de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter

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DHC-6 Twin Otter
A Winair DHC-6 Twin Otter landing at St Barthelemy Gustaf III Airport.
Role Utility aircraft
Manufacturer de Havilland Canada
Viking Air
First flight 20 May 1965
Introduction 1966
Status In production[1]
Produced 1965–1988 (Series 100-300)
2008–present (Series 400)
Number built 900+
Unit cost
$7,000,000 USD[2]
Developed from de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter
Developed into de Havilland Canada Dash 7

The de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter is a Canadian 19-passenger STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) utility aircraft developed by de Havilland Canada and currently produced by Viking Air. The aircraft's fixed tricycle undercarriage, STOL abilities and high rate of climb have made it a successful cargo, regional passenger airliner and MEDEVAC aircraft. In addition, the Twin Otter has been popular with commercial skydiving operations, and is used by the United States Army Parachute Team and the United States Air Force's 98th Flying Training Squadron.

Design and development

Aerovías DAP DHC-6 Series 300 at Puerto Williams
A Twin Otter making a normal landing approach in Queensland.
First flight of the Series 400 technical demonstrator by Viking Air, October 1, 2008

Development of the aircraft began in 1964, with the first flight on May 20, 1965. A twin-engined replacement for the single-engined DHC-3 Otter retaining DHC's renowned STOL qualities, design features included double-slotted trailing edge flaps and ailerons that work in unison with the flaps to boost STOL performance. The availability of the 550 shp (410 kW) Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6A-20 propeller turboprop in the early 1960s made the concept of a twin more feasible. To bush operators, the improved reliability of turboprop power and the improved performance of a twin-engined configuration made it an immediately popular alternative to the piston-powered Otter which had been flying since 1951.

The first six aircraft produced were designated Series 1, indicating that they were prototype aircraft. The initial production run consisted of Series 100 aircraft, serial number seven to 115 inclusive. In 1968, Series 200 production began with serial number 116. Changes made at the beginning of Series 200 production included improving the STOL performance, adding a longer nose that was equipped with a larger baggage compartment (except for aircraft fitted with floats) and fitting a larger door to the rear baggage compartment. All Series 1, 100 and 200 aircraft and their variants (110, 210) were fitted with the 550 shaft-horsepower PT6A-20 engines.

In 1969, the Series 300 was introduced, beginning with serial number 231. Both aircraft performance and payload were improved by fitting more powerful PT6A-27 engines. This was a 680 hp (510 kW) engine that was flat-rated to 620 hp (460 kW) for use in the Series 300 Twin Otter. The Series 300 proved to be the most successful variant by far, with 614 Series 300 aircraft and their sub-variants (Series 310 for United Kingdom operators, Series 320 for Australian operators, etc.) sold before production in Toronto by de Havilland Canada ended in 1988.

New production

After Series 300 production ended, the remaining tooling was purchased by Viking Air of Victoria, British Columbia, who manufacture replacement parts for all of the out-of-production de Havilland Canada aircraft. On February 24, 2006, Viking purchased the type certificates from Bombardier Aerospace for all the out-of-production de Havilland DHC-1 through DHC-7 aircraft.[3] The ownership of the certificates gives Viking the exclusive right to manufacture new aircraft.

On July 17, 2006, at the Farnborough Air Show, Viking Air announced its intention to offer a Series 400 Twin Otter. On April 2, 2007, Viking announced that with 27 orders and options in hand, it was restarting production of the Twin Otter, equipped with a more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34 engine.[4] As of November 2007, 40 firm orders and 10 options had been taken and a new final assembly plant established in Calgary, Alberta.[5][6] Zimex Aviation of Switzerland received the first new production aircraft, serial number 845, in July 2010.[7][8] As of summer 2014, Viking has built 55 new aircraft at their Calgary facility. Serial number 900 took flight in spring 2014. The production rate as of summer 2014 was approximately 24 aircraft per year. In April 2015, Viking announced a reduction of the production rate to 18 aircraft per year.[9] On June 17, 2015 Viking further announced a partnership with a Chinese firm, Reignwood Aviation Group. The group will purchase 50 airplanes and become the exclusive representatives for new Series 400 Twin Otters in China.

