Three historic aircraft will now permanently call the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM) their home after the gallery acquired ownership of planes.
The Supermarine Spitfire, Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck, and North American Sabre, on display for several years via donation, are now the property of the Hamilton-based museum after Ingenium and its Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa gifted the aircraft.
CWHM’s marketing manager Al Mickeloff says ownership now opens up the cockpits to the museum, allowing it to restore the pieces that had been collecting dust for several years.
First on the list for rehabilitation will be the Spitfire, which has been a craft the museum had been searching for since the tragic loss of their Hurricane in a 1993 hangar fire.
“But now we can get into it and we’ve decided to take the Spitfire and restore it to flying condition,” Mickeloff told 900 CHML’s Hamilton Today.
“Our first step in the restoration will actually be a fundraising campaign which will launch in the spring and in the meantime … we will do an assessment of the aircraft just to see what is actually required for the restoration of this airplane.”
Mickeloff says the craft is “virtually complete” but will require a full restoration which will include tearing it apart.
“We’re going to send the engine out to a professional overhaul shop in the U.S. and we’re going to have to obtain a new propeller,” he said.
CWHM president and CEO Dave Roher said the CF-100 and the Sabre are also in great condition and may need some minor work, but are expected to remain as static pieces in the gallery.
Following a complete top to bottom assessment of the Spitfire, the curators said the craft will need a “Merlin” engine estimated to cost in excess of $200,000.
“We may have to do some fabric work as well, so that whole project will probably take $250,000 to $300,000 to accomplish to put it back in the air,” Roher told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.
“But the asset is probably worth about $3.5 to $4 million, so it’s certainly worth doing.”
Rohrer estimates the Spitfire’s restoration will take some 18 to 24 months to complete.
The announcement comes as the CWHM celebrates its 50th anniversary, showcased by a homecoming party, black tie event and airshow last October.
Founders Dennis Bradley and Alan Ness began the first workings of the eventual museum by restoring a vintage Firefly fighter in 1972 into working condition.
The pair would put the plane on display and occasionally fly it out of the Hamilton Airport.
As a non-profit relying on donations, the CWHM has seen its collection grow to almost 50 aircraft along with its list of volunteers aiding in restorations and presenting showcases sharing stories about each plane.
“We rely on donations, and that’s how many of the aircraft have arrived,” Mickeloff explained.
“Sometimes there’s a handful of guys who see an aircraft, they pool their money and they think we should have it. So they donate the money with the intention of buying this particular aircraft.”
Aircraft from the museum are in demand, having made appearances at air shows in Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
“Just to give you an example, in 2014, we flew the Lancaster … 18 hours … over to England,” Mickeloff said.
“We flew it for almost two months around the country, going to different air shows and events. We estimate that we put the aircraft in front of 10 million people.”