B.C.’s Viking Air riding high on rising demand for reborn Twin Otter

Viking Air is a perfect example of a Canadian company making a name for themselves on the international stage

Viking Air is a perfect example of a Canadian company making a name for themselves on the international stage

By Chris Freimond

Some things in life just get better with age.

That certainly appears to be the case with the iconic Twin Otter aircraft. Designed by De Havilland in 1965, the sturdy and versatile Twin Otter enjoyed a spectacular initial 30-year run, eventually rising to become the world’s largest-selling 19-passenger aircraft.

Since its rebirth in 2007 by B.C.-based Viking Air, however, the updated Series 400 Twin Otter has proved to be a market darling all over again. Today, demand for the aircraft in high-growth emerging markets, where it is valued for its commercial and military applications, has models literally flying off Viking’s production line.

Recently, Viking has reaffirmed its confidence in the Series 400 with its announcement of new sales representatives for southern Asia, Australasia and the Middle East.

Since 2007, global sales of the Series 400, the world’s best-selling next generation turbo-prop aircraft in its class, had reached over 100 units of which 67 have been delivered so far to operators in 26 countries.

Dave Curtis, Viking’s president and CEO, says the success of the Series 400 is a good example of the strength of Canada’s aerospace industry and offers further proof that the country punches well above weight in a highly competitive sector that tends to be dominated by much bigger players in Europe and the U.S.

Viking’s success is based largely on a clear understanding of the market and its needs, adds Mr. Curtis. The company has attracted customers around the world by providing an aircraft that is versatile in a wide range of geographic locations and flying conditions, and is suitable for both commercial and military use.

For example, Viking’s customers have included the Vietnamese navy, the Peruvian A Force, MASwings (a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines), Global Aerospace Logistics based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and Vityaz Avia of Moscow, Russia.

While Viking’s global ambitions are evidenced by the firm’s recent assignment of the three new sales representatives, Mr. Curtis believes that markets including China and even Russia present opportunities for sustained growth, despite current geopolitical challenges in these

“Russia is very similar to Canada in many ways. Interconnectivity to small communities is high on their priority list, and the Series 400 is ideal for that.”

China is also a prime target for growth where the seaplane configuration of the Twin Otter could provide much-needed air transport in heavily populated regions.

Mr. Curtis says Viking is committed to keeping the Canadian flag flying in aerospace markets around the world with the support of organizations like EDC, but he believes Canadian political leaders at all levels can also play a role in boosting business by being economic diplomats whenever they travel overseas.

“Whether it’s a federal cabinet minister or a mayor from a city with an aerospace industry, we need these leaders to be out there talking to their counterparts and to potential customers about Canadian aerospace excellence,” says Mr. Curtis. “We have a world-class industry here in Canada and we need to tell the world about it.”

EDC has been involved with Viking Air since they started manufacturing Twin Otters , and is currently supporting the company them with guarantees and buyer financing.

“Viking Air is a perfect example of a Canadian company making a name for themselves on the international stage,” says EDC Account Manager heather Stokes.  “Viking’s international sales efforts are impressive, because they never hesitate to venture to more challenging markets where the Twin Otter is an obvious fit.”