DHC-5 Buffalo
A CC-115 Buffalo of 442 Transport & Rescue Squadron at Rockcliffe Airport in Ottawa, 2004
Role Utility aircraft
Manufacturer de Havilland Canada
First flight 9 April 1964
Introduction 1965
Status In limited use
Primary user Royal Canadian Air Force
Produced 1965–1972, 1974–1986
Number built 122
Developed from De Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou

The de Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalo is a short takeoff and landing (STOL) utility transport turboprop aircraft developed from the earlier piston-powered DHC-4 Caribou. The aircraft has extraordinary STOL performance and is able to take off in distances much shorter than even most light aircraft can manage.

Design and development

The Buffalo arose from a 1962 United States Army requirement for a STOL transport capable of carrying the same payload as the CH-47A Chinook helicopter.[1] De Havilland Canada based its design to meet the requirement on an enlarged version of its DHC-4 Caribou, already in large-scale service with the United States Army, to be powered by General Electric T64 turboprops rather than the Pratt & Whitney R-2000 piston engines of the Caribou. (It had already flown a T64-powered Caribou on 22 September 1961).[1]

An Egyptian Air Force DHC-5D

De Havilland's design, the DHC-5 Buffalo, was chosen as the winner of the United States Army competition in early 1963, with four DHC-5s, designated YAC-2 (later CV-7A and subsequently C-8A) ordered.[2] The first of these aircraft made its maiden flight on 9 April 1964.[3] All four aircraft were delivered in 1965, the Buffalo carrying nearly twice the payload as the Caribou while having better STOL performance. The prototype CV-7A was exhibited by the manufacturer at the 1965 Paris Air Show wearing US Army markings. No further US orders followed, however, as at the start of 1967 (See the Johnson-McConnell agreement of 1966), inter-service politics led to large fixed-wing transports being transferred to the United States Air Force,[2] who considered themselves adequately equipped with the Fairchild C-123 Provider.

Company data claims a takeoff distance over a 50 ft (15 m) obstacle of 1,210 ft (369 m) at 41,000 lb (18,597 kg) and a landing distance of over a 50 ft (15 m) obstacle of 980 ft (299 m) at 39,100 lb (17,735 kg) for the DHC-5A model.[4]

In the early 1980s, de Havilland Canada attempted to modify the Buffalo for civilian use. The aircraft was to be branded as the "Transporter." After loss of the demonstration aircraft (SN 103 C-GCTC) at the 1984 Farnborough Airshow,[5] the project was abandoned.

A production DHC-5D Buffalo was used for breaking time-to-height records for the weight category 12,000–16,000 kilograms (26,000–35,000 lb) on 16 February 1976, reaching 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) in 2 min 12.75 sec, 6,000 metres (20,000 ft) in 4 min 27.5 sec and 9,000 metres (30,000 ft) in 8 min 3.5 sec.[6]

New production

On 24 February 2006, Viking Air of Victoria, British Columbia, a manufacturer of replacement parts for all out-of-production de Havilland Canada aircraft, purchased the type certificates from Bombardier Aerospace for all versions of the DHC-1 through DHC-7 series aircraft, giving Viking exclusive rights to manufacture and sell new aircraft of those types. In December 2008, Viking Air indicated their intention to put the Buffalo series back into production at their home factory in Victoria, British Columbia or in Calgary, Alberta. A potential new production Buffalo would have had Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150 turboprops, a glass cockpit, enhanced vision and night vision goggle capability. The aircraft was proposed as a replacement for the Royal Canadian Air Force fleet of existing DHC-5As but was not one of the three aircraft in the final assessment, in 2016, which selected the EADS CASA C-295.[7][8] Several letters of intent for the DHC-5NG were received in 2014.[9]

Operational history

United States Army CV-7A at Bien Hoa Air Base, Vietnam, November 1965

In late 1965, one of the prototype DHC-5s operated by the U.S. Army was deployed to Bien Hoa Air Base in South Vietnam for a three-month evaluation period, assigned to the 2nd Flight Platoon of the 92nd Aviation Company.[10]

The Royal Canadian Air Force first acquired 15 DHC-5A designated as CC-115 for tactical transports. These were initially operated at CFB St Hubert, QC by No. 429 Squadron in a tactical aviation role as part of Mobile Command. In 1970, the Buffalo aircraft were transferred to a transport and rescue role with No. 442 Squadron, No. 413 Squadron and No. 424 Squadron as part of Transport Command. No. 426 Squadron also flew the aircraft for training. Some were leased back or loaned back to the factory for trials and eventually returned to military service.