Major changes introduced with the Series 400 include Honeywell Primus Apex fully integrated avionics, deletion of the AC electrical system, deletion of the beta backup system, modernization of the electrical and lighting system, and use of composites for non-load-bearing structures such as doors.[10]

Operational history

Maldivian DHC-6 Twin Otter water landing
de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter on Beechey Island at seamen's graves of John Franklin expedition (Nunavut, Canada) c. 1997. Note the tundra tires.
Twin Otter daily scheduled service between Glasgow (Scotland) and Barra Airport. Barra Airport's runway is in a sand beach.

Twin Otters could be delivered directly from the factory with floats, skis or tricycle landing gear fittings, making them adaptable bush planes for remote and northern areas including Canada and the United States, specifically Alaska. Many Twin Otters still serve in the far north, but they can also be found in Africa, Australia, Antarctica and other regions where bush planes are the optimum means of travel. Their versatility and maneuverability have made them popular in areas with difficult flying environments, including Papua New Guinea. In Norway, the Twin Otter paved the way for the network of short-field airports, connecting the rural areas with the larger towns with outstanding reliability, and remained in service until 2000 on certain routes. Widerøe of Norway was, at one time, the world's largest operator of Twin Otters. During one period of its tenure in Norway, the Twin Otter fleet achieved over 96,000 cycles (takeoff, flight and landing) per year.

A number of commuter airlines in the United States got their start by operating Twin Otters in scheduled passenger operations. Houston Metro Airlines (which later changed its name to Metro Airlines) constructed their own STOLport airstrip with a passenger terminal and maintenance hangar in Clear Lake City, Texas near the NASA Johnson Space Center. The Clear Lake City STOLport was specifically designed for Twin Otter operations. According to the February 1976 edition of the Official Airline Guide (OAG), Houston Metro operated 22 round-trip flights every weekday at this time between Clear Lake City (CLC) and Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH, now Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport) in a scheduled passenger airline shuttle operation.[11] Houston Metro had agreements in place for connecting passenger feed services with Continental Airlines and Eastern Airlines at Houston Intercontinental, with this major airport having a dedicated STOL landing area at the time specifically for Twin Otter flight operations. The Clear Lake City STOLport is no longer in existence.

The Walt Disney World resort in Florida was also served with scheduled airline flights operated with Twin Otter aircraft. The Walt Disney World Airport (WDS), also known as the Lake Buena Vista STOLport, was a private airfield constructed by the Walt Disney Company with Twin Otter operations in mind. In the early 1970s, Shawnee Airlines operated scheduled Twin Otter flights between the Disney resort and nearby Orlando Jetport (MCO, now Orlando International Airport) as well as to Tampa International Airport (TPA). This service by Shawnee Airlines is mentioned in the "Air Commuter Section" of the Sept, 6, 1972 Eastern Air Lines system timetable as a connecting service to and from Eastern flights.[12] This STOL airfield is no longer in use.

Another commuter airline in the U.S., Rocky Mountain Airways, operated Twin Otters from the Lake County Airport in Leadville, CO. At an elevation of 9,927 feet above mean sea level, this airport is the highest airfield in the U.S. ever to have received scheduled passenger airline service, thus demonstrating the wide ranging flight capabilities exhibited by the Twin Otter. Rocky Mountain Airways went on to become the worldwide launch customer for the larger, four-engined de Havilland Canada DHC-7 Dash 7 STOL turboprop but continued to operate the Twin Otter as well.

