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  • Writer's pictureroy blewett

De Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou

DHC-4A A4-195 on display at the Australian Army Flying Museum at Oakey.

De Havilland Aircraft of Canada (DHC) was established in 1928 as the second of De Havilland's overseas subsidiaries, initially building D.H.60M Moth trainers. Production ramped up considerably with the onset of World War II, with the company ultimately building over 1,500 D.H.82 Tiger Moths and over 1,100 Mosquito bombers. Post-war requirements for a new breed of primary training aircraft led to DHC’s first design, the DHC-1 Chipmunk, of which 1,278 were produced (including 1,000 by the parent company at Hatfield and Hawarden). Two Short Take-off and Landing (STOL) types followed, the DHC-2 Beaver and DHC-3 Otter, developed primarily for the domestic bush market but both were ordered in large numbers by the United States Army. The experience gained from working with the American military and the licence production of 100 Grumman Trackers for the Royal Canadian Navy, encouraged DHC to begin developing a purpose-built military STOL transport aircraft. Named the DHC-4 Caribou, the United States Army ordered an evaluation batch of five in 1957 straight from the drawing board and, despite the pre-delivery loss of the first aircraft, a production order followed in 1960. The Army ultimately ordered a total of 164 Caribou and extensive sales tours resulted in DHC receiving sizeable orders from Australia (for 29), India (20), Malaysia (18) and Spain (12, later supplemented by 18 ex-United States Army aircraft). The last military user, the Royal Australian Air Force, retired its Caribou in 2010.

Viking Air owns the DHC-4 type certificate, while PEN Turbo continues to offer a turbine conversion programme and holds a large stock of airframes at its New Jersey base; the three Turbo Caribou survivors are all operated on US Federal Government contracts. Gogo Aviation, a company linked to Florida-owned Carlos Gomez, recently acquired five DHC-4s with the intention of returning two of them to the air. Perhaps oddly, there are no Caribou survivors in Canada.

First flight: 30 Jul 58 ( c/n 1, CF-TKT-X)

Production: 307, at Toronto-Downsview, ON

First delivery: 8 Oct 59, to US Army (c/ns 4, 5 and 6, 57-3080, 57-3079 and 57-3081 respectively)

Last delivery: 19 Mar 73, to Royal Malaysian Air Force (c/n 307, FM1117)

Variants: DHC-4 - prototype, evaluation and initial production version powered by 2 Pratt & Whitney R-2000-7M2 Twin Wasp radials, with accommodation for up to 32 troops (78 built, including 2 prototypes, and 61 evaluation and production aircraft for the US Army under designation YAC-1 and AC-1 respectively; surviving AC-1s were redesignated CV-2A in 1962, and C-7A in 1968 on transfer to the US Air Force);

DHC-4A - DHC-4 with increased gross weight (229 built, including 103 for the US Army, under the designation AC-1A, then CV-2B and C-7B).

Conversion: Turbo Caribou - DHC-4A re-engined with Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67T turboprops (1 completed at Gimli, MB - first flight 16 Nov 91 - and 4 at Cape May, NJ).

DHC Caribou survivors
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