De Havilland to open massive aircraft manufacturing plant east of Calgary

Sep 25, 2022

Photo: Gavin Young, Postmedia

De Havilland Aircraft of Canada is planning to build a massive new airplane manufacturing plant east of Calgary, a facility that could bring up to 1,500 jobs to the region. Planning is underway for the complex, called De Havilland Field, which is set to be located in Wheatland County between Chestermere and Strathmore, about 30 minutes east of Calgary. The sprawling campus will feature a runway, aircraft assembly facilities, parts manufacturing and distribution centres and maintenance repair operations.

“De Havilland Field is critical to our success,” said De Havilland CEO Brian Chafe from one of the company’s facilities near the Calgary International Airport on Wednesday afternoon. “De Havilland Field will be a full aerospace campus: from aircraft manufacturing, assembly, delivery, research and development, educational facilities and distribution.”Chafe described the campus as the future anchor of De Havilland’s operations, supporting its ongoing business with its customer support centre in Toronto and its parts manufacturing facilities in Victoria.

The facility will be the site of the final assembly of the the company’s new DHC-515 Firefighter as well as the DHC-6 Twin Otter and Dash 8-400 aircraft after the company brings them back into production.

Several De Havilland officials poked fun at Premier Jason Kenney for accidentally pre-empting the announcement earlier in the day at a Toronto press conference, several hours before the company got the chance to do so itself. Kenney pinned the slip-up on his excitement for the future of aviation in Alberta.”Albertans have long known we need to put the pedal to the metal on diversification,” said Kenney. “That’s exactly what’s happening; that’s why we’re so excited about today’s announcement. I’m sorry for letting the cat out of the bag.”

Kenney said aviation has a strong future in the province, with this — alongside other potential investments from the industry that he teased — being a “game-changing” boost to Alberta’s economy. “When we had discussions at the bottom of the COVID trough in the spring, summer 2020 … I was maybe a little skeptical that Alberta could be become a North American hub for aviation,” said Kenney. “But we looked at all of the natural advantages the province has and it made sense to say ‘Aviation is going to be a big part of our future.’ Today that dream comes true in technicolour with De Havilland Field, a cutting-edge, world-leading aerospace on campus that over the years to come could employ up to 1,500 Albertans in high-paying jobs.”

 

Wheatland County Reeve Amber Link teared up as she thanked De Havilland officials for choosing the rural municipality for its new campus.

“I guess to put this in context, the population of Wheatland County has just under 9,000 people so the development of this scale is monumental,” she said. “This is huge for southern Alberta and for rural Alberta, for a company to trust that it makes sense to move their headquarters to a rural municipality and to work with our stakeholders and with our residents and with our neighbouring municipalities to move to Wheatland County. There aren’t words to describe how much that means to our community.”

Some of the work that will happen at De Havilland’s new Calgary plant has historically taken place at Toronto’s Downsview Airport, which Bombardier sold earlier this year. The company moved its headquarters to Calgary from Toronto earlier this year.De Havilland expects to start construction after the site has been rezoned by the county, which could occur in late 2023, with some operations beginning as soon as 2025.

Chafe told Postmedia the cost of the complex would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

(Source: Calgary Herald, Michael Rodriguez with files from Chris Varcoe)

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