Larger airlines in the U.S. and Canada also flew Twin Otters. Alaska Airlines, the original Frontier Airlines (1950-1986) and Wien Air Alaska as well as Canada's First Air were air carriers that flew Boeing 727 jetliners as well as earlier versions of the Boeing 737 jetliner at the time. All four airlines also operated Twin Otter aircraft. Ozark Air Lines was primarily a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 jetliner operator that also flew Twin Otters. South Pacific Island Airways flew Twin Otters as well as Boeing 707 jets. In addition, Pacific Western Airlines (PWA) and Transair, Canadian air carriers that operated Boeing 737s, both flew Twin Otter aircraft as well. Two other Canadian airlines that flew Twin Otters, Time Air and Norcanair, also operated Fokker F28 Fellowship passenger jets. Twin Otter aircraft operated by commuter or regional airlines and painted in the liveries of such air carriers as Continental Airlines, Eastern Airlines and British Airways have provided connecting feeder service for these respective major airlines in the past. In many cases, the excellent operating economics of the Twin Otter allowed airlines large and small to provide scheduled passenger flights to communities that most likely would otherwise never have received air service.

Twin Otters are also a staple of Antarctic transportation.[13] Four Twin Otters are employed by the British Antarctic Survey on research and supply flights, and several are employed by the United States Antarctic Program via contract with Kenn Borek Air. On April 24–25, 2001, two Twin Otters performed the only winter flight to Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station to perform a medical evacuation.[14][15][16][17]

The Argentine Air Force has used them in Antarctica[18] since the 1970s with at least one of them deployed the whole year at Marambio Base.[19] The Chilean Air Force has operated the type from 1980, usually having an example based at Presidente Frei Antarctic base of the South Shetland islands.

Air Greenland uses one of its Twin Otters for winter supply flights to the Summit Camp polar research station

As of August 2006, a total of 584 Twin Otter aircraft (all variants) remain in service worldwide. Major operators include: Libyan Arab Airlines (16), Maldivian Air Taxi (22), Trans Maldivian Airways (23), Kenn Borek Air (42)[20] and Scenic Airlines (11). Some 115 airlines operate smaller numbers of the aircraft including Yeti Airlines in Nepal, Malaysia Airlines which uses the Twin Otter exclusively for passenger and freight transportation to the Kelabit Highlands region in Sarawak, and in the United Kingdom the FlyBe franchise operator Loganair which uses the aircraft to service the island of Barra in the Hebrides islands. This daily scheduled service is unique as the aircraft lands on the beach and the schedule is partly influenced by the tide tables. Trials in Barra with heavier planes than the Twin Otter, like the Short Belfast, failed because they sunk in the sand. The Twin Otter is also used for landing at the world's shortest commercial runway on the Caribbean island of Saba, Netherlands Antilles.

Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources is also a long-time operator of the Twin Otter.

Transport Canada still owns three DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft, but they now see very limited flying time, as their role in coastal surveillance has been assumed by a fleet of DHC-8s.[citation needed]

The Twin Otter has been popular with commercial skydiving operations. It can carry up to 22 skydivers to over 13,500 ft[21] (a large load compared to most other aircraft in the industry); presently, the Twin Otter is used in skydiving operations in many countries. The United States Air Force operates three Twin Otters for the United States Air Force Academy's skydiving team.

On 26 April 2001, the first ever air rescue during polar winter from the South Pole occurred with a ski-equipped Twin Otter operated by Kenn Borek Air.[22][23][24]

On September 25, 2008, the Series 400 Technology Demonstrator achieved "power on" status in advance of an official rollout.[25][26] First flight of the Series 400 technical demonstrator, C-FDHT, took place October 1, 2008, at Victoria Airport.[27][28] Two days later, the aircraft departed Victoria for a ferry flight to Orlando, Florida, site of the 2008 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Conference and exhibition. The first new build Series 400 Twin Otter (SN 845) made its first flight on February 16, 2010, in Calgary, Alberta.[29] Transport Canada presented Viking Air Limited with an amended DHC-6 Type Certificate including the Series 400 on July 21, 2010.[6]


