Calgary

Volunteers finding creative workarounds to restore historic aircraft amid pandemic

How do you restore a WWII-era aircraft during a pandemic when pandemic restrictions prevent traditional group work?

Group work at the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton is on hold due to pandemic restrictions

Jack McWilliam, project manager with the Calgary Mosquito Aircraft Society, has been working at home on the pilot seat of a historic de Havilland Mosquito aircraft owned by the City of Calgary. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

How do you restore a Second World War-era aircraft during a pandemic when restrictions prevent traditional group work?

Jack McWilliam, project manager with the Calgary Mosquito Aircraft Society, says it involves some creative workarounds — like working on parts ranging from wing flaps to mechanical components at home.

McWilliam, a professional aircraft mechanic, has been working after hours at his workplace on the pilot seat of a historic de Havilland Mosquito aircraft owned by the City of Calgary.

"We're learning as we go with this project," McWilliam said. "There's always bumps in the road.

"The cards were dealt, so you play with what you got."

Pandemic-related restrictions have changed plans for the society. Group work at their workshop in the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton has been put on hold.

Calgary Mosquito Society president Richard de Boer says the pandemic has been challenging for many of the group's volunteers who use the work on the aircraft as their social get-together. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

McWilliam said the volunteers with the society miss working together but are passionate and are finding ways to keep at it during the pandemic.

But it has been difficult for many of the volunteers, who are retired and use the work on the aircraft as their social get-together.

Society president Richard de Boer said the volunteer efforts have allowed the group to operate at around 20 per cent capacity.

"We have enough guys and volunteers who have workshops at home, who have spaces where they can work," he said.

"So we have been going down to the museum and instead of everybody going down there to work on the airplane, we're essentially bringing the airplane to our people."

The pandemic's impact likely means the timeline for the project will be extended, de Boer said. 

For McWilliam, the goal remains the same.

"I'm coming up on 50 years of fixing airplanes and I never leave an airplane behind," McWilliam said.

With files from Dave Gilson

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