Langley’s Canadian Museum of Flight is in the running to become the new home for a Second World War-era bomber.
David McIntosh, a museum director, is spearheading the effort to bring Avro Lancaster FM104 to Langley.
“It symbolizes the war effort,” McIntosh said. “It would be a memorial to all those who flew on the aircraft, all those who lost their lives.”
Bomber Command, which included RAF and RCAF pilots and crews, suffered one of the highest casualty rates of any group during the war, losing 44 per cent of its servicemen.
McIntosh doesn’t want to sugar coat the darker side of Allied bombing raids either, noting that they carpet bombed civilian targets as well as making military strikes.
If the Canadian Museum of Flight can bring in the Lancaster, it will be a rare sight for most locals.
“There’s so few Lancasters around,” Mitchell said.
There are thought to be about 16 left in the world. Eight of those are in Canada, but none are in British Columbia. About 400 were built in Canada during the course of the war.
The four-engined heavy bomber dubbed FM104 is currently disassembled and in storage in Toronto.
It never flew an offensive mission, which is one of the reasons it still exists.
Mitchell said this aircraft was built near the tail end of the war in Europe, and flown to England just as combat ceased there when Germany surrendered.
FM104 was then flown back to Canada to become part of Tiger Force – the Commonwealth portion of the expected invasion of Japan.
After the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered and Tiger Force was no longer needed.
FM104 still had a long career, serving in the RCAF as a coastal search and rescue plane until it was decommissioned in 1964.
It’s not certain that the Lancaster will head west.
“We’ve been working on it, but there’s a stiff competition from back east,” said museum executive director Dave Arnold.
The Lancaster is owned by the City of Toronto and was dismantled after sitting for many years on a concrete plinth.
If Langley wins in its bid for the Lancaster, the museum won’t have to pay for it, but will have to pay the costs of shipping it.
Then comes the difficult task of reassembly and restoration.
McIntosh would like to see the aircraft restored to operating condition, although not for actual flight.
It would likely remain a static display, outdoor but covered, said Arnold.
He estimated it would be a 10-year project to rebuild and restore the Lancaster.
The museum is located at the Langley Regional Airport, and is currently fundraising to create a larger, brand-new building to hold its existing collection of aircraft.
The museum put in its bid for the Lancaster in December, and expects to hear back on a decision within the first half of this year, said McIntosh.
That still leaves some time to fundraise and gather support. A change.org petition has been set up and has gathered more than 400 signatures already.