'Brilliant move': De Havilland acquires manufacturing assets, expanding footprint in Calgary

De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd. announced Thursday it had bought the assets and business of Field Aviation’s Calgary manufacturing division

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Aircraft giant De Havilland has bought an aircraft parts company’s Calgary manufacturing division, adding to its Western Canada expansion that officially began two years ago.

De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd. announced Thursday it had acquired the assets and business of Field Aviation’s Calgary manufacturing division. The terms of the sale were not publicly disclosed.

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A Calgary aviation consultant says the acquisition reinforces De Havilland’s plans to become a major player in the Alberta economy, calling the move “brilliant.”

The sale adds to De Havilland’s expansion in Calgary, which began in 2022 when it moved its head office to the city, outlining plans to build its new wildfire-fighting aircraft on 1,500 acres of land in Wheatland County, about 15 kilometres west of Strathmore. De Havilland spokesman Neil Sweeney said the company will welcome just over 100 of Field’s staff, mostly parts manufacturers.

It’s also acquiring one “relatively large facility” in Calgary, Sweeney said.

“They are a highly skilled group of folks and we couldn’t be happier they are coming in.”

European countries have ordered 24 DHL-515 firefighter planes from the manufacturer. The company said last summer that several countries have called about potentially ordering retrofitted aircraft or new 515s.

“We do know that there’s a significant demand globally for the aircraft. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Europe or North America, there’s a huge demand,” Sweeney said in an August 2023 interview with Postmedia. The Calgary manufacturing complex would also assemble the DHC-6 Twin Otter and Dash 8-400 aircraft.

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DHL complex east of Calgary

Brian Chafe, CEO of De Havilland Canada, said in a news release the acquisition will improve its in-house supply chain.

Field and De Havilland have a working relationship that precedes the acquisition, De Havilland said in a news release. Field currently manufactures parts for De Havilland Canada and several other aerospace manufacturers, but didn’t specify which companies it works with.

Field Aviation said the sale would allow it to focus on its aircraft modification business, adding it will continue operating its aircraft modification facility in Toronto. The company has extensive experience adapting several versions of De Havilland’s popular Dash-8 aircraft.

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Field’s modifications include luxuriating the DHL Dash-8 Series 300 aircraft with custom interiors. It has also worked with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to increase surveillance capabilities on its Dash-8 planes.

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“Field is committed to providing the highest quality aircraft modification solutions to our customers, and we believe that by focusing on our core business, we will be better able to achieve that goal,” said Brian Love, president of Field Aviation.

‘Brilliant move’

By moving more of its operations under the De Havilland umbrella, the manufacturer is reinforcing the fact that it’s going to be a “significant player in the Alberta economy,” said Rick Erickson, a Calgary-based aviation consultant.

“It’s a really brilliant move on their part,” he said.

Single companies cannot manufacture all their parts, he said, and absorbing Field Aviation’s Calgary wing will give De Havilland “more authority” over its processes.

Sweeney said the acquisition will help the manufacturer stabilize its supply chains, which have frequently been in upheaval over the past several years.

“The more ability that we have to produce for customers in-house, the less risk there is in terms of delays or suppliers not being able to deliver parts we need.”

— With files from Chris Varcoe, Postmedia

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