De Havilland Canada's fourth design was a big step up in size compared with its earlier products, and was the first powered by two engines, but the Caribou was similar in that it is a rugged STOL utility. The Caribou was primarily a military tactical transport that in commercial service found itself a small niche.
De Havilland Canada designed the DHC-4 in response to a US Army requirement for a tactical airlifter to supply the battlefront with troops and supplies and evacuate casualties on the return journey. With assistance from Canada's Department of Defence Production, DHC built a prototype demonstrator that flew for the first time on July 30 1958.
Impressed with the DHC4's STOL capabilities and potential, the US Army ordered five for evaluation as YAC-1s and went on to become the largest Caribou operator, taking delivery of 159. The AC-1 designation was changed in 1962 to CV-2, and then C-7 when the US Army's CV-2s were transferred to the US Air Force in 1967. US and Australian Caribou saw extensive service during the Vietnam conflict. In addition some US Caribou were captured by North Vietnamese forces and remained in service with that country through to the late 1970s. Other notable military operators included Canada, Malaysia, India and Spain.
The majority of Caribou production was for military operators, but the type's ruggedness and excellent STOL capabilities also appealed to a select group of commercial users. US certification was awarded on December 23 1960. AnsettMAL, which operated a single example in the New Guinea highlands, and AMOCO Ecuador were early customers, as was Air America (a CIA front in South East Asia during the Vietnam War era for covert operations). Other Caribou entered commercial service after being retired from their military users.
Today only a handful are in civil use as the Caribou's thirsty twin row radial engines make commercial operations uneconomic where its STOL performance is not a factor.
Interest in the Caribou could be revived however, as Pen Turbo from Cape May, NJ has made a conversion with Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67T turbine engines with 5-bladed Hartzell propellers, named the DHC-4A Turbo Caribou, and is now offering this modification on the market under a STC (Supplemental Type Certificate). Apart from the engines, several upgrade possibilities are available.
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