Thursday, December 1, 2011

Historic fighter plane one step close to taking flight

Reprinted from the Comox Valley Echo. By Spencer Anderson   Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Work to restore a Comox-based Spitfire fighter plane to flying condition has taken off to a new level.
Last week, partially completed wings for the Second World War fighter plane arrived in Gatineau, Que., after undergoing customized modifications in the U.K.

The wings will be fitted with longrange fuel tanks and eventually shipped to Comox for installation on the aircraft, which has been a workin-progress for the past several years.
The Spitfire carries the 442 Squadron code 'Y2-K,' but is also known as the 'Roseland Spitfire' in dedication to Arnold 'Rosey' Roseland, who flew Spitfires 65 times while at 442, and died in the line of duty while providing cover for ground troops.
The fuselage work on the rest of the plane is being carried out here in Comox in a hangar adjacent to the 19 Wing airpark.

Technicians have so far reworked the canopy of the plane and installed hydraulic systems, and are preparing brakes and landing gear for installation.Work is also being done on the throttle system, and crews are preparing an engine mount to fit in the fuselage for when the engine arrives from the United States.Volunteers and the Comox Air Force Museum had been working on the project since 1999, when the aircraft was first acquired by the Museum.

Approximately $300,000 to $400,000 had been raised for the project over the years, and $250,000 had been initially forked out to purchase the plane's components. But due to a slow work pace and dwindling funding, the project was sold in 2009 for $1 to Vintage Wings of Canada (VWC), a Quebec-based nonprofit organization that acquires, restores, maintains and flies classic aircraft for education and commemoration purposes.

The decision was controversial to some, and it was argued a significant amount of time and resources had been poured into the project, only to see it eventually transferred to VWC's hangar in Quebec.
However, others, including project manager Terry Chester, said handing the reins over to Vintage Wings was the most practical approach to seeing the project through.
VWC spokeswoman Mary Lee said the upgrades to the wings are key to showcasing the finished Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX.

The fuel tanks in the wings are a feature not originally included in the design of the aircraft, but were included to allow the aircraft to extend its flight range between 40 and 50 minutes.
"In Canada, that is important if we want to fly the aircraft from coast to coast showcasing her to Canadians," Lee said.

VWC president Rob Fleck called the delivery of the wings a "pivotal point" in restoring the aircraft.
"The delivery of these wings is just one more step toward realizing the dream we had when we first acquired the aircraft from the Royal Canadian Air Force two years ago," he said in a statement.
There is no indication yet how long it will take for the wings to be ready to be shipped to Comox, or when installation on the fuselage will take place, Lee said.

When the old plane is put together again and deemed suitable to fly, it will be showcased in Comox until a permanent home for the venerable fighter plane is selected.

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