Canadian Warplanes 5: de Havilland CC-115 Buffalo

de Havilland CC-115 Buffalo

(de Havilland Photo)

de Havilland Canada CC-115 Buffalo (Serial No. 115454).

The 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 most light aircraft can manage.

The Buffalo arose from a 1962 US Army requirement for a STOL transport capable of carrying the same payload as the CH-47A Chinook helicopter.  DHC based its design to meet the requirement on an enlarged version of its DHC-4 Caribou, already in large-scale service with the US Army, to be powered by General Electric T64 turboprops.  The Buffalo, was chosen as the winner of the US Army competition in early 1963, with four DHC-5s, designated YAC-2 (later CV-7A and subsequently C-8A) ordered.  The first of these aircraft made its maiden flight on 9 April 1964.  All four aircraft were delivered in 1965, the Buffalo carrying nearly twice the payload as the Caribou while having better STOL performance.

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.  A production DHC-5D Buffalo was used for breaking time-to-height records for the weight category 12,000–16,000 kg (26,430–35,242 lb) on 16 February 1976, reaching 3,000 m (9,836 ft) in 2 min 12.75 sec, 6,000 m (19,672 ft) in 4 min 27.5 sec and 9,000 m (29,508 ft) in 8 min 3.5 sec.

The RCAF 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, 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, CF CC-116 Buffalo (Serial No. 115461) was shot down by a Syrian surface-to-air missle, 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.

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 (SAR) role for No. 442 Squadron at CFB Comox, British Columbia.  Air Command was renamed the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) 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 Lockheed CC-130 Hercules aircraft at search-and-rescue bases in CFB Greenwood, Nova Scotia and CFB Trenton, Ontario.  In 2016, the Department of Defense awarded Airbus a contract for 16 C-295s with delivery scheduled to begin in 2019 and running through 2022.  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.

de Havilland DHC-5, CC-115 Buffalo (15), (Serial Nos. 9451-9465).

(John Davies - CYOW Airport Watch)

de Havilland Canada CC-115 Buffalo (Serial No. 15456).

(Alain Rioux Photo)

de Havilland Canada CC-115 Buffalo (Serial No. 15451).

de Havilland CC-115 Buffalo (Serial No 9451), No. 424 Squadron, CFB Trenton, visiting CFB Summerside, 25 June 1987.

de Havilland Canada CC-115 Buffalo (Serial No. 115459).  (Photo courtesy of the Canadian Aviation Preservation Association)

(RCAF Photo via Chris Charland)

de Havilland CC-115 Buffalo dropping SAR Technicians, 442 Squadron, CFB Comox, British Columbia.

de Havilland CC-115 Buffalo (Serial No. 115463).  (Mike Freer - Touchdown Aviation)

(Aldo Bidini Photo)

de Havilland Canada CC-115 Buffalo (Serial No. 15461), UN service.  No. 15461).  This aircraft was restored and placed on display at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in tribute to that fateful flight.  It was originally flown by the Sudanese Air Force, and later restored & painted by museum staff and volunteers to commemorate the “Buffalo Nine.”

Nine Canadian Armed Forces members serving with the UN peace mission in Egypt were killed on 9 Aug 1974, when the de Havilland CC-115 Buffalo (Serial No. 115461), they were flying in was shot down by three Syrian missiles while making a routine supply run to the mission in the Golan Heights.  The loss of Buffalo 461 remains the largest single-incident loss of life in the history of Canadian peacekeeping operations.

UN Flight 51 was Buffalo 461's last flight designation, for a routine scheduled supply trip from Ismailia, Egypt, to Damascus, Syria. Five crew members and four military passengers were on board when the aircraft took off from Beirut International Airport after a stopover. The First Officer, Captain Keith Mirau, received clearance to enter Syrian airspace from the Damascas air traffic control centre at 0945 GMT. Shortly after crossing from Lebanon into Syria the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile launched from a Syrian airfield. Moments later two more missiles struck and destroyed the plane, scattering wreckage across a field near the Syrian town of Ad Dimas.  All nine on board were killed.

(David Dickinson Photo)

de Havilland Canada CC-8A Buffalo (Serial No. 15451), Air Cushion Landing Test aircraft, Yellowknife, NWT, 1975.  This aircraft was used in joint Canada - USA trials, in a a unique program where the modified Buffalo landed on ice, snow or water with an inflatable rubber air cushion under the belly and wing floats.

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.  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

(Alain Rioux Photo)

de Havilland Canada CC-115 Buffalo, No. 424 Squadron.