Spitfire could take to the sky by 2015
Spencer Anderson, Comox Valley EchoPublished: Tuesday, January 24, 2012
The head of the non-profit organization tasked with restoring the fighter plane formerly known as the Y2-K Spitfire says the machine could be flying by 2015.
Vintage Wings of Canada CEO Rob Fleck spoke to guests at the newly refurbished Spitfire restoration hangar at 19 Wing on Friday, set against the backdrop of the gleaming fuselage of the Second World War fighter.
While engineers are busy at work restoring the outer shell of the plane in Comox, Vintage Wings is busy working on various other components of the Spitfire at its restoration facility in Gatineau, Que.
The engine is being tested and Fleck said the tail end of the aircraft is also undergoing restoration work. The parts will eventually be shipped out for installation at the Comox hangar.
Fleck estimates the total cost of the project will be between $2 million and $3 million, but added that the final cost could well exceed that range.
"This is a huge project," said Fleck. The fighter plane has also been renamed the 'Roseland Spitfire MK IX,' after Flight Lieutenant Arnold Walter "Rosey" Roseland. Roseland flew the fighter in 65 missions out of 442 Squadron, before being shot down and killed over France in 1944.
The moniker change is part of Vintage Wings' 'In his name' program, which dedicates restored military planes in the memory of distinguished pilots.
Work on the Y2-K Spitfire began as a volunteer-run restoration project in 2000, after the Comox Air Force Museum acquired the parts and set its sights on returning the aircraft to the sky.
But eight years later, after slow progress and mounting costs, the parts were sold at a token cost to Vintage Wings to see the project through.
Courtenay councillor and former 19 Wing commander Jon Ambler told audience members that the decision to hand over the reins to Vintage Wings and rename the Spitfire marked a new beginning in the final stretch of the project.
"The Spitfire, to be sure, is beautiful in its own right," said Ambler. "But its restoration is truly noble and important because it reminds us of the bravery, courage, dedication and sacrifice of those who defended this country and made history doing so."
Air Force Association of Canada president Terry Chester said once the plane is sky worthy, it will mark its debut with an air show in Comox, followed by a tour of B.C.
The location of the plane's permanent home has not yet been chosen, Fleck said.
"Our job is to make sure that Canadians all over see the aircraft," Fleck said. "Would it leave Comox? It might. Would it stay in Comox? It might.
"Finding a permanent home might be as . simple as where we can find somebody that'll build a hangar for us, it's just that simple."
Fleck said several other Vintage Wings restored planes have strong ties to 442 Squadron and Comox, leaving open the possibility that if the Roseland Spitfire leaves town permanently, another plane may take its place.