CFB St. Hubert
(No. 429 Squadron)

CFB Trenton
(No. 424 Squadron)

CFB Comox
(No. 442 Squadron)

CFB Edmonton
(No. 429 and No. 440)

CFB Summerside
(No. 413 Squadron)



The de Havilland Buffalo originated as a joint US-Canadian project to develop a turboprop version of the Caribou transport. The first four Buffalo were delivered to the U.S. Army in 1965, followed by a further 55 to the air forces of Canada, Peru, and Brazil between 1967 and 1972. In 1977, the modified DHC-5D appeared and sales continued until 1986. By the end of the production run, 126 Buffalo had been delivered. This page provides an introduction to the use of the Buffalo by the Canadian Armed Forces.

Buffalo 9452 (later 115452) taken in 1967.  DND photo PCN 67-973 courtesy of Don Fish.

The Buffalo Arrives

The first two Canadian Forces Buffalo (115451 and 452 using the post-1970 numbering scheme) were delivered to the Aeronautical Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) in 1967. During 1967-68, most of the remaining Buffalo were delivered to 429 (Bison) Tactical Transport Squadron at St. Hubert (115451 and 452 also eventually rotated into service at St. Hubert).

The camouflaged Buffalo of 429 Squadron supported the 10 Tactical Air Group, also located in St Hubert. The aircraft often flew in support of various army units including the Airborne Regiment in Petawawa Ontario and the Royal 22nd Regiment (The Vandoos) in Quebec City Quebec. Common activities included vehicle and troop transport, paradropping personnel (both the Airborne Regiment and the Vandoos), supply dropping, and supply delivery to primitive landing strips. The aircrew were trained in tactical navigation at low level (200 feet agl), day or night. A common tactic was to fly at low level to a drop zone, zooming up at the last second to a safe altitude to release the paratroopers. Co-operation with other forces led to flying training exercises in locations such as Germany and Jamaica. The Buffalo was capable of flying across the Atlantic ocean, for example Gander Nfld to Shannon Ireland, using extra fuel carried in bladders in the cabin.

In 1970, the Buffalo were withdrawn from 10 Tactical Air Group and were assigned to Air Command.

Search and Rescue

In 1970, six Buffalo aircraft were transferred to the Search and Rescue (SAR) role, three to each coast to replace ageing Grumman Albatross amphibious aircraft - at 442 Squadron at Comox, BC and 413 Squadron at Summerside, PEI. These six SAR Buffalo were painted white with rescue markings. Other 429 Squadron Buffalo eventually ended up at 424 Squadron (Trenton, Ont.), 440 Squadron (Edmonton) for a short time, and elsewhere for special duty assignments (e.g., UN Peacekeeping, aeronautical testing).

442 Squadron - 1970s

Three Buffalo aircraft (115454, 456 and 458) were sent to 442 Squadron to complement the 3 Labrador helicopters already assigned to the squadron. There were two basic tasks on a SAR Squadron, airborne searches and medical evacuations. For both, a 30 minute response time during normal working hours and a 2 hour response time at other times was required.

Medical evacuations could originate almost anywhere in BC but they usually terminated at Vancouver International Airport where the patient would be transferred to an ambulance. Patients were usually very urgent cases ranging from accident victims to premature babies. Military or civilian doctors and nurses tended to the patient during the flight.

Searches were invariably initiated for missing boats or aircraft. For 442 Sqn Comox, the search area included all of British Columbia and the Yukon territories and the offshore waters in the Pacific Ocean. This large search area usually required that, for major northern searches, the aircraft would deploy to a location such as Whitehorse in the Yukon territories. Many of the missing aircraft in the northern areas were attempting to fly to Alaska. Standby crews might be called away for a week or more on short notice so a packed suitcase was always at hand. The Buffalo and Labrador helicopters worked well together. Sometimes a Buffalo crew would call in a Labrador to have a closer look at an object on the ground.

The Buffalo Hangs On (September 2008)

During the 1990s, the Hercules replaced the unpressurized Buffalo as a SAR Aircraft at 413 and 424 Squadrons. However, as the Buffalo is uniquely suited in the west coast’s mountainous regions, six Buffalo (115451, 452, 456, 457, 462, and 465) still fly with 442 Squadron in Comox. Its STOL capability allow it to operate from virtually any small airfield and its rapid rate of climb enables effective searching in difficult areas such as mountain valleys. A 442 Squadron Buffalo is also used as a jump platform by the SkyHawks, the Canadian Forces parachute team.

Of the other 9 Buffalo used by the Canadian Forces, one is in storage at CFB Mountainview (115454), another is reported at Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering in Trenton (115464), six have been purchased by Sky Relief in Zimbabwe, and the ninth, 115461, was destroyed over Syria.

The Canadian Government is looking to replace the remaining Buffalo. Possible replacements include the CASA 295 and the Lockheed C-27J (Click here for more on Buffalo Replacement). Visit the following links for more information on the Buffalo: