Photo credit: Derek Heyes
- Known affectionately as the Mighty Buff, this airplane was intended to be a turbine engine-powered successor to the de Havilland DHC-4 Caribou for the United States Army, as a heavy transport STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) airplane.
- While only slightly larger than its predecessor, the DHC-4 Caribou, the Buffalo could carry twice the payload with better STOL performance - the Buffalo could take off and land on rugged air strips as short as a soccer field carrying an AUW (all up weight) of around 41, 000 lbs.
- The United States Army order for Buffalos was ultimately cancelled but the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) ordered 15 for their fleet.
- From the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, the Buffalo was used in a tactical airlift role.
- 4 RCAF Buffalos participated in peacekeeping missions with the United Nations in Egypt in the 1970s and in Rhodesia in the early 1980s.
- One of the 15 Buffalos, 461, was shot down near Syria on August 9, 1974 while on a mission for the United Nations, killing the 9 Canadian Armed Forces members on board - the anniversary of their death is now National Peacekeeping Day in Canada.
- In the mid-1970s, most of the RCAF Buffalos were converted to Search and Rescue (SAR), a role in which they served until 2022.
- The first all-female flight in the Air Force was in a Buffalo and took place on July 20th, 1983. It was crewed by Nora Bottomley (pilot), Robin Camkin (air navigator), and Nela Odarijew (flight engineer), all of whom were among the first women allowed to train as aircrew in the Canadian Armed Forces through the SWINTER Aircrew Trial (1979-1985).
- Between 1968 and 1978 as DHC received orders from other air forces around the world including Brazil, Zambia, Togo, Ecuador, Sudan, and Tanzania, among others.
The United States Army was looking for an advanced version of the DHC-4 Caribou. The requirements were set out in a design competition, and highlighted the interest in an aircraft that could carry vehicles and utilize the General Electric T64 turbo prop engine. The specifications called for a STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) transport airplane which could carry the same tactical load as the Boeing Vertol CH-47 Chinook helicopter. De Havilland Canada (DHC) had fared well in American design competitions in the past and submitted a proposal for what they called the Caribou II. DHC was among 4 finalists out of 25 competitors.
A year later in 1963, DHC received a contract to build 4 prototypes of what is now called the Buffalo. The development costs for the airplane were split evenly between the U.S. Army, the Canadian government, and DHC. By spring 1965, the 4 prototypes were flying and 15 Buffalos were procured for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). This order enabled DHC to begin production. Unfortunately, a shift in politics in the American military led to the cancellation of the United States Army’s orders for Buffalos. The bulk of production of this airplane went ahead in fits and starts between 1968 and 1978 as DHC received orders from other air forces around the world including Brazil, Zambia, Togo, Ecuador, Sudan, and Tanzania to name a few. Final production ended in 1986. A total of 90 Buffalos were built.
15 DHC-5A Buffalos were delivered to the RCAF between 1967 and 1968. The airplanes were initially used in a tactical airlift role, transporting troops and equipment. In the mid-1970s, after nine Canadian Armed Forces peacekeepers were killed when their Buffalo was shot down by Syrian missiles in Golan Heights, the entire fleet was converted to Search and Rescue (SAR). The Buffalo’s ability to take off and land in rugged terrain about the length of a soccer field, fly at low altitudes during the day or night, and handle any weather conditions made this airplane ideal for SAR operations.
Initially operating out of bases around the country, age forced the retirement of most of the Buffalos in the fleet. The final six served out of CFB Comox with 442 Squadron from the early 2000s until they retired over 2021 and 2022.
Reserve Hangar, Canada Aviation and Space Museum
Transfer from RCAF
CC-115452 came into service on 8 July 1967 when it was delivered to Aerospace Engineering and Test Establishment. 452 initially operated out of Canadian Forces Base (CFB) St-Hubert, QC in a tactical airlift role with 429 Squadron. In 1972, 452 was leased to de Havilland and registered as CF-QVA. In the spring of that year, the airplane was used in artificial icing trials at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
As part of Operation DANACA, 452 and two other RCAF Buffalos were assigned to No. 116 Air Transport Unit for service with United Nations Emergency Force II from 1973 to 1979. The Buffalos were primarily based at Ismalia in Egypt but 452 operated out of Somalia in 1978. Continuing with its UN duties, 452 was used in Operation Oxide in the early 1980s, supporting UN election observers in Rhodesia.
From the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, 452 rotated between CFB Comox in British Columbia and CFB Summerside on Prince Edward Island conducting Search and Rescue missions on both coasts. From the mid-1990s to 2022, 452 was based exclusively at CFB Comox, serving with 442 Squadron.
452 made the last operational flight of a CC-115 on January 15th, 2022.
The airplane was transferred to the museum and arrived at its new home in