Three of the aircraft were also deployed on UN missions to the Middle East with No. 116 Transport Unit until 1979. They had a white paint scheme which was retained while they were serving in domestic transport with 424 Sqn in between deployments. On 9 August 1974, Canadian Forces CC-115 Buffalo 115461 was shot down by a Syrian surface-to-air missile, killing all nine CF personnel on board. This represents the single biggest loss of Canadian lives on a UN mission as well as the most recent Canadian military aircraft to be shot down.

Production of the DHC-5A ended in 1972 after sales to Brazil and Peru but restarted with the DHC-5D model in 1974. This variant sold to several overseas air forces beginning with Egypt. Production of the DHC-5D ended in December 1986.[11]

In 1975, the Buffalo dropped its tactical transport role and was converted to domestic search and rescue, except for a few that kept serving on UN missions. The initial paint scheme for the SAR converted aircraft were white and red while others still had the original drab paint. The previous drab paint and white paint were eventually replaced with the distinctive yellow and red scheme commonly seen today. The number of aircraft have been reduced to eight, with six on active service, one in storage (recently dismantled) and one used for battle damage training. The remaining operational Buffalos operate in the Search and Rescue role for No. 442 Squadron at CFB Comox. Air Command was renamed the Royal Canadian Air Force in 2011, meaning the CC-115 has served with the RCAF, Air Command and now the RCAF once again. The Buffalo was replaced by the CC-130 Hercules aircraft at search-and-rescue bases in CFB Greenwood and CFB Trenton. As early as 2002, Canada has tried to replace both the Buffalo fleet and the SAR Hercules fleet with a newer aircraft.[12] For some time, the Alenia C-27J Spartan was seen as the likely replacement, with the government considering sole-sourcing the new aircraft.[13] However, after changes in Canada's defence budget as well as accusations of bias from the aerospace industry,[citation needed] the Buffalo replacement program was relaunched as an open competition. After review from the National Research Council, the Department of National Defence as well as consultation with the Canadian aerospace industry, a request for proposal was published in 2015.[14] Bidders included Alenia offering the C-27J Spartan, Airbus Defence and Space with its C-295 and Embraer with its KC-390. In 2016, the Department of National Defence awarded Airbus a contract for 16 C-295s with delivery scheduled to begin in 2019 and running through 2022.[12]

On 15 January 2022, the RCAF officially retired the final two operational CC-115s.[15] A retired but operational aircraft is found at Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa.[16]

Demonstrators for new technologies

The Buffalo was a suitable airframe for converting to demonstrate some new technologies.

The Boeing/NASA Augmented Wing Jet-flap STOL Research Aircraft in flight

Augmented Wing Jet-flap STOL Research Aircraft

A cooperative NASA/Canadian Government research program on augmentor wing concepts started in 1965 and culminated in the need for a proof-of-concept aircraft. A NASA C-8A Buffalo (later named Bisontennial in 1976) was modified in 1972 for augmentor-wing jet STOL research. The modifications were done by Boeing, de Havilland Canada and Rolls-Royce of Canada Ltd. The wing had a reduced span to give a wing loading representative of future aircraft. It also had full-span leading edge slats, blown ailerons and double-surface flaps enclosing a venturi-shaped passage. The usual turboprop engines were replaced with Rolls-Royce Spey 801 SF (Split Flow) bypass engines with a new bypass duct which separated the hot and cold flows to provide both propulsion and augmentor airflow to the powered lift system. [17][18][19][20] The hot flow was directed through Pegasus-engine swivelling nozzles to ensure it deflected with the flap downwash. The cold flow was directed into the flap venturi and entrained extra airflow.[21] Beginning in 1972 with its first flight in this experimental configuration, this aircraft was used jointly by the NASA Ames Research Center and the Canadian Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce for STOL research.[19][22]

