After a wildly successful British tour, Hamilton’s Lancaster bomber is about to finally head home – but with an expensive bill in tow.
The crew of the beloved plane is leaving the UK Tuesday morning at 5 a.m. ET on its way back to Hamilton, making stops in Iceland and Newfoundland before heading home to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.
The National | The Lancaster Bomber: D-Day's workhorse
The return trip will be aided by an engine borrowed from a British company. The borrowed engine has been in place since one of the plane’s four engines shut down a few weeks ago while on tour with a British Lancaster. The borrowed engine will be shipped back overseas once the crew gets home while the original gets repaired – for about $180,000.
“Flying old aircraft certainly isn’t cheap,” said Al Mickeloff, the museum’s marketing manager who is travelling with the Second World War bomber on its tour of British airshows.
But an outpouring of support from both sides of the Atlantic has helped offset the cost of the engine and some of the missed airshows while the bomber was grounded.
Mickeloff said he’s been “overwhelmed” by the support from British aviation groups and regular citizens. The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum even had to alter its website so scores of donations in British pounds could pour in.
That kind of intense love for the old aircraft is indicative of the pure enthusiasm people have for seeing it in the air, Mickeloff says. “It’s been unbelievable,” he said. “We expected to be popular over here, but we’re 100 times more popular than we even expected.”
Many of the people who are the most invested in the shows are veterans who will likely never get the chance to see two Lancasters fly in formation over their heads ever again. “It usually brings a tear to their eye – they haven’t seen two Lancasters fly together in 50 years.”
But the enthusiasm isn’t limited to people in their nineties, he said. “People see them and remember their parents and their grandparents.”
Though the plane leaves Tuesday, the Lancaster’s crew likely won’t get home until Friday or into the weekend. They’re facing headwinds this time the whole way back, and there’s less urgency to get there for a specific show date.
Though after two months, everyone is anxious to get home, Mickelhoff said.
“We don’t want the tour to end – but it’s time to get back to our family and friends.”