B.C. Aviation Museum favoured to receive Toronto Lancaster

An Avro Lancaster bomber built in Toronto and stored at an aerodrome north of the city could soon be on its way to the British Columbia Aviation Museum (BCAM).

Lancaster Mk. X bomber FM104 is seen here in service in 1961. Toronto International Aerospace Photo
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That appears to be the preference of Toronto’s municipal economic development committee, which voted July 9 to remove Lancaster FM104 from its artifact collection and transfer it to the museum at Victoria International Airport.

City council must approve the decision for it to become final, but the committee sided with BCAM over two other bids that would have kept the Lancaster in Ontario.

If negotiations with BCAM fall through, the committee favours transferring the bomber to the Edenvale Aviation Heritage Foundation in Stayner, Ont., where the aircraft is currently being stored.

A third bid to keep the Lancaster in Toronto and build a museum to house it, proposed by a group called #SaveLancasterFM104, was not mentioned in the committee’s list of recommendations.

The decision will be difficult to bear for #SaveLancasterFM104, which lobbied to keep the Lancaster in Toronto in order to preserve a piece of the city’s aviation history.

During the Second World War, more than 400 Lancaster bombers were built at the Victory Aircraft factory at Malton Airport, on the grounds of present-day Toronto Pearson International Airport.

“Lancaster FM104 symbolizes families who lost loved ones,” said Jane Mitchell, a member of #SaveLanasterFM104, in a presentation before the committee vote on July 9.

“And those are from all over the world … I think this Lancaster FM104 is a very gracious old lady. It deserves great care, and great, deep work with its rehabilitation and restoration.”

Lancaster FM104 is one of the last remaining aircraft of its type built in Malton, but the fact other Lancasters are on display elsewhere in Ontario factored into the committee’s decision.

Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM) in Hamilton, Ont., near Toronto, is home to one of two airworthy Lancasters in the world. Non-flying Lancasters are at museums in Ottawa, Windsor and Trenton, Ont.

Lancaster FM104 never flew missions during the war, but spent most of its operating life after 1945 as a search and rescue aircraft on Canada’s East Coast, according to a report from Mike Williams, Toronto’s general manager of economic development and culture.

This would be the only Lancaster on display in B.C., if council finalizes the decision and negotiations with the museum are successful.

BCAM has said it will bear the entire cost of transferring Lancaster FM104 to Victoria and restoring it.

The museum plans to partner with Victoria Air Maintenance, a professional aircraft restoration organization.

“Their involvement and supervision of the project will ensure the integrity of the restoration work and its proper recording and certification in accordance with Transport Canada standards,” said John Lewis, president of BCAM.

“They have inspected the Lancaster at Stayner and are confident that it can be completely restored.”

BCAM has more than 25 aircraft in three hangars, many of them restored by volunteers from an extremely poor condition, said Lewis in a presentation to the committee.

The museum is in a solid financial position with cash reserves of more than $200,000 and is a registered charity and own its hangars, he said.

“This Lancaster has been hidden from public view for the last seven years,” he said. “It should not be for any longer.”

#SaveLancasterFM104

Toronto’s economic development committee had considered transferring Lancaster FM104 to BCAM earlier this year, but deferred a decision to allow time to consider a proposal from #SaveLancasterFM104.

Under this proposal, the city would retain ownership of the artifact and loan it to #SaveLancasterFM104, according to Williams’ report.

The aircraft would move to Brantford, Ont., for restoration work while a new museum building would be erected on city-owned lakefront property at Inuksuk Park.

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#SaveLancasterFM104 would be responsible for operating the new museum in Toronto, and the group estimated the cost of construction at $5.5 million. City staff estimated the cost at $10 million, with another $2.5 million for restoration work.

“The business plan identifies grant opportunities and other possible sources of funding, none of which are firm,” said the report.

#SaveLancasterFM104 had not undertaken a feasibility study for the new museum, according to the report.

City staff estimated the cost of such a study at $100,000, noting the cost of moving the aircraft could approach an additional $100,000.

“Long-term costs could be very significant if the city commits to this specialized museum and funding by third parties is not adequate,” said Williams in the report.

“This risk is further compounded by the likelihood that the museum will need an operating subsidy.”

DECISION

After a brief discussion, the city’s economic development committee passed city staff recommendations, along with a request to investigate ways to memorialize Lancaster FM104 at Toronto’s Coronation Park.

The aircraft had been mounted on a plinth and placed on outdoor display in Coronation Park from 1965 to 1998.

“I’m not defining it, but it could be a plaque,” said Toronto Coun. Mary Fragedakis, who suggesting memorializing the Lancaster in the park. “It could be other ways.”

Toronto city council is expected to consider the matter at its July 23 meeting.

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