Quiet Short-Haul Research Aircraft

The NASA-Boeing Quiet Short-Haul Research Aircraft

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, NASA used another C-8A Buffalo in the Quiet Short-Haul Research Aircraft program.[17][18][23]: 153 [24][25][26]

Boeing designed and installed an experimental swept, supercritical wing incorporating a boundary layer control system.[24][25]: 8  Instead of the standard engines, this aircraft was powered by four prototype Avco Lycoming YF102 high-bypass turbofan engines (originally from the Northrop YA-9 program) mounted above the wing to take advantage of the Coandă effect.[25]: 9–10  In 1980, this aircraft participated in carrier trials aboard USS Kitty Hawk, demonstrating STOL performance without the use of catapults or arrestor gear.[18][23]: 154 

The aircraft is currently stored at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.[27]

Air Cushion Landing System Aircraft

After demonstrations by Bell aircraft using a Lake LA-4 light amphibian with Air Cushion Landing Gear the development of this type of gear was pursued in a joint effort between the USAF and the Canadian Government by retrofitting a similar system to a medium cargo transport, a Buffalo.[28] The air supply to the cushion was provided by an air supply package consisting of a PT6F-70 and two-stage axial flow fan under each wing. The aircraft also had underwing combination floats/skids.[29][30]


A CC-115 Buffalo of 442 Transport & Rescue Squadron
The Quiet Short-Haul Research Aircraft (NASA 715) and C-8A Augmented Wing Jet-flap STOL Research Aircraft (NASA 716) on the maiden flight to Ames from Seattle, Washington after conversion.
DHC-5 Buffalo
Originally designed as a twin-engined STOL tactical, utility transport aircraft for the US Army. Original US Army designation AC-2.
Utility transport aircraft for the Brazilian Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force and Peruvian Air Force. Canadian designation CC-115.
Proposed version, powered by two General-Electric CT64-P4C turboprop engines. Not built.
Proposed version, powered by two Rolls-Royce Dart RDa.12 turboprop engines. Not built.
Improved version, powered by two 2,336 kW (3,133 shp) General Electric CT64-820-4 turboprop engines.
DHC-5E Transporter
Civil transport version.
One C-8A aircraft converted into an augmentor wing research aircraft.
One C-8A aircraft converted into an air-cushion landing system research aircraft.
NASA / Boeing QSRA C-8A
One C-8A converted into a quiet short-haul research aircraft.
Viking DHC-5NG Buffalo NG
Proposed redesigned new production version to be built by Viking Air. NG is the company marketing term indicating Next Generation[31][32]

Canadian military designations

Canadian military designation for 15 DHC-5As.
The prototype Buffalo exhibited at the 1965 Paris Air Show as a US Army CV-7A

United States military designations

Designation for four DHC-5s for evaluation by the United States Army.
Redesignation of four United States Army AC-2s.
United States Air Force designation for four CV-7As transferred from the Army in 1967.






C-115 Buffalo of the Brazilian Air Force at Rio de Janeiro's Galeao Airport in 1972
A Buffalo in the colours of the Force Aérienne Zairoise in 1975

This is a list of former military operators. The last six RCAF Buffalos served with No. 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron based in Comox, BC, until the type was finally retired in 2022 after 55 years of service.[36]

 Abu Dhabi /  United Arab Emirates
 Democratic Republic of the Congo (previously  Zaire)
Indonesian Navy De Havilland Canada DHC-5D
A Mexican Navy DHC-5 at Belize International Airport
 United States

Accidents and incidents

In total, 26 accidents involving hull losses have been recorded.

Specifications (DHC-5D)

Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1982–83[47]

General characteristics


See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists



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  2. ^ a b Harding 1990, p. 104.
  3. ^ Air International August 1976, p. 70.
  4. ^ de Havilland Canada: DHC-5A Buffalo STOL Tactical Transport, page 6. de Havilland Canada, May 1971
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