Viking Air inks 50-aircraft deal with Chinese company

Five-year agreement won’t mean immediate hiring back of laid off employees.

An initial 50-aircraft deal between North Saanich’s Viking Air and a Chinese firm could balloon to 500 aircraft over 20 years.

On Wednesday, Viking Air, based at the Victoria International Airport, announced it had entered into a partnership agreement with Reignwood Aviation Group of Beijing, making that company the exclusive representative of Viking Air’s Series 400 Twin Otter aircraft in China. The announcement came during the Paris International Air Show.

“Reignwood’s world-class reputation and depth of experience in the aviation sector will give the Series 400 Twin Otter immediate traction in the Chinese market, which is anticipated to reach 500 aircraft over 20 years,” said Viking Air CEO David Curtis in a media release. “This strategic partnership will allow Viking to tap into this extensive market potential, where the seaplane segment in particular is expected to expand rapidly over the next 10 years.”

Dominique Spragg, Viking’s vice-president of strategic planning, told the PNR the deal had been in the works for the last two or three years, as the company waited for the Twin Otter model to receive its type certification through Transport Canada and China’s Civil Aviation Administration. That, Spragg said, cleared the way for the aircraft to be marketed, sold and flown in China.

The deal, he continued, will see 50 Twin Otters manufactured over five years and purchased by Reignwood for resale, or as demonstrators in China.

That, however, will not mean an immediate re-hiring of the 116 workers who were laid off by Viking on April 2. Curtis said at the time that market changes, particularly in Russia, meant the company had to scale back its aircraft production and reduce its workforce both on the Peninsula and at their Calgary operation.

Spragg said there is no immediate plan to hire any of those workers back and production levels will stay the same — an estimated one aircraft every 15 days.

“We will make adjustments when necessary,” he added.

Spragg said Reignwood was chosen as a partner due to its good reputation in the industry and its experience dealing with other Canadian aviation products.

Deliveries of Reignwood’s Series 400 Twin Otters will commence in the fourth quarter of 2015.

The first two aircraft will be configured as a regional commuter landplane and another with amphibious floats.

Curtis signed the agreement with ChristopherWang, Executive Director of Reignwood Group, in Paris on June 17.

In the coming weeks, Viking and Reignwood will also be working to determine a suitable location for the development of a factory endorsed completion and service center (FECSC). The FECSC will see aircraft manufactured at Viking’s Canadian factories destined for the Chinese market undergo completion and customization in-country.

The Series 400 Twin Otter is the best-selling next generation turbo-prop aircraft in its class, with Viking aircraft sold and delivered to 27 countries worldwide.

Viking provides OEM support for the global fleet of de Havilland legacy aircraft (DHC-1 through DHC-7) and forms part of Westerkirk Capital Inc, a Canadian private investment firm with substantial holdings in the hospitality, aviation, and real estate sectors.