Article first seen in Skies Magazine here.
Fifty years ago, de Havilland Canada (DHC) was the global leader in the design and production of STOL (short takeoff and landing) aircraft. Beginning with the DHC-2 Beaver in 1947 and following with the DHC-3 Otter, DHC-4 Caribou and DHC-5 Buffalo, the Toronto-based company had developed a family of ever-larger airplanes that could access isolated locations — with or without a runway.
Dawning of the Dash
By late 1968, DHC had built a cabin mock-up of a 50-seat, high wing four-engine turboprop airliner. Given its lineage, it was nicknamed “dash 7” — as in DHC-7.
In July 1970, after DHC’s British parent company expressed its disinterest in the aircraft, the Canadian government provided funding that advanced the project to the development stage. On Oct. 6, 1972, the federal government announced that two DHC-7 prototypes would be built and that a decision on production would be contingent on the type receiving full certification.
Earlier, Pratt & Whitney Canada had received federal funding to develop an engine specifically for the aircraft. The resulting PT6A-50 produced 1,120-shp and had a lower rpm gearbox that enabled large diameter (11’3″/3.42m) propellers to turn at a relatively slower speed. As a result, the aircraft had a lower noise footprint. It was hoped that this attribute, as well as its impressive short field performance, would make it an acceptable neighbour at urban locations.
On Oct. 1, 1973, the DHC-7 was officially named “Dash 7” and an aggressive marketing campaign began. On May 27, 1974, the Canadian government acquired DHC from Hawker Siddeley, and on Nov. 26 permission was granted for the production of 25 aircraft.