Lancaster bomber restoration nearing completion in Windsor, Ont.

Don Christopher, president of the Canadian Aviation Museum in Windsor, stands next to the restored front section of the Lancaster bomber. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

The restoration of the Lancaster bomber in Windsor, Ont., is nearing completion with the project team shooting for an April 2024 date for reassembling the historic WWII era warplane.

“We have most of the parts we need to finish the aircraft, probably 98 per cent,” said Don Christopher, president of the Canadian Aviation Museum and restoration project director.

Christopher is expecting the completion of the project to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

“Knowing that there are so few of these examples of aircraft left in the world, it’s been a real honour to be able to work on something that’s been legendary through the course of World War Two,” said Kevin Davies, who has been painting the aircraft and working on the project since it was taken down from it’s plinth in Jackson Park in 2005. Davies said about 60 per cent of the plane still needs to be painted.

The aviation museum is still working with the city’s parks and recreation department on a plan for housing the bomber.

“We haven’t had those final discussions at this moment, but we are looking at starting the discussions to be able to look at the long term possibility of having a public display,” said Michelle Staadegaarde, the city’s manager of culture and events.

Christopher said if the plane has to be kept inside the current hangar where the aviation museum is now, the plane will not fit through the hangar’s doors so it will always have to remain inside.

Cost, timeline of project

The project was supposed to take ten years to complete, but Christopher acknowledges it will end up having taken nearly twice that long.

Christopher said the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the project’s progress. Davies said there’s been difficulty sourcing parts and keeping volunteers, which also slowed things down.

Roger Prince, volunteer with the Lancaster restoration crew, works on the cockpit section of the Lancaster bomber in 2020. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

So far, about $1.5 million has been spent on the restoration with much of the plane fully restored with some new parts. Christopher estimates about $500,000 more still needs to be spent.

The city has contributed $850,000, with the restoration group, made up mostly of volunteers, fundraising $750,000.

Christopher said the plane will be restored to flying condition, but actually flying it will be too costly so there are no plans to put it in the air.

He said just to fill the fuel tanks with enough fuel for ten hours of flying time would cost around $25,000.

Courtesy of Dale Molnar from CBC

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