Air Seychelles de Havilland Canada DHC-300 Twin Otter on Bird Island, Seychelles.
DHC-6 Series 100 
Twin-engined STOL utility transport aircraft, powered by two 550 shp (432 kW) Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A20 turboprop engines.
DHC-6 Series 110 
Variant of the Series 100 built to conform to BCAR (British Civil Air Regulations).
DHC-6 Series 200 
Improved version.
DHC-6 Series 300 
Twin-engined STOL utility transport aircraft, powered by two 680 shp (715 ESHP) (462 kW) Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-27 turboprop engines.
DHC-6 Series 300M 
Multi-role military transport aircraft. Two of these were produced as "proof-of-concept" demonstrators. Both have since been reverted to Series 300 conformity.
DHC-6 Series 310 
Variant of the Series 300 built to conform to BCAR (British Civil Air Regulations).
DHC-6 Series 320 
Variant of the Series 300 built to conform to Australian Civil Air Regulations.
DHC-6 Series 300S 
Six demonstrator aircraft fitted with 11 seats, wing spoilers and an anti-skid braking system. All have since been reverted to Series 300 conformity.
Viking Air built Series 400 in 2010
DHC-6 Series 400 
First delivered in July 2010, powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34 engines, and available on standard landing gear, straight floats, amphibious floats, skis, wheel skis, or intermediate flotation landing gear.
Twin-engined STOL utility transport, search and rescue aircraft for the Canadian Forces. Based on the Series 300 aircraft.
Twin-engined STOL utility transport aircraft for the U.S. Army Alaska National Guard. Six built. It has been replaced by the C-23 Sherpa in US Army service.
Parachute training aircraft for the United States Air Force Academy. The United States Air Force Academy's 98th Flying Training Squadron maintains three[30] UV-18s in its inventory as freefall parachuting training aircraft,[31] and by the Academy Parachute Team, the Wings of Blue, for year-round parachuting operations. Based on the Series 300 aircraft.
United States Army designation for three Viking Air Series 400s delivered in 2013.[32]


The Twin Otter has been popular not only with bush operators as a replacement for the single-engine de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter but also with other civil and military customers, with over 890 aircraft built. Many commuter airlines in the U.S. got their start by flying the Twin Otter in scheduled passenger operations.

