New Brunswick

Australian man wants to rescue Edmundston's Lancaster bomber

An Australian antique aircraft lover wants to take ownership of the iconic Lancaster bomber that's been a roadside attraction near Edmundston for more than 50 years, so he can move it to Australia and restore it.

Exemption sought from Canadian Heritage law that requires significant cultural items to remain in Canada

Reevers Warbirds want Edmundston's Lancaster bomber restored to its former glory

6 years ago
Duration 1:02
A group of Australian war plane enthusiasts have their sights set on Edmundston's Lancaster bomber and want to take it down under.

An Australian antique aircraft lover wants to take ownership of the iconic Lancaster bomber that's been a roadside attraction near Edmundston for more than 50 years, so he can move it to Australia and restore it. 

Peter Smythe's family owns Reevers Warbirds in Adelaide, where he researches aircraft to see if he can buy and restore it for the business.

He recently purchased a B25 from the USA and brought it to Australia to repair.

Lancaster bombers were widely used by Allied forces to bomb targets in Europe during the Second World War.

11 sorties into Germany

The Lancaster bomber now in Edmundston survived 11 sorties into Germany and is one of six surviving Lancasters in Canada.

A Lancaster bomber that has sat near the Trans-Canada Highway in Edmundston is in need or repair that the city can't afford. (Edmundston society for the Preservation of the Lancaster/Facebook)
The bomber has rested near the borders of Quebec and New Brunswick since 1964 when the City of Edmundston bought it from the federal government to put on display.

It's been an outdoor landmark, exposed to the elements ever since.

Dirk Werle has a strong appreciation for working aircraft. He is a  geographer for AERDE Environmental Research in Halifax, and relies heavily on air photos and satellite images.

He stopped to see the Lancaster Bomber on Wednesday on his way to Halifax out of curiosity.

'A bird-nesting site'

"It seems to be a bird-nesting site and it's exposed to the elements quite a bit," said Werle.

"But it has been a fixture for travelers I think for a number of decades."

Werle thinks restoring the bomber would take a lot of effort, but would be worth it since there are only two airworthy vessels remaining in the world.

"Right now it seems as though nothing is done with it and it seems to get into worse and worse shape unfortunately...I think it deserves a better fate than it has right now."

Alberta plan fell through

The City of Edmundston was ready to hand the bomber over to the Alberta Aviation Museum last spring.

But the museum was unable to find a sponsor to fund the over $300,000 move, and decided against undertaking the cost and the plane.

Smythe heard about the bomber 18 months ago on social media and began to make enquiries to find out more. He's worried the plane will not last much longer where it is.

"We can only base our activities on past experiences and past experiences tell us that the aircraft will continue to be ignored and will continue to deteriorate," said Smythe.

"And the legal advice that we're getting from our Canadian contacts is that there's an avenue there for us to make an application to have something done about the aircraft being left as it is."

Exemption sought

Smythe is applying for an exemption from Canadian Heritage laws that require an object of significant cultural heritage to be kept within the country. He will also need the City of Edmundston to release the plane to him.

Smythe is concerned how much of the aircraft would be repairable if his requests aren't granted soon.

Peter Smythe of Reevers Warbirds & Pastoral Services is looking at possibly securing and restoring Edmundston's WWII Lancaster Bomber.
"We understand the condition of the aircraft, hence our action to move now is based on the fact that we want to stop any corrosion or any further damage to the aircraft," he said.

Smythe says he's moving quickly to try to get permission to move the plane, but before making any final decisions his company will have to approve the project as well.

"I'm not a wealthy individual ... but as I said, time is of the essence and we're sort of being pushed a little bit quicker into making some our decisions because of the condition of the aircraft," said Smythe.

"The worst case scenario is that if immediate action isn't taken, the aircraft will be lost."