No down time for Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum

For airshow and aviation enthusiasts across Canada, the winter months are a time to reflect on the past season and expectations for the coming summer.

A top-down view of the restored Grumman TBM Avenger cockpit
A top-down view of the restored Grumman TBM Avenger cockpit. Once the fuel tanks are refurbished and installed, ground testing will begin. Eric Dumigan Photo
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But behind closed doors, at places like the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM) in Hamilton, Ont., activity happens at a feverish pace. The museum’s flying aircraft receive annual inspections and work progresses on new aircraft restorations.

We visited the CWHM in late February for a progress report.

The queen of the CWHM fleet is Avro Lancaster FM213, a complex bomber powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines.

The bulk of winter maintenance is overhauling and inspecting the engines. The annual inspection will also uncover any components that are starting to wear or could cause future problems. Currently, a super-charger is being rebuilt. The museum also takes this time to re-stencil the port side of the aircraft.

Since FM213’s post-restoration flight in 2008, the airframe has been dedicated to Canadian Victoria Cross recipient PO Andrew Mynarski.

However, in the past few years the CWHM has decided to re-mark the port side of the Lancaster to honour other Canadian Lancaster crews.

CWHM’s Al Mickeloff and Greg Chapman carefully size paper lettering on the side of the C-47 to ensure proper size and placement matched to historical photos. Eric Dumigan Photo

For 2018, the museum has chosen to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Operation Chastise, also known as The Dambusters raid.

The Lancaster will commemorate Guy Gibson’s Dambuster Lancaster AJ-G, ED932.

Wing Commander Gibson had two Canadians on board his Lancaster the night of the raids. As well, 30 Canadian airmen participated in the Dambuster raid, of which 15 did not return.

This year will see an early start to the flying season for the Lancaster, as it is slated to participate in The Great British Fly-In at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum on April 15. After that, the bomber will resume its ride program out of CWHM home base at John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport.

Skies is proud to announce it is sponsoring the Lancaster’s one-day-only appearance at the Canadian Business Aviation Association’s annual convention at the Region of Waterloo International Airport. Look for the Lanc on static display at the Chartright hangar on Thursday, June 14!

The only airshow currently slated for the bomber in 2018 is the Brantford Community Charity Airshow, where the Lancaster will fly with the Commemorative Air Force’s Boeing B-29 “FIFI.”

In 2014, Douglas C-47 C-GRSB, which flew in the Second World War as RCAF FZ692, was donated to the museum.

Since that time the airframe interior has been stripped and engines rebuilt. In February, the engines were test-run, and soon the aircraft will be painted in Second World War RCAF 437 Squadron markings.

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For now, the C-47 will operate with the Douglas DC-3 Dakota the museum has flown since the late 1970s. Nicknamed “Canucks Unlimited,” the DC-3 never saw military service and is one of the highest time DC-3s currently flying.

A Grumman TBM Avenger is nearing the end of its restoration and will be flying in 2018. Currently, the fuel tanks are off site being refurbished. Once installed, there are only minor items to be finished before the first test flight.

Royal Canadian Navy squadrons VS 880 and VS 881 flew anti-submarine Avengers from 1950 to 1956. This airframe was built in 1945 for the U.S. Navy.

During the early ’60s it was converted for agricultural spraying and in 1976 it came to Canada with Forest Protection Limited in New Brunswick.

Retired in 1992, the airframe was purchased in 2000 by a preservation group in France but it remained in Canada until being acquired by the CWHM in 2009.

Other flying aircraft such as the North American B-25 Mitchell, Noorduyn Norseman, North American Harvard and others will be cycled through their annuals before the spring flying season starts.

The CWHM currently has four full-time engineers/mechanics working with a group of dedicated volunteers to keep the aircraft flying. Longer-term restorations like the Grumman Tracker and rebuild of the Fairey Firefly receive attention as time permits.

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