There were historic doings at Bombardier in Downsview on November 12, 2010, as staff and visitors gathered for a red letter event. This double-header included celebrating delivery of the 1000th Dash 8 (a Q400 going to United Express/Continental/Colgan) and the 400th Global Express (going to China).
Following Remembrance Day ceremonies on the 11th, Fred Hotson and I headed up to the Canadian Aerospace Museum at Downsview to attend a dinner honouring many of the old-time de Havilland Canada people who had helped the Dash 8 along during its bumpy formative years.
There were people from design engineering, test flight, marketing, etc., as well as several of today’s leaders at Bombardier in the high stakes Q400 and Global Express game.
Next morning we joined hundreds of guests and employees in one of the vast production bays at Downsview to formally honour two great airplanes and all those past and present who have been involved.
Following some presentations, we all enjoyed watching a Q200, Q400 and Global Express take off on a magnificent autumn day to do their individual fly-bys. Then it was back to work for the Bombardier people. But they’ll long be remembering this great day in Canadian aviation history.
The Dash 8 evolved as a natural offspring of the Dash 7. Both had begun “on thin ice”. The Dash 7 had been tentatively supported by Ottawa in an era when many were skeptical that Canada could succeed with such a sophisticated product, especially since the global economy was in a slump and the regional airline market in its infancy. Sales and marketing had a painful time getting commitments from the airlines, so the order book sat almost empty for ages. Meanwhile, millions were being gambled at DHC in design of the Dash 7 and at P&WC in developing a unique new power plant, the P&WC PT6A-50.
Unfortunately, only 113 Dash 7s were built and the whole concept of a modern 40/50-seat turboprop airliner was in doubt. In his book De Havilland in Canada, author Fred Hotson refers to this as “the most traumatic period in the history of de Havilland Canada”. Yet, from such troubled times would emerge one of the finest commuter airliners in aviation history. Things finally got rolling when DHC president John Sandford sided with his engineering and marketing people in pursuing an improved design, the Dash 8, to be paired with another new P&WC engine — the PW100. Ottawa went along and on April 19, 1983 the Dash 8 was rolled out at Downsview. Fred Hotson and I were there, having three days earlier delivered to John Sandford 3000 copies of The De Havilland Canada Story. A year earlier, John had given Fred the go-ahead to finish writing the book, and me the green light to publish it. To his great credit, John agreed to steer clear of the history-writing process, so Fred had a clear path to do his job. Sandford’s only words to me were to deliver the book in time for the Dash 8 rollout — or else.
Getting the Dash 8 built and the book finished both were touch-and-go, but we pulled it off. The beautiful Dash 8 came off the line on time, and The De Havilland Canada Story squeaked through. At a VIP event in the plant, a leather-bound copy of our book was presented to Prime Minister Trudeau and, as far as CANAV was concerned, a dream project was “in the bag”. Although Chapters/Indigo would tell you today, “We don’t think aviation books will sell”, in 1983 their far smarter predecessors at W.H. Smith and at Classic Books sold several thousand copies of Fred’s books.
In 1997 we attended other roll-outs at Downsview — the Global Express on August 26 and the Q400 on November 22. Airplanes that the pundits had panned years earlier, went on to bring honour and glory to DHC/Canadair, Bombardier and, perhaps above all, Canada.
If you still don’t have a copy of Fred Hotson’s latest version of the DHC book, De Havilland in Canada, here’s your chance to add this beauty to your aviation library … and please don’t tell me that you don’t have an aviation library! Learn all about this treasure of a book by clicking on CANAV’s booklist here or at canavbooks.com. Usually $45.00, you can get a copy on sale today at $25.00 + $10.00 shipping + tax $1.75 for (Canada only) $36.75. If you are overseas or in the USA, email firstname.lastname@example.org for a price (book + postage) to your part of the world. Pay by cheque, MO or PayPal (if the latter, let me know by email). You’ll congratulate yourself for landing a copy of this world-class book, even if it’s the first book you’ve ever paid for!
All the best … Larry Milberry, publisher