May 29th, 2024

Restoration set to begin on Fokker aircraft


By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on May 10, 2024.

Herald file photo by Al Beeber - A flatbed trailer carrying a Fokker F28, heads west on Highway 508 toward the Lethbridge airport late last month. The Time Air Historical Society is set to restore the 49-year-old airplane.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

Transporting a Fokker F-28 – be careful how you say that – to the Lethbridge Airport was tough enough, but now the real work begins.

The 49-year-old airplane arrived at the airport late last month, carried on a flatbed trailer from Saskatoon, Sask., where it sat for some years waiting for the Time Air Historical Society to haul it away.

Now that the airplane is here, the society will begin the long and expensive task of restoring it to its former glory, and then hopefully displaying it one day, along with other aircraft, in a new museum.

For now, though, the aircraft remains outdoors just west of the SRI Homes manufacturing plant, where it will remain while the society restores it; just not to the point of flying it, of course.

“To get the aircraft home we had to sever every fuel line, every hydraulics line,” says society chairman Rik Barry. “The aircraft is old technology, so it’s a lot of cables and pulleys; we had to disconnect all of those and also all the electrical.”

The society would also have to jump through a lot of regulatory hoops and spend a lot of money to make it airworthy again, not to mention the astronomical cost for insurance and the fact that Rolls Royce no longer makes or supports the engine.

“But we can certainly, over time, make her look pretty and make her look like she wants to fly,” Barry says.

The first step in restoration will be to put some missing parts back onto the top of the tail. Barry points out only six bolts – big ones, mind you – connect the tail to the airplane.

“It seems like it’s horribly under-engineered, but they do exactly what they need to do.”

Cleaning the plane will take a lot of time and elbow grease, as well, but because the plane was well-stored over the years, Barry believes the plane will be in good enough shape to show it to visitors and let them wander through the cabin and even the cargo hold.

“The most important value for people coming out to see the aircraft is to actually be fully immersive with the aircraft.”

Barry notes the society has an agreement with the city that will allow the society to have up to five aircraft on airport property. For now, the Fokker and any other planes the society brings in, will remain outside, but the public will have access to them.

“The long-term goal, obviously, is to have a full-scale facility, but for right now, just like every other aircraft museum, most start with open-air storage until a building is actually put together.”

The last step of the restoration will be determining the type of finishing to put on the outside of the fuselage, which will include placing plates over weak points to strengthen them, and trying to replicate the original polished aluminum.

How long it takes to complete restoration depends on the generosity of the public, since the society is currently a non-profit organization. Barry says the organization is working to achieve charity status, which will help attract government grants and corporate sponsors.

“This is something that could easily be a decades-long project.”

Barry compares it to the Lancaster bomber on display at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, formerly the Nanton Lancaster Society Museum, which was 40 years in the making.

People won’t have to wait that long to see the Fokker F-28, however. That opportunity could even come later this month.

“Our short-term goal is to have the aircraft cleaned up enough that we can participate in Aviation Days at the airport at the end of May.”

The society owns three other planes, including a Dehavilland Twin Otter, which is also at the airport; a Short SD330; and a Convair CV580, which is in Montreal. The Convair was a corporate airplane originally owned by Dominos Pizza, and Time Air was the first company in the world to commercially fly the Short SD330.

The society hopes to create a museum at the airport which, because of the size of the planes, would require two buildings; one at the north end of the property for larger planes, such as the F-28, and one at the south end in the TransCanada Airlines hanger, which the society hopes to take over, restore and have designated a national historic site.

Of course, all of that, including plane restoration, costs money. A lot of it. Tens of millions of dollars after all is said and done, Barry says. The immediate goal, however, is to begin restoring the F-28, and Barry encourages donations, which can be made at any Alberta Treasury Branch, or through etransfers to the society at timeairhs@gmail.com.

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