New Brunswick

Edmundston's Lancaster bomber getting new home in Trenton, Ont.

A museum in Trenton, Ont., is thrilled it's going to be the new home of the Lancaster bomber that has been owned by the City of Edmundston, N.B., since 1964.

National Air Force Museum will make airplane centrepiece of its celebration of 100th anniversary of RCAF

This Lancaster bomber was purchased by the City of Edmundston in 1964, but is in need of restoration, which the city cannot afford. (Edmundston society for the Preservation of the Lancaster/Facebook)

A Second World War military aircraft that has been a landmark at the New Brunswick-Quebec border for more than 50 years has finally found a new home.

The Lancaster bomber is badly in need of restoration work, and it seemed no one could afford to do it.

The City of Edmundston couldn't, so it searched for an institution willing to take on the project. 

The Alberta Aviation Museum submitted the winning bid for the airplane, but then backed out in June when it realized it didn't have the money needed.

Now, another bidder has come forward, and on Tuesday night, it was announced that the Lancaster is headed for The National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton, Ontario.

"I guess wow is the best word, knowing how important this aircraft is to Canada," said Chris Colton, executive director of the museum, of his reaction to hearing that his bid was accepted.

"Knowing what a tremendous story it can tell, the bravery of the crews flying it in World War II, and the after-war, post-war, Cold War timeframe when it flew some very interesting, shall we say, missions in the electronic intelligence gathering role."

The Lancaster bomber, KB-822, is one of the last of its kind in the world and will be taken apart and shipped to Trenton, Ont. for permanent display at the National Airforce Museum of Canada. (City of Edmundston)
Colton knows all about the history of that very Lancaster, one of just four still intact that served in the skies over occupied Europe.

Cold War, WW II service

"It was reconfigured into what's called an area reconnaissance configuration," he said, "which then allowed it to provide services to the RCAF for mapping and charting, for photographic work, and to do some sniffing, shall we call it, some electronic intelligence gathering during the Cold War. In fact, this aircraft flew missions against Russian trawlers during the Cuban Missile Crisis."

The City of Edmundston bought the Ontario-built Lancaster in 1964, paying $1,600.

Over the years, sitting outside, it has deteriorated, with rust setting in, and even had birds nesting in it.

"I have watched this aircraft over the last 10 years in hopes that someone would eventually grab on to the restoration project to save it," said Colton. "It's a very special, iconic aircraft for Canada. This year when we determined that the Edmonton museum was unable to go forward with their plan, I did approach the City of Edmundston and offered our help."

Major plans for airplane

The Trenton museum had finished second in the initial bidding for the airplane, and was thrilled to have a second chance. It has big plans for the Lancaster.

"I would guess it's going to cost at least $250,000 over the next seven years to work on it and get the aircraft fully restored to a display status," said Colton. "We're confident we have the funding available to do that, so right now, it's just a question of time. We are targeting Apr. 01, 2024 to have it unveiled to the public, which is the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force."

The Lancaster will join the museum's other pride and joy, a fully restored Halifax Mk. VII bomber, which coincidentally took to the skies on two different missions in 1945 above Germany at the same time as the Lancaster.

It will be the only museum in the world to feature both restored airplanes, helping tell the important history of the war and post-war years for future generations of Canadians.

Museum volunteers and trained RCAF recovery specialists will visit the Edmundston site and hope to begin the disassembly of the aircraft in March or April of 2017, which will take about three months.

Then it will be shipped to Trenton, for the long process of restoration. "We have a wonderful force of about 25 volunteers who just can't wait to have their hands on it and start the process," said Colton.

With files from Shift