de Havilland Canada‘s legacy lies in creating aircraft that are essentially Canadian – weatherproof, utilitarian and beautiful in a rugged way. Their planes are built to battle through Canada’s severe elements, but have also proven durable in all climates of the globe, essentially being Canada’s global ambassadors of the sky. de Havilland Canada has proven to the world that when you build aircraft to defeat Canada’s wilderness, you’ve created aircraft capable of defeating any spot on the globe. It rekindles the legends of the first pilots – adventurers, daredevils, fearless heroes – in anyone buzzing over land, water, sand and ice in de Havilland’s very Canadian wings.
In 1928, the company was built in the home of what is now the Toronto Aerospace Museum by the British de Havilland Company to produce training aircraft for Canadian pilots. Leading up to WWII, de Havilland Canada built DH.82 Tiger Moths and shipped them around the world. The plane, admired for its simple construction, gentle handling and nimble spirit, made it the primary basic trainer for the British Commonwealth. The Moth’s cockpit is where military pilots got their first taste of the skies before moving up to the warbirds and on to battle.
During the war, de Havilland built the DH.98 Mosquito. Lovingly nicknamed, the “Mossie”, the light bomber proved itself in missions thanks to its high maneuverability and blistering speed. The designers showed a deeper awareness for the people at home, building the airframe almost entirely out of plywood to help the effort to save metal during wartime.
In the years after the war, de Havilland Canada focused on designing and building aircraft that would stand up to Canada’s severe environment. This made them extremely appealing to other countries whose fledgling aircraft had trouble coping with the harsh conditions. Though the company closed in 1962, Viking Air Ltd. of Sidney, BC, purchased the rights to build new de Havillands. Here are two legends, still in-demand and forever-lasting:
First flown by WWII ace Russ Bannock on August 16, 1947, the Beaver is emblematic of the Canadian North and the heart and soul of bush flyers. “The Half Ton Flying Pick-Up Truck,” as it’s nicknamed, delivers heavy loads to desolate runways on wheels, floats, tundra wheels or skis. Production ended 40 years ago, but hundreds of these workhorses still fly in remote locations around the world. Even the man who flew the Millennium Falcon owns one – the real Indiana Jones, pilot Harrison Ford, has said that the Beaver is the favourite airplane he owns.
Rugged as the Beaver, the Otter is renowned for its short-take-off-and-landing capabilities, allowing it to land on only a 366-metre runway, operate in any climate (jungle, desert, mountains and anywhere else National Geographic has explored) and is the only aircraft capable of performing evacuations in the South Pole. Viking Air began building new Otters in 2008 after production stopped 20 years before. Pilots across the globe had found no other airplane suitable. Truly, the Twin Otter is back by popular demand.
Visit The Canadian Encyclopedia for more on de Havilland Canada.