The DHC-2 Beaver: From Bush Plane to British Army Workhorse

The De Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver is a legend in the aviation world. Renowned for its ruggedness and versatility, this iconic single-engined aircraft has carved its place in history, serving both civilian and military purposes. Today, we take a closer look at the Beaver’s story, focusing on its service with the British Army and its current role with the Historic Army Aircraft Flight (HAAF).

Born in the Wilderness
The Beaver’s tale begins in 1946 when the Canadian aircraft manufacturer, De Havilland, sought to develop a plane specifically designed for the harsh conditions of the Canadian north. The result was the DHC-2, a high-wing monoplane with exceptional short take-off and landing (STOL) capabilities, allowing operation from rough terrain and even water with the use of floats. Its powerful Pratt and Whitney radial engine combined with robust construction ensured reliable performance in remote and often unforgiving environments.

British Army Service
The British Army recognized the Beaver’s potential and acquired several, designating them the Beaver AL.1. These aircraft saw action in various locations, including Aden, Malaya, and Borneo, primarily fulfilling light utility and transport roles. However, the Beaver truly made its mark in Northern Ireland during the “Troubles.”

The “Eyes” of the Army

The Beaver’s exceptional visibility and manoeuvrability made it an ideal platform for aerial reconnaissance missions in Northern Ireland. Equipped with cameras, the “Beavers,” as they were affectionately known, provided invaluable intelligence to the British Army. Delivered in 1961, Beaver XP820 served in the Far East before returning to the UK in 1967. It also saw extensive service including in Northern Ireland, gathering vital information for the security forces.

Preserving Legacy

Today, XP820 holds a special place with the HAAF, the organisation responsible for maintaining and flying a collection of historically significant British Army aircraft. This particular Beaver is the last remaining example of its type in British military colours and is meticulously maintained to remain airworthy.

The HAAF regularly displays XP820 at air shows and events, allowing audiences to witness this remarkable aircraft firsthand. It serves as a tangible reminder of the invaluable contribution the Beaver made to the British Army and stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of this aviation icon.

A Story Not Over
The DHC-2 Beaver continues to be a popular choice for civilian operators, particularly in remote areas, where its STOL capabilities prove invaluable. Its long and distinguished history, including its service with the British Army and the HAAF, ensures its place in the annals of aviation history. The “Beaver” story is a testament to human ingenuity and the enduring spirit of this legendary aircraft.

Story by Julian Hickman