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Viking Air parent scoops up Dash 8 program for $300M

The parent company of North Saanich-based Viking Air has struck a $300 million deal with Bombardier to acquire its Dash 8 aircraft business, a deal which will make Longview Aviation Capital Corp.
Air Canada Express Dash 8 Q400
Air Canada Express Dash 8 Q400 takes off from Toronto's Pearson Airport.

The parent company of North Saanich-based Viking Air has struck a $300 million deal with Bombardier to acquire its Dash 8 aircraft business, a deal which will make Longview Aviation Capital Corp. North America’s largest commercial turbo-prop aircraft manufacturer.

The Canadian company has been rapidly expanding in recent years, acquiring assets as Bombardier restructures and slashes jobs.

Longview will take over de Havilland’s Dash 8 program including the 100, 200 and 300 series aircrafts and the Q400, which is currently in production.

Longview will also assume responsibility for support and maintenance of more than 1,000 aircraft either currently in service or slated for production. The company will also get the rights to the de Havilland name and trademark.

David Curtis, CEO of Longview Aviation, noted de Havilland is an iconic aviation manufacturer that’s been operating in Canada since 1928.

“They’ve designed all the great Canadian animals you see flying in and out of Victoria Harbour, the Beaver and the Otter,” Curtis said.

In 2006, Viking acquired the rights to manufacture seven de Havilland legacy aircraft including the Chipmunk, Beaver, Otter, Caribou, Buffalo, and Dash 7. Four years later, Viking began manufacturing a new generation of rugged Twin Otters, planes built in facilities in North Saanich and Calgary and sold around the world.

“This is the last piece of the puzzle where we’ve bought the Dash 8, which is a big program,” Curtis said. “It's a big deal from that point of view, that we've now got all of these great Canadian airplanes from the little Chipmunk all the way up to the Dash 8.”

The Dash 8 Q400 is a commercial aircraft used by WestJet and Air Canada. They seat up to 90 people and are typically used for short flights, from Victoria to Calgary for example, Curtis said.

In 2016, Viking Air took over the rights for Bombardier's firefighting water bombers, which led to 100 new jobs at its manufacturing facility in North Saanich. Employees in North Saanich and Calgary are busy building three modernized SuperScooper waterbombers at $30 million each for a Montana-based aviation company.

The latest deal propels Longview’s status as a significant player in the Canadian aerospace industry. “We've been on a bit of a tear acquiring aviation assets,” Curtis said.

The deal comes as Bombardier announced the shedding of 5,000 jobs company-wide and the selling off of two units as part of CEO Alain Bellemare's five-year plan to rein in costs, focus on rail and business jets and reduce the net long-term debt of $9 billion.

About 2,500 Bombardier workers will be laid off in Quebec and 600 in Ontario, with the 2,000 other cuts overseas. This comes on the heels of mass layoffs over the past three years, with about 14,500 positions cut around the world in the aerospace and railway divisions.

As part of the deal, Longview will welcome more than 1,000 Ontario-based employees associated with the production, support and sale of the Dash 8 aircraft. Longview will build the planes out of the original de Havilland manufacturing site in Downsview, Ont. The Downsview site was sold by Bombardier this year, but a lease agreement between Bombardier and the new owners ensure that production will remain on site until at least 2021, the company said in a statement.

Curtis said this will ensure there’s no interruption to the production, delivery and support of the aircraft.

The sale, which must go through closing conditions and regulatory approvals, is expected to close by the second half of 2019.

— With files from The Canadian Press