May 25th, 2024

Historical passenger jet returns to Lethbridge


By Lethbridge Herald on April 29, 2024.

A Fokker F28, being carried on a flatbed trailer, arrives on Monday at the Lethbridge airport. The plane, once one of the fleet of Lethbridge-based airline company Time Air, is to be part of an aviation museum planned for here. Herald photo by Al Beeber

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

A Fokker airliner has made a long journey back to Lethbridge, arriving on Monday at the airport to be re-assembled as part of work by the Time Air Historical Society to establish an aviation museum here.

Rik Barry of the society watched on a cool cloudy morning as the fuselage, carried on a flatbed trailer, arrived at the airport after a journey from Saskatoon that started last week.

While the wings and the horizontal stabilizer reached the airport on Saturday, the fuselage was delayed until Monday morning. The old 65-seat airliner left Ritchie Brothers Auctioneers at Wilson Siding around 8:30 a.m. for the airport via Secondary Highway 508. Power crews had to lift electrical wires out of the way for the plane to reach its destination where the wings were to be reattached with the assistance of two large cranes on Monday.

Built in 1975, the 65-seat jet only occasionally flew out of the Lethbridge airport where the runway wasn’t designed for a craft of its size.

But Barry, an airplane enthusiast, remembers purchasing a ticket so he could take a ride on this particular aircraft.

The society was never supposed to get an F-28 but rather just a couple of parts,” said Barry. 

“It was just persistence by a lot of former airline people and enthusiasts,” he said while waiting for the plane to arrive.

“When we looked at what was left of the fleet, that was the silver anniversary plane,” he added.

The F-28 was more for bigger routes but occasionally an F-28 would be substituted for the Dash-8 aircraft that typically would fly out of Lethbridge, he said.

Barry recalled deciding to take a joyride on the F-28  one day from Lethbridge to Calgary.

 The standby cost him $60  “and myself and a buddy just before I hopped on the plane, – by this time it had already been painted in Canadian Regional colours – I snapped a photograph and didn’t think anything of it until all these years later and I pulled up the photograph and found out that the only F-28 flight I was ever on in my life was on that aircraft,” he said.

The plane was parked in Saskatoon since 2002, he said.

The plane has 1990s Air Canada colours and what was supposed to happen, said Barry, after the takeover of Canadian and its subsidiaries by Air Canada, the fleet was intended to continue flying” which is why some were painted. The Canadian Regional marking on the plane brought to Lethbridge consists of vinyl decals and the intention was to remove them after the merger was completed, he said.

The plane is one of 34 that were in the Time Air fleet. A total of 241 were manufactured.

The process of disassembly started last Wednesday morning with both wings taken off by Thursday night. On Friday, the journey began to Alberta where the plane stayed at Rehoboth in Coaldale where the society got a lot of help because permits only allow travel until 3 p.m.

“They had a large parking lot and I remembered they were there so I gave them a quick call and they said ‘ya, absolutely bring it in’ so we stored it and we talked and decided we should be able to take everything and get it into the position it’s supposed to be in on Saturday morning. So it came to Ritchie Brothers on Saturday. The wings and the top of the tail came to the airport.”

The long-term goal is to strip down the plane and polish it. 

Time Air was founded in 1966 by Walter “Stubb” Ross. It flew Twin Otters for a couple of decades before Ross introduced the Short 330, manufactured by the Short Brothers in Belfast, Ireland, a plane referred to as a “boxcar” because of its shape.

It was the first company in the world to fly the Short SD-330 commercially. Time Air was actually the second company in the world to order the plane. A company in the U.S. was supposed to be the world launch customer but a change in American regulations prevented that. With Stubbs No. 2 to sign on, Time Air was asked to be the world launch aircraft so all the demonstrators that flew globally on sales tours flew in Time Air colours, Barry said.

The company also flew the Dehavilland Dash-8, landing the first Series 300 aircraft in the world in 1989. Time Air also became the world launch customer for that plane.

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