Adventure in the North

DHC-2 Beavers are still prominent on the horizons of Northern Ontario.

Opening Up The North To Anglers And Hunters Seeking Solitude

The success of Northern Ontario tourism is owed, in part, to the design and development of the DHC-2 de Havilland plane. The aircraft is a Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) plane that needs very little land, water, or snow to land on or take off from as compared to conventional aircraft. It can be fixed with wheels, skis, or floats allowing it to land almost anywhere in the remote northern landscapes.

Original Beaver Serial # 2. (Photo credit: Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre)

After World War II, de Havilland Canada (DHC) researched a new plane market. They polled many pilots including WW I "Ace" and highly decorated Canadian pilot, CH "Punch" Dickins (1899 – 1995). Compiling that input, DHC began to design and construct a rough, tough, hard-working, STOL, commercial "flying truck" which was affectionately and aptly named the "Beaver".

The prototype DHC-2 Beaver was tested in flight by Canadian WW II flying Ace Russell Bannock (1919 - 2020) in Downsview, Ontario in August of 1947. With a nodding approval, the very first production Beaver was delivered to the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests (presently Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests) in April of 1948.

Production soon increased when orders came in from the U.S. Army as our tough little Beaver found use in the Korea and Vietnam conflicts. The U.S. Military ordered over 960 units and designated the plane as the L-20A and U-6A.

Back in Canada, bush pilots endeared the large loading doors, powerful 450 horsepower Pratt and Whitney rotary engine, STOL capabilities on land, snow, or water, and a unique engine oiling system that could be serviced while in flight. Many pilots will tell you that the best thing about the Beaver is the refuelling port which is located under the wing of the plane offering shelter to pilots refuelling during inclement weather.

De Havilland Canada continued production of the DHC-2 Beaver until 1967. In all,1692 was built. Viking Air of British Columbia has acquired all original patents and now services and produces parts for the Beaver as well as new productions of the larger Otter series.

Self-professed "Plane Spotter" and aircraft historian, Neil Aird of Kingston, Ontario fell in love with the Beaver. He made it his personal mission to research and discover the whereabouts or fate of every DHC-2 ever built. "I have an extreme fondness for bush planes, aircraft that fly in the world's wild places, particularly in Canada's North," says Aird, "and I consider the Beaver plane as Canadian as the ubiquitous red or green canoe on a remote lake." Aird's website is devoted to the DHC-2 Beaver records finding 1,270 of them at present. "808 Beavers are still in active service, 35 are in museums and many are in storage," claims Aird.

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This de Havilland Beaver aircraft is owned and operated by Lauzon Aviation. (Photo credit: Dale Hainer)

At the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, the original first production Beaver plane has found its final stop. Bush plane staff explains that "the Department of Lands and Forests (currently Ontario MNRF) did make purchases of the first Beavers that were built and sold. Serial number 2, on display here, is the flagship of attention to visitors of the museum."

Every year, more than 28,000 people visit the museum in Sault Ste. Marie. With a modest admission fee, groups find hours of nostalgic entertainment. "Many of our aircraft are hands-on displayed and can be boarded," says staff. "Three theatres also offer visitors the ability to experience point of view flights over Ontario wilderness and an exceptional 3D experience in the wildfire theatre."

One noted event is the annual Bushplane Days Festival in September where patrons get to see actual forest fire-fighting water bombers and helicopters in action.

Celebrating The Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre

  • 2014 marked the 25th anniversary of the CBHC as well as the 90th anniversary of the Canadian air service

Watch: ShawTV produced a video here on the 25th anniversary of the CBHC

DHC-2 Beavers are still prominent on the horizons of Northern Ontario. Air Servers and Outfitters keep a keen eye for any sales of Beaver planes as a preferred carrier to remote locations. A good condition Beaver can fetch a current price of $300,000 -- $1.5 million dollars depending on replaced engine power. The tough little Canadian-designed Beaver opened up Ontario's north to many hunters and anglers seeking a solitary experience and continues to be a great part of that today.

Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre 
PH: (705) 945-6242

About Dale Hainer

Dale Hainer, born 1960 into a family of hunters, anglers, trappers and farmers, pursued a career with the Ontario Fire Service at age 19. Throughout his life, he maintained his roots to the land and shared his tales while being a professional outdoor writer, photographer and videographer. Retired at age 50 from the Service, he now spends countless hours creating more adventures to share with you. Member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada.

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