Considered one of the most rugged and dependable aircraft ever produced, the de Haviland DHC-2 Beaver remains the gold standard for back-country aviation. First flown in 1947 by Canadian flying ace Russell Bannock, a total of 1,657 have split duty between civil bush planes and military utility transports. Production ceased in 1967, yet over 1,200 Beavers continue service on every continent.
Initially delivered to the U.S. Army as an L-20A, in the 1960s this Beaver provided clandestine support of special operations personnel in Laos through Air America, the CIA air service. Operating out of small airstrips in mountainous terrain, it was responsible for moving personnel and providing aerial resupply, often in the form of “hard rice” (ammunition). Eventually it suffered “structural fatigue failure of the fuselage in the area of the empennage.” Following repairs it returned to the United States and rejoined the Army until its eventual sale to a civilian owner in 1977.
Once converted from a wheeled L-20A to an amphibious DHC-2 and registered as N5354G, the aircraft joined the largest concentration of Beavers in the world in Alaska. In 1986, while taking off from a lake near Fognak Island, the right passenger door popped open. The pilot attempted to close the door but lost control of the aircraft and flew into a tree. In 1989, N5354G crashed in mountain fog near Kodiak, AK. The wreckage remained at an aircraft “bone yard” for six years.
N5354G next flew in 1996 following restoration at Arlington Airport. From then to now John Sessions has flown this Beaver approximately 700 hours, mostly in Arctic Canada and Alaska. N5354G also has become the HFF plane-of-choice for viewing Christmas Ships each winter.