With the most recent addition to the BC Aviation Museum in North Saanich — a CP-121 Tracker — barely off the barge that brought it to the Saanich Peninsula, the museum is already working on its next additions.
“We are gearing up right now for our next acquisition that will probably arrive and it is a called a Piasecki,” said Doug Rollins, the museum librarian. “That is one of the earliest helicopters.”
Rollins said U.S. forces used those twin-rotor helicopters, nicknamed Flying Bananas, extensively during the Vietnam War before they found their way into the use of heli-logging companies in British Columbia. “That is going to be coming over probably this fall.”
Another iconic aircraft may arrive in North Saanich before the Piasecki, a CF-104 Starfighter.
“That will be coming down from Comox,” he said. “They were generous enough to donate it to us. Again, we are extremely excited about that because they were used extensively in Alberta in a training role, preparing them (for service) in Europe. Those are coming and I can only say right now that we have several irons in the fire for other aircraft.”
With its thin but stubby trapezoidal wings, long, narrow fuselage and lifted tail, the Starfighter was instantly recognizable while in service across multiple western air-forces, including Canada’s, for decades during the Cold War, serving as an interceptor and fighter-bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons. While its safety record with some air forces was poor (the plane earned the title of widow-maker from West Germans), a CF-104 still holds the record for the fastest and highest altitude flight by a Canadian plane.
The plane is currently on display at CFB Comox, with some bureaucratic hurdles, including approval from U.S. authorities still to be cleared.
Restoration of the Tracker, meanwhile, is said to be underway. “It is going to appear in its authentic (Canadian) navy livery,” said Rollins. “The actual designator, the number on it, hasn’t been decided yet. But I would suspect it would be a B.C. aircraft.”
Rollins said it is not clear how long the restoration will take. “It’s probably not going to fly,” he said. “There has been talk of having it running. Again, that is another issue to be decided. But the public will be able to see it immediately. It’s so large, it is going to be sitting outside. But you will be able to see as it is being restored and I suspect the restoration will be done within a year.”
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