolidation announcement, De Havilland appointed Brian Chafe — former CEO at PAL Group of Newfoundland — as its chief executive officer, replacing David Curtis. Curtis began at Viking in 1983 and became its CEO in 1991. In August 2021, he retired and relinquished his titles, including Longview executive chairman and De Havilland CEO.
“Brian’s deep experience as a customer-focused leader of a diversified and globally prominent Canadian aerospace company will be invaluable as we continue to build a strong De Havilland Canada for the future,” said Brydson.
Having the Dash 8-400 and Twin Otter under the same corporate banner forms a strong base, according to De Havilland.
“This foundation is why I am so bullish on our ability to lead the growth of the aerospace sector in Canada as the world economy rebounds from the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Chafe in a statement.
Besides the Twin Otter and Dash 8-400, there are also the Dash 8 type certificates for the -100, -200, and -300 series acquired in 2019 by the Longview affiliate. Production stopped for the Dash 8-100 in 2005, while the -200 and -300 halted their run in 2009.
While the appointment of Chafe as De Havilland CEO provides stability, uncertainty lingers over the fate of the Dash 8-400 program.
De Havilland Canada announced in early 2021 that it is pausing production of the Dash 8-400 at the Toronto-based Downsview facility. Later in the year, De Havilland began the process of decommissioning the facility, following the sale of the land (previously owned by Bombardier) to the Public Sector Pension Investment Board in 2018.
Downsview plant workers went on strike for three months in mid-2021, but key issues in the labor dispute have now been resolved, according to the union. Unifor said it made gains in items such as retirement incentives and enhanced severance packets. Moreover, there would be preferred hiring for union members if the Dash 8-400 production resumes at a new location.
Chafe is leading an examination of production opportunities, though it’s unclear where the new site might be located. The final decision will be based in part on forecasts for market demand for the Dash 8-400. More than 625 Dash 8-400 planes have been delivered so far to customers globally and, as of December 2021, the worldwide fleet had logged some 11 million flight hours.
Recently, in March, De Havilland announced that it is reviving the Canadair CL-515 water bomber aircraft with the launch of the De Havilland DHC-515 Firefighter program.
The Canadair CL program was initially acquired by De Havilland Canada back in 2016, and the company has been considering a return to production since 2019.
De Havilland said in a news release that upgrades were integrated into the DHC-515 to “increase the functionality and effectiveness of this legendarily rugged firefighting aircraft.”
Another important file for the long term is De Havilland’s role in decarbonizing aviation.
The company said in December 2021 that it is optimistic about a partnership with ZeroAvia to develop hydrogen-electric engines for new and in-service Dash 8-400 aircraft.
The two firms will develop a flight demonstrator using a Dash 8-400 to prove the commercial potential of the engine, as well as to assist certification. As part of a memorandum of understanding, De Havilland will have the option to buy 50 ZeroAvia hydrogen-electric engines.