On Thursday, January 26, 2015, I had the very special pleasure of visiting a Canadian airline historic relic, in the protected confines of a hangar at Abbotsford Airport, an hour’s drive east of Vancouver.
Between 1941 and 1949 Trans Canada Air Lines operated a fleet of 15 Lockheed 18 Lodestars, primarily on the then new airline’s domestic routes. The entire fleet of Lodestars served the airline well and were sold off to corporate flight departments of the day. Except one machine, CF-TCY, which was sold to the Canadian Department of Transport. In the 65 years that have passed since the types retirement from TCA, the aircraft have more or less vanished in the annals of aviation history, except one resilient example, CF-TCY.
Today, the aircraft is under snail’s pace restoration at the University of the Fraser Valley Aerospace Centre vocational institute at Abbotsford airport. They have been working on the plane since 2007, and it this rate, will take many years for the restoration to display only condition. The students at the vocational school’s Aircraft Structures programme work on the plane as time and instruction allows. The good news is the aircraft is in a dry sheltered environment. The aircratf is owned by the Canadian Museum of Flight at Langley Airport.
CF-TCY was discovered about 20 years ago when Langley resident (and former TCA Lodestar pilot) Bill Marr discovered the aircraft at an aviation museum on the Eastern US. The plane was then acquired by the Canadian Museum of Flight and shipped in pieces back to BC and was re-assembled for static display at the Delta Air Park in 1996. Sitting outside exposed to the elements for 11 years was less than ideal for preservation, and thankfully the plane was taken indoors in 2007, otherwise the plane would have rotted away.
Since its arrival, many Structures students have “worked” on the aircraft as they learned their trade, but the machine will never fly again. It is everyone’s dream for the plane to be restored to static display condition … one day. As completion of the restoration could take another decade or more, it serves the school well as a long term learning project. Many pieces still need to be located, including interior seating and fixtures, and the cockpit instruments.
After TCA retired the aircraft, CF-TCY performed VIP government duties with the Department of Transport and is known to have carried Canada’s then Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent across the country. It was also the personal transport for Canada’s first Minister of Transport C.D. Howe during the 1950s.
I would like to thank Terry Brunner, Manager of the Canadian Museum of Flight for arranging my visit.