A row of De Havilland Dash-8 airplanes sit outside the Downsview plant in Toronto on Tuesday, August 24, 2021. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says a new airplane manufacturing plant is to be built near Calgary. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

De Havilland Canada to build airline manufacturing plant east of Calgary: Kenney

De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd. has announced plans to build a new aircraft manufacturing plant east of Calgary that could eventually employ up to 1,500 people.

The company says the facility, dubbed De Havilland Field, is to be located in Wheatland County between the communities of Chestermere and Strathmore.

De Havilland says it has acquired about 600 hectares of land in the area.

It says construction could begin as early as next year, with its first buildings operational by 2025 — though the project’s full buildout could take years.

De Havilland Field is to be the site of final assembly for the DHC-515 Firefighter aircraft, DHC Twin Otter and the Dash 8-400 aircraft.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney called it a “game-changing investment” for manufacturing in the province and a major sign of the economic growth, job opportunities and diversification happening there.

“This is just another step forward in the huge growth in our aviation sector with more big news to follow in that sector in just the weeks ahead,” Kenney said in Toronto Wednesday ahead of the formal announcement.

Tanya Fir, the province’s minister of jobs, economy and innovation, called the announcement a “huge win.”

“We wanted to find ways to leverage Alberta’s strengths, like our available land close to logistical hubs and our young, skilled and motivated workforce, to find a path back to our position as Canada’s economic engine,” she said in a statement.

“De Havilland’s investment in Alberta, to help carry forward its aircraft into its second century of operations, proves that our plan is working.”

Company co-owner Sherry Brydson said the full project will take a long time to complete and will depend on the growth trajectory of the business.

“De Havilland Field, like Rome — I have to warn you — won’t be built in a day. We anticipate the full buildout will take somewhere between 10 and 15 years. We’re planning to take it slowly and seriously … and we’re going to make sure it works.”

Company co-owner Rob McDonald said De Havilland doesn’t need government handouts and aims to be self-sufficient.

“We need people to buy our planes. We don’t really need or want support from the government,” he told a news conference.