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A Lancaster Moment

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I dropped by the #7 Elementary Flying Training School hangar yesterday to take some pix of the Packard Merlin engines on Lanc FM212, which we are in the process of restoring. It was a very hot, hazy Sunday and there was virtually no one there, just a couple of CH2A members, hanging around in case any visitors dropped by. I have only been volunteering on the project for about three months now but have found it to be one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.

Of the almost 7500 Avro Lancasters produced during WWII, only sixteen remain on the planet. Only two are flying, one of which, FM213, our sister ship, is a couple hundred miles up the road in Hamilton, Ontario, at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.

Our Lanc was purchased by the City of Windsor from the RCAF when it went off service in 1962, for the price of $1250. FM212 was built in Canada in 1945 but never saw active service as the war had ended. It went into service with 308 Sqn in Ottawa and saw over 8,000 hours of flight time doing aerial photographic mapping of the Arctic. When the city purchased it, it was still in flying condition. The wings and engines were removed and it was towed across Lake Erie on a barge from Milton to Windsor. Enroute, it was almost lost "at sea" during a storm.

From 1964 until 2005, it sat 20 feet in the air on a concrete plinth in Jackson Park, painted in war-time colours to honour the 400 Windsorites who lost their lives flying for Bomber Command. Those 41 years of static display took their toll. The wings began to sag, water was pooling in the wingtips, birds and bats were nesting in every available opening and vandals began to steal whatever they could.

In 2005, along with the City, the Canadian Historical Aircraft Association (CH2A) and The Lancaster Group, joined forces to bring FM212 down from her perch and rolled her to a temporary shelter beside #7 EFTS at the WIndsor Airport. Since then, the engines and wings have been removed again and we have been steadily re-building her, one skin and one part at a time. The work is being performed by a dedicated bunch of volunteers, many of them tradesmen in the aircraft industry, and many, like myself, just all-around handy guys with time on their hands who want to lend a hand on a significant endeavour.

So, that is our story and the tale of Lanc 212. These were just some of the thoughts that were running through my mind on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon as I climbed into the pilot's seat of one of the most significant military aircraft ever built. As I sat and looked around at the aged instruments, the worn and chipped controls and the hazed over perspex, I closed my eyes and imagined being an 18- or 19-year-old pilot, sitting on the tarmac on a summer evening in 1944, running up those four Merlin engines, charged with taking this massive bomber and her young crew across the channel at night, avoiding the searchlights and the nightfighters, and dropping her load of destruction. The weight of responsibility on these young men, the knowing that the odds were stacked heavily against them, and finding the will to forge on despite all of that, must have been unbearable. To sit in that seat now, and know that I may very well be the only person in the whole world at that moment in that position, was, in fact, too overwhelming for this 61 year-old and I climbed down reverently and went home.



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Great story and nice photographs! I'm working on a Lancaster right now (I'm doing the Revell kit as a Lancaster MK.VI, the one with the round, Lincoln-type cowlings). Good to see a Lancaster being restored.

Best Regards,


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