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Viking Air Ltd - Twin Otter


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Brent Jang Transportation Reporter March 10, 2008

As David Curtis chatted at the Singapore Airshow last month, he was surprised that some foreign delegates didn't link Canada with Mounties, moose and maple syrup.

The Viking Air Ltd. chief executive officer finally made the aviation executives take notice of Canada when he began touting the return of the fabled Twin Otter plane, 20 years after manufacturing was halted.

In just mentioning the name Twin Otter, Mr. Curtis gained respect for Canada and crucial credibility for Victoria-based Viking, which holds the rights to restart production of the turboprop.

Viking is owned by Westerkirk Capital Inc., a private equity firm that invests on behalf of the family of Victoria's Sherry Brydson, who is the niece of the late billionaire Ken Thomson.

Mr. Curtis left the Singapore Airshow, Asia's largest aerospace convention, with a stack of business cards from prospective buyers of the 19-seat Twin Otter.

Keen interest for the rugged, twin-engine bush plane came from airlines and governments in Southeast Asia, Africa, India and the Middle East.

In hard-to-reach regions around the globe, "the Twin Otter is Canada's best-known export," Mr. Curtis said in an interview from Viking's head office and plant near Victoria International Airport.

Mr. Curtis has secured more than 40 firm orders for the rebirth. Trans Maldivian Airways in the Maldives - which already has 16 original Twin Otters in its fleet - has ordered five of the new planes, formally called the DHC-6 Twin Otter, Series 400.

Others on the order list include Loch Ard Otters LLC of Florida, Air Seychelles of Africa, Air Moorea of Tahiti and the U.S. Army's Golden Knights parachute team.

"In the grand scheme of aerospace, the Twin Otter is in a fairly small market. But we love this niche. It's a great product and it's our plan to fill the niche," Mr. Curtis said.

The Victoria plant is gearing up to make Twin Otter components, adding 100 workers over the past year to bring its payroll to 265 people. Final assembly of the plane will be in Calgary, where there are now six employees, but will ramp up to 75 people within a year. The plane's engines will be supplied by Pratt & Whitney Canada Corp.'s plant in Lethbridge, Alta.

Viking will be producing an updated Twin Otter prototype this spring with a more powerful engine and lighter composite materials than the first-generation model, but for the most part, the original design remains intact.

Mr. Curtis reckons that the Twin Otter will sell like hotcakes, at $3.5-million to $4-million each, depending on the specifications.

A study commissioned by Viking suggested that there's worldwide demand for 440 Twin Otters over the next decade. But Mr. Curtis plans to restrict production to a lower, manageable level of almost 200 planes over a 10-year span, given the shortage of skilled staff and the long lead time it takes to train new employees.

The first order of the new-generation plane has been spoken for, to be delivered in the spring of 2009 to Switzerland's Zimex Aviation Ltd., which specializes in flying in North Africa and the Middle East. After that, seven or eight Twin Otters will be built in the rest of 2009, followed by a dozen in 2010 and 18 planes in 2011.

Viking is zeroing in on a niche market for versatile small planes - too small to catch the fancy of Montreal-based Bombardier Inc., Boeing Co. of Chicago and European-based Airbus SAS, which devote their energy to building large jets that sell for at least $50-million each.

Boeing shut down Twin Otter production in 1988, just two years after buying de Havilland from the Canadian government. In 1992, Bombardier bought de Havilland from Boeing, inheriting the "type certificates" for the Twin Otter and other de Havilland planes such as the iconic Beaver.

Those certificates - which clear the way for the manufacture and sale of planes - would still likely be gathering dust at Bombardier were it not for Toronto-based Westerkirk's decision in 2003 to buy Viking, a long-time supplier of spare parts for de Havilland planes.

Mr. Curtis and Westerkirk president James Lawson patiently negotiated with Bombardier, and in 2006, Viking acquired the certificates.

"My ego tells me that Bombardier missed an opportunity, but the reality is that the Twin Otter was too small a market for them," Mr. Curtis said.

In India, where the original Twin Otter isn't even flown because of restrictions on importing planes older than 15 years, Viking is fielding unexpected inquiries. Mr. Curtis met recently with aviation officials in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai, and he's optimistic of orders from India. But first, India must set rules for seaplanes - the Twin Otter can be fitted with floats, wheels or even skis.

While it could be another five or 10 years away, Mr. Curtis envisages India as a potential site for a second assembly site, to complement the Canadian manufacturing operations.

He acknowledges the challenges of cracking the Indian market, but figures that if either a substantial portion of components come from India's aerospace sector or if final assembly is located on the subcontinent, then Viking stands a better chance of winning government approval for Indian airlines to place orders.

