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History of Buffalo 85
Assembly and Painting
RESTORATION - History of Buffalo C/N 85
This is the story of our aircraft, from acceptance at Downsview in 1978, to service with the Sudanese Air Force including a battlefield crash landing, an epic flight back to North America in 1987, and why it sat derelict for several years before finally arriving at its new home at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in 2003.
The de Havilland Buffalo originated as a joint US-Canadian project to develop a turboprop version of the Caribou transport. The first four Buffalo aircraft 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 Buffaloes had been delivered.
Purchase by Sudan
During 1978, the Sudanese Air Force took delivery of four DHC-5D Buffalo aircraft including: Construction Numbers 83 (SuAF tail number 800), 86 (tail number 822), 87 (tail number 833), and our Buffalo - CN 85 with tail number 811 while in the service of the SuAF.
The Buffalo at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, CN 85, has a construction date of May 2, 1978. Between May 2, 1978 and May 18, 1978, CN 85 underwent 5 hours and 35 minutes of flight testing at Downsview before official delivery to the Sudanese on May 21, 1978. The aircraft remained in Downsview undergoing another 30 flight hours before embarking on a 30 hour delivery flight starting on June 10, 1978 from Downsview arriving at Khartoum, Sudan on June 14, 1978. This flight was made via Goose Bay, Reykjavik Iceland, Shoreham UK, Iraklion Greece, and Luxor Egypt.
In 1983, a few years after the Buffalo aircraft were delivered to the SuAF, the Second Sudanese Civil War started. This Civil War, in the southern Sudan, lasted until 2005 and resulted in the deaths of nearly 2million people, mostly from starvation and drought, and displaced millions more. The main protagonists in the Second Civil War were the Khartoum-based central government and southern rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Arm (SPLA) and its political wing the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). The Second Sudanese Civil War in southern Sudan should not be confused with the current war in Darfur (2003 to present) in the western Sudan.
Between November of 1984 and April 1986, three out of the four Sudanese Buffalo aircraft were damaged or destroyed during these hostilities. On March 14, 1985, Buffalo 833 (CN 87) was shot down near Akobo Sudan killing all four on board. On April 4, 1986, Buffalo 800 (CN 83) was shot down by the SPLA near Bor Sudan killing all 14 crew and passengers on board.
Landing at Waat
Prior to these incidents, our Buffalo (CN 85, SuAF tail number 811) was damaged in November 1984 during a combat landing near Waat in southern Sudan. Information on the incident was provided by Colonel George Miller (retired), who was Canadian Forces Attaché to Egypt and Sudan from July 1982 to July 1985. During that time, one of his tasks was to keep Ottawa up to date on state of repair of the four Buffalo aircraft de Havilland sold to Sudan. In November 1984 he was visited in Cairo by the Sudanese Attaché to Egypt asking for his assistance to recover a damaged Buffalo aircraft in southern Sudan.
The Buffalo was bringing supplies to Sudanese government forces that were engaged in stiff fighting with the SPLA. Heavy rains just before the Buffalo arrived washed out the short unprepared airstrip. The native SuAF pilot decided to land on a slight ridge line covered in savannah grass because it was close to where the battalion size government force was dug in and the land appeared well-drained. The pilot did a masterful job in getting the aircraft down, but the nose wheel went into a sharp depression hidden by the tall grass - collapsing the nose wheel and damaging the cockpit area of the fuselage. That evening the SPLA attacked the government battalion position which had adjusted its three companies to defensive positions bracketing the Buffalo. Some were killed on both sides but the Buffalo was not hit. The SPLA fired some mortar rounds at it but couldn't range it accurately enough because of darkness.
With Ottawa's hesitant approval, Colonel Miller flew to Khartoum following the request for help and, together with the senior Engineering Officer of Khartoum airbase and a "mandatory" Sudanese Intelligence Officer, flew in the only serviceable Buffalo to Waat where they landed on the now drained airstrip. Photographs of the damaged Buffalo were taken and Colonel Miller returned to Khartoum with the photographs which were sent to de Havilland. After reviewing the photographs, de Havilland provided advice and diagrams for a field fix via fax. In the meantime the aircraft was jacked up and made ready for welding the nose wheel in place. A take-off path was cleared directly from the aircraft's location. Colonel Miller returned to Waat with a steel bar that was welded in place to reinforce the nose below the cockpit. The aircraft was immediately flown out to Khartoum where it stayed on the ground until late 1987.
Back to North America
In 1987, a deal was struck for Lockheed Aeromod to repair the aircraft as part of a C-130 contract. On November 16, 1987, three years after being damaged in the landing at Waat, the aircraft was flown from Khartoum to Alexandria. After a couple of weeks and a few hours of test flying, the aircraft left Alexandria on an epic flight to Greenville South Carolina. The flight occurred over a 12-day period and included stops in Krakow Poland, Frankfurt Germany, Prestwick Scotland, Reykjavik Iceland, Sondre Stromfjord Greenland, Frobisher Bay, Goose Bay, and Syracuse NY. This flight was made with gear down due to the damage caused in the 1984 landing accident.
Lockheed Aeromod, now Lockheed Martin Aircraft Center in Greenville, South Carolina did considerable work to repair the aircraft. Lockheed employees recall that the repair was nearing completion, although work was often delayed due to non-payment by the government of Sudan. But the work was never to be completed. Following a coup in Sudan in 1989, the diplomatic relationship between the United States and the government of Sudan steadily declined and the State Department eventually impounded the aircraft, which sat in Greenville for a number of years. When finally released by the State Department, the government of Sudan did not want it back. So the derelict aircraft sat in a forlorn corner of the airport for another decade.
In the fall of 2002, Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum volunteer Doug Nagy learned of this derelict Buffalo. A deal was struck with DAC Aviation International to purchase the aircraft and donate it to the museum. DAC Aviation, through its subsidiary CMC Aviation, is the largest civilian operator of DHC-5 Buffalo aircraft and fly humanitarian relief charters in Africa. DAC also fully restored one of the engines, a General Electric T-64, for display alongside the aircraft.
The recovery and transport of Buffalo #85 began in November 2002 and involved CWHM volunteers, volunteers from the Carolinas Aviation Museum, and staff from DAC Aviation. In South Carolina, the Buffalo was further deconstructed (removal of the wing centre-section and tail) and transported to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in January 2003. With the donated assistance of Aurora Crane, the Buffalo was unloaded at the museum.
From 2003 until present, volunteers at the museum have reconstructed the aircraft for static display. The aircraft has been painted in the markings of Canadian Forces Buffalo 115461, which was shot down over Syria on August 9, 1974, killing all nine Canadians on board. The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum will formally dedicate the aircraft in 2009 - the 35th anniversary of the incident. Details of dedication ceremony will be announced in a future on this web site.
Acknowledgements and Sources
The Buffalo Restoration Crew would like to thank Colonel George Miller (retired) for information on the recovery of the Buffalo from Waat Sudan in 1984; Stefan Martin for permission to use the photograph of Buffalo CN 85 during its stopover in Frankfurt Germany in December 1987; and Larry Schmitt for information on the restoration work at Lockheed Aeromod. General political information on Sudan and its Civil Wars was taken from the book "Inside Sudan" by Donald Petterson (American ambassador to Sudan 1992 to 1995) published by Westview Press in 1999. Aircraft flight logs and information on the impoundment of the aircraft by the US State Department was provided by Lockheed Martin. Additional information for this article was found at Wayne Buser's Buffalo web site and the Aviation Safety Network.
The museum and crew also gratefully acknowledge the remarkable act of generosity by DAC Aviation International in the donation of Buffalo CN 85 to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.
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