Notable accidents and incidents

  • On June 29, 1972, Air Wisconsin Flight 671, a DHC-6-100 with eight people on board collided in mid-air over Lake Winnebago near Appleton, Wisconsin, with North Central Airlines Flight 290, a Convair 580 carrying five people. Both aircraft crashed into the lake, killing all 13 people on board.[33]
  • On July 11, 1972, Norwegian Air Force DHC-6-100 67-056 crashed into a mountain on Grytøya, killing all 17 people on board. The pilot was later discovered to have been drunk.[citation needed]
  • December 21, 1972, an Air France DHC-6-300 crashed into the ocean en route from Guadeloupe to Princess Juliana International Airport, killing all 11 passengers on board along with both pilots.[citation needed]
  • On March 20, 1973, a DHC-6 operated by the Saudi government crashed into a mountain in Italy, killing all 18 people on board.
  • On January 18, 1978, a Frontier Airlines DHC-6-300 (N982FL) crashed during a training flight in Pueblo, Colorado killing all three crew members.[34]
  • On September 2, 1978, an Air West Airlines Twin Otter crash in Coal Harbour (Vancouver) killed 11 people, nine of the 11 passengers and both crew members.[35]
  • On July 31, 1981, Panamanian Air Force DHC-6-300 FAP-205 crashed during flight, killing all seven people on board including President Omar Torrijos (see Panamanian Air Force FAP-205 crash).[36]
  • On February 21, 1982, Pilgrim Airlines Flight 458, a DHC-6-300 operating a schedule 2 commuter passenger flight, made an emergency landing on the northwest branch of the Scituate Reservoir near Providence, Rhode Island, after a fire broke out on board. One passenger was killed, eight passengers had serious injuries.[37]
  • On March 11, 1982, Widerøe Flight 933 crashed into the Barents Sea near Gamvik, Norway killing all 15 people on board. Despite allegations of a mid-air collision with a military aircraft, a total of four official different investigations over 25 years all concluded the cause to be severe clear-air turbulence.[citation needed] The incident remains highly controversial in Norway.[citation needed]
  • On June 14, 1986, while on a search mission, a Canadian Armed Forces Twin Otter (Serial number cc13807), crashed in Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada, resulting in the deaths of the military crew of three and five civilian spotters of CASARA.[citation needed]
  • On June 18, 1986, Grand Canyon Airlines Flight 6, a DHC-6-300, collided with a Helitech Bell 206 helicopter, resulting in the death of all 20 people on board the DHC-6 and all five people on board the helicopter.[citation needed]
  • On October 28, 1989, Aloha Island Air Flight 1712 crashed into a mountain on approach to Hoolehua Airport at Molokai, Hawaii. The crash killed all 20 on board.[38]
  • On April 12, 1990, Widerøe Flight 839 crashed in the ocean outside Værøy, Norway due to wind, killing all five people on board. Værøy Airport was closed following the accident.[citation needed]
  • On February 14, 1991, Ecuadorian Air Force DHC-6-300 FAE447 crashed into a mountain, killing the pilot and all 21 passengers on board.[citation needed]
  • On April 22, 1992, a Perris Valley Aviation DHC-6-200 lost power at Perris Valley Airport in California, crashing from approximately 150 feet (46 m) coming to rest just next to the runway (near the end), killing 14 skydivers and two crew members on board; six skydivers survived.[39]
  • On 27 October 1993, Widerøe Flight 744, operated by a Twin Otter 300, crashed while approaching Namsos Airport, Høknesøra en route from Trondheim Airport, Værnes, killing the crew and four passengers. A total of 13 survived the crash.[citation needed]
  • On 10 January 1995, Merpati Nusantara Airlines Flight 6715, a Twin Otter 300, disappeared on a scheduled flight from Bima Airport to Satartacik Airport, Ruteng, Indonesia with the loss of 4 crew and 10 passengers. It appears to have crashed in the Molo Strait in bad weather.[40]
  • On November 30, 1996, an Aces DHC-6-300 crashed in the cerro el Barcino mountains 8 km. from Aeropuerto Enrique Olaya Herrera in Medellin, Colombia, resulting in the death of 15 people, two crew and thirteen passengers on the ground.[41]
  • On 28 September 1998, a TACV de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 (registered D4-CAX) carrying Carlos Veiga, then Prime Minister of Cape Verde, 18 other passengers and three crew members capt/instructor Socorro,first officer Elianne and third cockpit crew, crash-landed at Francisco Mendes Airport (serving Praia at that time) during a landing attempt in stormy weather, in which one bodyguard of the minister was killed. Four other people were injured and the aircraft was damaged beyond repair. Upon approach following the flight from Preguiça Airport, the aircraft had been hit by a gust of wind in an instant when the pilots intended to execute a left turn, and forced down.[citation needed]
  • On March 24, 2001, an Air Caraïbes DHC-6-300 crashed in the mountains near Gustaf III Airport on Saint Barthélemy in the French West Indies, resulting in the death of 17 passengers, two crew and one person on the ground.[42]
  • On July 29, 2006, a DHC-6-100 operating for Quantum Leap Skydiving Center, the Twin Otter (N203E) departed Sullivan Regional airport carrying seven skydivers. Immediately after takeoff from runway 06 the Twin Otter lost height and crashed just northwest of the airport. Six perished including the pilot.
  • On August 9, 2007, Air Moorea Flight 1121 crashed shortly after taking off from Moorea Temae Airport in French Polynesia; the plane was bound for Tahiti. All 20 occupants, including 19 passengers and one crew member, were killed.[43]
  • On May 6, 2007, French Air Force DHC-6-300 742/F-RACB in support of the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai Peninsula crashed, killing one Canadian and eight French peacekeepers.[44]
  • On October 8, 2008, Yeti Airlines Flight 103, a DHC-6-300, was destroyed on landing at Lukla in Nepal; 16 passengers and two crew died in the incident, only the pilot survived.[45]
  • On August 2, 2009, Merpati Nusantara Airlines Flight 9760 crashed in Indonesia about 22 kilometres (14 mi) north of Oksibil. All 16 people on board were killed.[46]
  • On August 11, 2009, Airlines PNG Flight 4684 crashed on a mountain whilst en route from Port Moresby to Kokoda in Papua New Guinea, killing all 13 on board.[47]
  • On December 15, 2010, a Tara Air DHC-6-310 crashed in the Bilandu Forest in Nepal. All 22 passengers and crew on board were killed.[48]
  • On January 20, 2011, a Twin Otter Crashed in Ecuador. Six military passengers died.[49]
  • On August 24, 2011, MASwings Flight 3516, a DHC-6 Twin Otter 310 (9M-MDM), operating from Miri to Lawas crashed 5 meters short off the river at the end of the Lawas Airport runway; however, all 18 persons on board the aircraft survived, with no serious injuries.
  • On September 22, 2011, an Arctic Sunwest Charters DHC-6-300 float plane crashed in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, clipping a condominium and crashing in the street killing two and injuring seven.[50]
  • On 23 January 2013, C-GKBC (c/n:650),[51] a Kenn Borek Air DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 skiplane went missing over the Queen Alexandra Range in Antarctica.[52] On board the plane were 3 Canadians. The plane had been en route from the South Pole to Terra Nova Bay.[53] Wreckage was found on Mount Elizabeth on the 25th, the crash was said to be unsurvivable.[54]
  • On 16 May 2013, Nepal Airlines Flight 555 from Pokhara (PKR) to Jomsom (JMO) veered left off of the runway after touching down at Jomsom and went down the slope to the Kaligandaki river. The aircraft stopped at the bank of the river, with the left wing in the water. Three crew and four passengers received serious injuries, and 15 passengers received minor or no injuries. The aircraft was damaged beyond repair.[55]
  • On 10 October 2013, MASwings Flight 3002, a DHC-6-310 (9M-MDM), crashed on landing at Kudat Airport; killing two of 16 on board.[56][citation needed]
  • On 16 February 2014, Nepal Airlines Twin Otter (9N-ABB) crashed at Dhikura of Arghakhachi on the way to Jumla from Pokhara killing 18 people including crew.[57]
  • On 20 September 2014, Hevilift Twin Otter (P2-KSF) crashed on landing near Port Moresby, New Guinea. Of the nine people on board, four were killed (including both crew) and five were injured.[58]
  • On 2 July 2015, Trans Maldivian Airways Twin Otter Floatplane (8Q-MAN) carrying 11 tourists crashed landed in the water near Kuredhu Island Resort in north central Maldives at 5:30pm, The crash landing occurred just a couple of miles off of the Hotel, 11 passengers and three members of crew survived unharmed[59]


Orthographically projected diagram of the de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter.


DHC-6 Series 100 DHC-6 Series 300 DHC-6 Series 400
Flight deck crew 1-2
Seating 19 20 19
Length 51 ft 9 in (15.77 m)
Wingspan 65 ft 0 in (19.8 m)
Wing area 420 sq ft (39 m2)
Empty weight 5,850l lb
(2,653 kg)
7,415l lb
(3,363 kg)
6,881 lb
(3,121 kg)
Height 19 ft 4 in (5.9 m) 19 ft 6 in (5.94 m)
Maximum takeoff weight
11,566 lb
(5,246 kg)
12,500 lb
(5,670 kg)
Maximum landing weight 11,566 lb
(5,246 kg)
12,300 lb
(5,579 kg)
Maximum speed 160 knots (297 km/h at cruise altitude) 170 knots (314 km/h at cruise altitude)
Cruise speed 150 knots (278 km/h at cruise altitude)
Stall speed 58 knots (107 km/h at cruise altitude) (landing configuration)[not in citation given]
Range (Max fuel, no payload) 771 nmi (1,427 km) 775 nmi (1,434 km) 799 nmi (1480 km)
989 nmi (1832 km) with long range tankage
Maximum fuel capacity 382 US gal (1,447 L) 375 US gal (1421 L) 378 US gal (1466 L)
478 US gal (1811 L) with long range tankage
Service ceiling 25,000 ft (7,620 m)
Powerplants (×2) Pratt & Whitney PT6A-20 Pratt & Whitney PT6A-27 Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34
Rate of climb 1,600 ft/min (8.1 m/s)
Power/mass 0.12 hp/lb (0.20 kW/kg)

See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


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External links