A Look Back-March/April 07
By Ray Canon
THE DE HAVILLAND OTTER AND TWIN OTTER
By Ray Canon
The photograph earlier this decade of an airport far from Canada was
remarkable for two reasons: first, a large beach in pristine condition
near the runway, and second the presence of two de Havilland Canada
Twin Otters in front of the passenger terminal and control tower, both
ready to take on passengers. The aircraft had been in passenger
transportation service for 41 years!
the Twin Otter was a big brother to the Otter that had gone into
service 10 years earlier, in 1951. It was the successor to the smaller
Beaver that had enjoyed a very high level of success as a rugged bush
plane. The appearance of the Otter showed that de Havilland knew what
it was doing when it came to producing such aircraft.
called the “King Beaver,” more than 450 examples were produced, of
which about a third went to the US military. This latter purchase is a
ringing endorsement of the Otter; the Americans like de Havilland
It was these two aircraft that made ‘STOL’ a
household word in both Canadian and foreign aviation circles. Realizing
that with the Beaver and Otter it had two successes on its hands, and
that it had gone about as far as it could go in the realm of
singleengined aircraft, de Havilland decided to turn its attention to a
twin-engined version of the Otter.
The Twin Otter had many of
the characteristics of its little brother but, due to its increased
size it had something new going for it. It could take as many as 20
passengers and thus many of the Twin Otters built went directly into
airline service, frequently providing flights into very remote and
difficult areas where only short runways were feasible.
Havilland officials hoped when the plane first entered service that the
Twin Otter might equal the production run of the Otter. They were more
than pleasantly surprised when production lasted for 22 years and the
total number produced, 844, was almost twice as many as the Otter. The
Americans who had been so impressed with the Otter also lined up to buy
its big brother.
Not only was it produced with a normal wheel
landing gear, it also flew with skis and floats as well as with what
were called ‘tundra wheels’ which could land and take off from bog-like
terrain. With its STOL qualities there were few places where the Twin
Otter would be unable to land. Each aircraft used reliable Pratt &
Whitney Canada engines.
Both the Otter and Twin Otter are still
in regular use and, when one comes on the market, the asking price is
somewhat higher than what it cost to buy a new one back in the 1960s.
With these aircraft, de Havilland’s reputation could be said to be
etched in stone.