PNAA Conference: Bringing an out-of-production airplane back to life

Feb. 12, 2015: Boeing gets the headlines and the prospect of bringing back into production the 757, last delivered in 2005, has been a matter of some debate. Many point to the infeasibility or nearly so of bringing an out-of-production airplane back into production.

It’s been done. Viking Air of Canada purchased all the certificates and IP for the pre-Dash 8 Bombardier/de Havilland propeller airplanes, including among others the Twin Otter 19-passenger airplane.

David Curtis, president and CEO of Viking Air, explained the challenges of bringing the Otter back into production at today’s Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference in Lynnwood (WA).

Quotations are paraphrased.

  • This history of the de Havilland product is something everybody all over the globe talks about.
  • Viking holds seven de Havilland type designs from DHC-1 to DHC-7.
  • de Havilland niche is short, rugged take-off and landing.
  • “Maybe” will put Turbo Beaver back into production.
  • 3,500 hundred DHC plans built, of which over 1,000 Beavers and 844 Twin Otters.
  • Twin Otter launched at $500,000 in 1966. Operated for 50 years and sold for four or five times. This is why this was put back into production.
  • DHC-6-400 was certified in 1965. Last delivery 1984. Price was $1.2m, just sold for more than $3m. Had to look at new certification to today’s standards. We knew that if today’s standards were applied, it wouldn’t be a Twin Otter. Had to negotiate with Transport Canada, FAA and EASA for passenger safety improvements and new cockpit standards.
  • Boeing didn’t completely cut up 757 tooling as often reported but we had to almost completely reverse-engineer the tooling on the Twin Otter. Today we have laser trackers and laser jig alignment we can reshoot the jigs as needed. The airplanes coming off the production line are consistently built the same.
  • We’ve sold 110 airplanes, delivered 65 or 18 months.
  • Russia is a big opportunity for us. BRIC region alone 400 potential.

11 Comments on “PNAA Conference: Bringing an out-of-production airplane back to life

  1. The A320 versus 737 and 757 story is probably done no matter how many twists and turns are spun by Boeing or Airbus.

    IMHO, the fascinating stuff will be the A350-1000 versus the 777-X and the A330Neo/A350-900 combo versus versus the 787.

    • More of a restoration project than manufacturing. But the Mosquito was a gorgeous aircraft, on of the most beautiful WWII-era designs.

  2. The site only mentions OEM parts.
    But I found the announcement for a “Bell-47GT-6” with RR300 turboshaft engine elsewhere. Intriguing 😉

  3. What about the “restarting” of the Fokker 70/100
    and the upgrade Rekkof 120 ?
    ( not quite clear if Rekkof is mired or not )

      • Saw a ?recent? announcement of FF in 2015.
        They’d need some mostly finished metal in their hangar for that. Any show ?

  4. Error alert:
    “◾DHC-6-400 was certified in 1965. Last delivery 1984.”

    -400 is a Viking Air development, first deliveries in 2010.

    1965 was the first flight of the original -100, last delivery from deHavilland would have been a -300.

    Amazing success story, from makers of the very successful Beaver and the larger single Otter. The Twin Otter was legendary in the Arctic for its turbine reliability, but also saw much service in commuter airline operations due its size and simplicity. (being in the right place at the right time with a good product).

    The Otter needed more power, which decades later it received via a Polish radial engine, and various turbine conversions (as used by Harbour Air and Kenmore Air notably).
    The conversion to a Polish engine is a story of strategy gap, the one chosen turned out to be unreliable, so the modifier switched to another from Poland. That cost them momentum in the market place. (Piston engines being less costly, capital investment is a big barrier to small operators which most today are.)

    I have brain fade about the modifier in western Ontario, Thunder Bay does not seem right – I have talked to them occasionally in my days in aviation. They were doing ambulance interior conversions for S-76 helicopters, using the Okanagan Helicopters design I was involved with.

    (Ah, I found Airtech which is in the Toronto area. show the Polish engine, the Okanagan S-76 ambulance, and the aft wall of its interior.)

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