It’s down to crunch time to move 737 from City Centre Airport

Crews work to inspect the Boeing 737 at the Alberta Aviation Museum Thursday, November 28, 2013. Global News

EDMONTON – With just two days to go until all aviation activity at the City Centre Airport will come to a halt, the Alberta Aviation Museum is vigorously working to move one of its most prized pieces.

The airport’s Boeing 737 was going through the final stages of a physical safety inspection Thursday, in hopes the aircraft would be ready for takeoff to its new home at Villeneuve Airport.

“The inspection is probably three quarters complete. The airplane is checking out marvelously, better than even anticipated. She’s a big ol’ bird and she wants to go flying,” said Tom Hinderks, executive director of the Alberta Aviation Museum.

The museum has been in a race against time, since finding out in late July its new property line would not be able to accommodate the large aircraft.

“This specific airplane was intended to stay. The way the property lines came down, it couldn’t. We’ve been in a scramble trying to do a six to eight month job in a three and a half month time window,” Hinderks explained.

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Once it passes the physical inspection, the 737 will still have to go through a number of tests including ground running, low and high-speed taxi tests, and a high-speed breaking test known as a rejected takeoff.

“If there’s a problem — which we’re not foreseeing — if it fails a test, if the weather locks us down and we’re not able to get it out, the only option is to scrap the aircraft.”

But, Hinderks is optimistic it won’t come down to that for the 34-year-old plane, which has been a huge part of Alberta’s aviation history since it came into service in 1979 with Pacific Western Airlines.

“This airplane came to service on City Centre Airport. It spent its life flying with PWA for the most part, taking Albertans around the province,” said Hinderks. “It’s the aircraft that really brought Alberta into the jet age.”

Since retiring from service with Air Canada in 2005, the plane has had quite the life at the Alberta Aviation Museum.

“Tens of thousands of people have been through it, thousands of kids have got to experience the cockpit of the jet airliner,” Hinderks explained. “It’s been part of our education program, at one point it was part of NAIT’s, it’s used by the RCMP and the Edmonton police for emergency response training. It’s been in movies. It’s done a lot.”

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Hinderks hopes the 737 can takeoff for its new home sometime between noon Friday and noon Saturday, before the final runway at City Centre Airport closes Saturday night.

“Hope we make it,” he said Thursday afternoon.

That way, it can continue to be an educational tool at the new Alberta Flying Heritage Museum, which will eventually be built at Villeneuve Airport.

“It’ll be a place you can bring your kids to let them get their first taste of an airline ride before they get on an airplane, to see what a cockpit’s like – you can’t do that anymore. These are all things that are really important to put people in touch with,” Hinderks said. “It’s not just an artifact. It’s a valuable, interactive tool that’s helped a lot of Albertans.”

UPDATE (posted on the Alberta Aviation Museum’s Facebook page Friday morning):

“Physical inspections were completed last night and the first “official” 
ground run.

Everything is looking very positive and with the exception of one very minor 
snag the aircraft performed flawlessly.

This morning ground tests will continue, then taxi tests and runway tests.

All things continuing as they are we may be able to launch mid afternoon 
today, failing that it will be prior to Noon on the 30th.

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We will confirm by announcing, with as much warning as possible, on the Alberta Aviation Museum facebook page.”

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