De Havilland Canada to build airline manufacturing plant east of Calgary

A row of De Havilland Dash-8 airplanes sit outside the Downsview plant in Toronto on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says a new airplane manufacturing plant is to be built near Calgary. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd. announced plans Wednesday to build a new aircraft manufacturing plant east of Calgary that could eventually employ up to 1,500 people.

The company said the facility, dubbed De Havilland Field, is to be located in Wheatland County between the communities of Chestermere and Strathmore. De Havilland said it has acquired about 600 hectares of land in the area.

It said construction could begin as early as next year, with its first buildings operational by 2025 — though the project’s full buildout could take years.

“This is a huge day for our company and for our customers past, present and future who rely on us to keep our airplanes flying,” CEO Brian Chafe said at a news conference in Calgary.

“De Havilland Field will be a full aerospace campus, from aircraft manufacturing, assembly, delivery, research and development, educational facilities and distribution.”

The plant is to be the site of final assembly for the DHC-515 Firefighter aircraft, DHC Twin Otter and the Dash 8-400 aircraft.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney called it a “banner day for Alberta’s economy, for diversification in this province, for manufacturing and most importantly for the aviation sector.”

He said aviation will be a major part of Alberta’s future.

“Today, that dream comes through in technicolor with De Havilland Field, a cutting edge, world-leading aerospace campus that over the years to come could employ up to 1,500 Albertans in high-paying jobs.”

Tanya Fir, the province’s minister of jobs, economy and innovation, added that it was a “huge win” for the province.

“We wanted to find ways to leverage Alberta’s strengths, like our available land close to logistical hubs and our young, skilled and motivated workforce, to find a path back to our position as Canada’s economic engine,” she said in a statement.

“De Havilland’s investment in Alberta, to help carry forward its aircraft into its second century of operations, proves that our plan is working.”

Amber Link, reeve of Wheatland County, said she couldn’t be more excited to have De Havilland make its permanent home in the rural area.

“Today is pivotal,” she said. “The decision to build De Havilland Field in Wheatland is revolutionary in the diversification of our economy. The employment opportunities being created are significant and will capitalize on the long-standing strong work ethic that built Wheatland County.

“That same work ethic that built Wheatland County and Alberta will now build legendary planes.”

Company co-owner Sherry Brydson said the full project will take a long time to complete and will depend on the growth trajectory of the business.

“De Havilland Field, like Rome — I have to warn you — won’t be built in a day,” she said. “We anticipate the full buildout will take somewhere between 10 and 15 years. We’re planning to take it slowly and seriously … and we’re going to make sure it works.”

Company co-owner Rob McDonald said De Havilland doesn’t need government handouts and aims to be self-sufficient.

“We need people to buy our planes. We don’t really need or want support from the government.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2022.

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian PressColette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

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