The De Havilland Story

Thousands of De Havilland Canada (DHC) aircraft remain in active use around the world. These DHC aircraft are sought after for the hardest jobs in the toughest places. They never fail to live up to their reputation for versatility & dependability. After more than 75 years and some 3,500 aircraft later, De Havilland Canada stands proudly as a symbol of Canadian achievement.



On March 5, 1928 the De Havilland Company of England incorporated a subsidiary company in Canada. Over the coming years, this small upstart would become one of the most accomplished aircraft designers and manufacturers in Canadian history. The only aircraft manufacturer in Toronto at the time, DHC produced Moth aircraft for the Royal Canadian Air Force until they were called on to contribute to the war efforts in 1944.

The Chipmunk – an all-metal trainer developed for the Air Force – was the first all-Canadian design to come out of De Havilland Canada, and helped establish the young company as a leader in the North American aviation industry.


In the 1930’s, the introduction of the bush-plane played a major role in opening up the vast Canadian wilderness. But by the mid 1940’s, it became clear that a more durable design was needed. In response, DHC began work on what would become what many believe to be the best bush aircraft ever built: the DHC-2 Beaver.

After years of research and development, on a hazy afternoon in August 1947, chief test pilot Russ Bannock lifted off from Downsview airfield in the prototype Beaver and roared into the Ontario sky. On that day, a Canadian legend was born. With the success of the Beaver, De Havilland quickly earned recognition for designing some of the world’s best Short Take Off and Landing aircraft.

DHC aircraft soon caught the eye of the U.S. military, which in the years to come would become the company’s best customer.


In 1951, De Havilland rolled out the DHC-3 Otter. Slightly larger than the Beaver, it carried twice the payload and increased the range for operators in the Canadian North and other remote regions of the world.


1966 saw the introduction of the Twin Otter. Originally designed as a utility bush airplane for the Canadian North, it found its true niche with developing commuter airlines.

In all, more than 800 were built, and today the Twin Otter is regarded as one of Canada’s most successful commercial aircraft. In fact, the Twin Otter is the largest-selling 19-passenger commuter airplane in the world, and was instrumental in developing the regional airline industry as we know it today.


In 1973 De Havilland brought their Short Take Off and Landing design to the commuter airline market with the Dash 7 program. The Dash 7 proved useful for airlines operating out of smaller airports with challenging terrain