By contrast, he doesn't hold out much hope for sales in China, since the Chinese already produce a competing plane, the Harbin Y-12.

The Twin Otter, however, is the favourite for many buyers because of the plane's impressive production run at de Havilland and because so many are still workhorses.

The Otter in action

The Twin Otter was first built in Toronto from 1965 at the Downsview plant formerly owned by de Havilland Inc.
Production of the now-famous bush plane stopped in 1988. The Twin Otter is enjoying an international revival as foreign carriers seek a durable aircraft capable of taking off and landing on short runways or water.
The planes can handle extreme climates, from jungles to deserts to icecaps.
Two engines make the Twin Otter a reliable and strong aircraft in remote areas.
Four Twin Otters see regular duty in the Antarctic. Nearly 600 of the planes are still operating around the world, out of 844 originally manufactured.
More than 525 Twin Otters are flying in foreign skies today, with only a minority of the planes still in Canada.


Capacity: 19-20 passengers, two crew
Price: $3.5-million to $4-million
Flying speeds: 80 to 160 knots
Range: 1,815 kilometres
Landing gear: Can be fitted with wheels, skis or floats
Wing span: 19.8 metres
Length: 15.77 metres

Sources: Brent Jang, Viking Air

They also own the Buf, Caribou, DHC7 and that all time favourite of the reservists, the single otter on floats.  Downsview direct Winnipeg in 18hours and 45 minutes: and thats with a tail wind.  So you can take your pick as to which iconic Canadian aircraft is best suited for the job.  And for those of you who really go back a long time, there is a corporation in the states that have started manufacturing Alberts.  Which leads to the question: do you need a new aircraft model or just new models of your current aircraft.  Is there an aircraft for northern support that can do the job better than the old ones. 
Jokes aside YZT580, your last sentence states "is there an aircraft for northern support". That's a loaded statement as it could mean to overfly the north and go back south. Or it could mean the capability to land on airstrips or roads. but there is a lot of area that just rough land, water and ice. The various aircraft, Hercs, Q series, C-27J, Buffalos can't go everywhere. Then there is a need for the Twin Otter which does a job but does not do the jobs the other aircraft are capable of. The Air force would be poorly served having fewer kinds of aircraft to do more. There is a need for different aircraft to do different jobs.

Canadian firm says in deal for Vietnam navy aircraft
(AFP) – 9 hours ago
HANOI — A Canadian company says it has become the first Western firm to build fixed-wing aircraft for the military in communist Vietnam, which is seeking to upgrade its maritime defences.
Viking Air of Victoria, British Columbia, said it has finalised with the Vietnamese navy a purchase agreement for six amphibious DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 400 aircraft, in a statement obtained by AFP on Wednesday.
It said the deal would give the navy its first fleet of fixed-wing aircraft, some of which are designed specifically for marine patrol.
Each aircraft is priced at more than five million Canadian dollars (around five million US) but a Viking spokeswoman told AFP the total value of the deal, which includes flight training and other components, was yet to be determined.
The planes are scheduled for delivery from 2012 to 2014.
Vietnam late last month approved an 8.5-billion-dollar economic and defence development plan for a string of islands along its resource-rich coastline, as a broader maritime sovereignty dispute simmers with China.
In December Vietnam and Russia -- a longtime supplier of military equipment to Hanoi -- signed a major arms deal reported to involve the purchase of six submarines.
Analysts said the deal aims to bolster claims against China over potentially resource-rich islands in the South China Sea.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung confirmed only that the Russian deal included submarines along with aircraft and "military equipment".
Russian media have reported that the aircraft order involved 12 Sukhoi Su-30MK2 warplanes. They are among the world's most advanced and could provide air cover for the surface fleet, analysts said.
Canada's de Havilland aircraft company began producing Twin Otters in the 1960s. They gained favour with commuter airlines but had their roots in de Havilland's legendary Beaver bush planes.
Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

Just curious on if relations between Hanoi and Washington are still thawing or not?
Peru buys 12 Canadian-made Twin Otter planes
16 June 2011
Canada’s iconic Twin Otter is heading for the Peruvian Amazon.

Viking Air Ltd., which has revived production of the turboprop, will announce a $65-million (U.S.) contract at next week’s Paris Air Show to sell 12 Twin Otters to the government of Peru. For Viking, it marks the largest single order placed by a customer.

With landing gear that can be fitted with floats, skis or wheels, the Twin Otter attracted a loyal following worldwide after production began at de Havilland Inc.’s Downsview plant in Toronto in 1965. Production ceased in 1988, but Viking is breathing new life into the fabled Twin Otter.

