Monday, January 2, 2017

We used to make things in this country. #242: Saunders Aviation ST-27

After deHavilland ceased production of the Heron in 1963 several companies re-engined the aircraft to extend service life. The most extensive modification was done by the Saunders Company of Canada, creating the ST-27 airliner using input from Aviation Traders Engineering of the UK. The fuselage was lengthened to bring passenger capacity to 24 and the four piston engines were replaced with two 715 hp Canadian-made PT-6 turboprops. The prototype ST-27 was flight tested on May 28, 1969, and production started in April 1970. 
The Saunders company had been formed in 1968 at Montreal but moved to Gimli, Manitoba when the provincial government, trying to provide employment for the Gimli area, provided start-up money to move. During this same time period the Canadian Forces was planning to close the Gimli base and did so in September 1971. Before pulling out in 1976 the province had invested more than $50 million in the company.  
 Saunders had converted 12 Herons by that time and had designed and produced a prototype of an improved version, the ST-28.  Air Otonabee, later City Express, who owned several ST-27s bought up the assets in 1978-9 which included five more ST-27s. Most of these planes were retired in the 1980s with some stored at the Toronto island Airport for a time. One ST-27 remains, on display at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.
Larry Milberry, Aviation in Canada, McGraw-Hill Ryerson 1979

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