“There are lots of great export opportunities for us,” said Viking Air chief executive officer David Curtis, whose company competes against Germany’s Ruag Dornier 228 and China’s Harbin Y-12. “We continue to be quite happy with the market acceptance of the product.”

Peruvian officials are preparing to take possession of their first modern Twin Otter later this month. The remaining 11 planes in the order placed by Peru’s Ministry of Defence will be gradually filled by the end of 2014.

“It’s a major milestone for our program – validates what we thought our market opportunities were going to be,” Mr. Curtis said. “We’re seeing some good commercial success.”

Pilots will be able to land the 19-seat plane on the floor of the Amazon jungle or on airstrips higher than 3,000 metres, Mr. Curtis said.

“They’re taking these planes into some pretty tough environments, perfectly suited for the Twin Otter,” he said in an interview from Victoria. “It’s an interesting contract for unique situations. It will be for remote villages in Peru and for humanitarian relief and drug patrols, but run almost like a scheduled airline.”

The order from Peru, aided by Canadian Commercial Credit Corp. in government-to-government negotiations, boosts Viking’s total backlog to more than 50 planes. Peru still has five original Twin Otters that were manufactured in Toronto. About 600 of the older turboprops remain in operation out of 844 built from 1965 to 1988.

In 2007, Victoria-based Viking began making prototypes of the new Series 400 Twin Otter, which sports a modern cockpit equipped with updated avionics, though it is still based on the basic structural design of the original twin-engine aircraft. Last year, Viking completed its first plane for delivery to Switzerland’s Zimex Aviation Ltd. (for duty in Uganda), and Transport Canada has now granted production approval for the new aircraft.

The second delivery went to Air Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, and other customers include Trans Maldivian Airways, the United Arab Emirates’ air force and the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights parachute team.

Preassembly for the new Twin Otter is done at Viking’s Victoria plant, which employs 350 people, and final assembly is in Calgary, which has 125 workers.

The production rate is forecast at 12 planes this year and 18 next year. Some of the components are from Ontario and Quebec, helping to push Canadian content in Twin Otter parts above 80 per cent.

“It is a pan-Canadian product,” Mr. Curtis said.

Viking is owned by Toronto-based Westerkirk Capital Inc., a private equity firm whose shareholders include the family of Sherry Brydson, niece of the late billionaire Ken Thomson.
Ex-Dragoon said:
Just curious on if relations between Hanoi and Washington are still thawing or not?

  Vietnam Airlines has Airbus and Boeing new aircraft in their fleet and both Washington and the Europeans were pleased to sell them to Vietnam.

What is the min landing distance for the C27J?  I know that Kimmirut airstrip is about 1200ft or so, which is one of the smallest I have ever landed on in the north (that was an actual airstrip anyways).  Not sure that there are many shorter than that.  Depending on the winds, even the Giant Yellow Canary of Death had a tough time as there is only one way in and out.  Grise Fiord is another beauty that I am not sure the Spartan could make.  Anyone have any experience with the Spartan to know if it can do ALL that is asked of the twin otter up north?
From what I've got handy, Kimmirut claims to be 1900' x 75' ...oh, and there's always a cross-wind  :eek:
My bad, been a few years since my twotter days!  Maybe I was thinking of Bull Moose!  Either way, I can remember days of landing there when it was rather sporty...

Point being, just wondering if anybody has any personal experience on the Spartan as to its STOL capabilities

Taken from wikipedia but accurate from my memory.

At 1,899 ft (579 m) the Kimmirut airstrip is the shortest in Nunavut. Formerly Arctic Bay Airport at 1,500 ft (457 m) was the shortest, but in 2010 the runway was extended to 3,935 ft (1,199 m).[1]
The Grise Fiord airstrip is just slightly longer than Kimmirut at 1,988 ft (606 m). The length of the runway and challenging terrain at both Kimmirut and Grise Fiord limit the type of aircraft that can service those communities. Currently, both are served by airlines operating Twin Otter aircraft.

AFAIK, the Arctic utility replacement aircraft program has been shelved.  C27J is a contender for FWSAR and never really considered to replace the Twotter up north.  Besides, with the new hooks coming online, they will most probably be tasked with those smaller arctic hamlets to support the Rangers.  Pretty sure the hook is almost as fast (or faster) than the Twotter.
Have to ask G2G - are slagging the Twin Otter with the name "Twotter"...sounds a bit like the English side of you coming out a bit  ;D.

MM, I've actually heard the term Twotter used most often as a term of affection.  They're great aircraft; just not particularly swift.  :nod:

A definite term of endearment  . . . .  as is "Twotter Jockey"  for a pilot of the famous "Dash 6" 

Wonderful airplane . . .