January 13, 2011
Media contact: Patty Wellborn
There are some fix-it jobs that are so overwhelming that they can keep taskmasters busy for years. Such is the case with a 1940s-era Lockheed Lodestar airplane that has spent the past four years at the University of the Fraser Valley’s Aerospace Centre.
In 2007, the Lodestar, a passenger plane once the flagship of Trans Canada Airlines, arrived at UFV’s Aerospace Centre, located at the Abbotsford Airport, for a cosmetic overhaul. Students in the university’s Aircraft Structures Technician program are using the plane’s restoration as a long-term, hands-on learning project that will keep them occupied for years to come.
The plane was discovered several years ago by Langley resident Bill Marr, one of its former pilots. It was retrieved in pieces from a scrap yard in the eastern United States. Through connections (and favours) the plane was shipped in several pieces to B.C. and reassembled for static display by the Museum of Flight in Langley. It was then transported to Delta Airpark, where it sat outside for about eight years “pretty much left to rot,” according to UFV Director of Trades Rolf Arnold.
The airplane was then transported, as documented by the TV show Monster Moves, to the UFV hangar and since its arrival numerous Aircraft Structures Technician students have worked on and continue to work on the plane. While it will never fly again, the goal is to restore the aircraft to a physical facsimile of what it once looked like, he adds.
“There are very few Lockheed Lodestars left in the world,” says Arnold. “This plane provides a great opportunity for our students, as it has a historical significance and it’s also a great, long-term project.”
The two-engine, multi-purpose aircraft was used to fly troops and cargo during World War II, and after the war, served as a passenger plane. The Lodestar has an important notch in Canada’s history, as in its later years it had a role much like America’s Air Force One and flew then Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent across the country. It was also the personal plane of Canada’s first ever Minister of Transport CD Howe, and flew many other Canadian dignitaries before it was retired. Since its arrival at UFV, the aluminum structure has been used for lessons about riveting and sheet metal repairs.
Arnold admits the completion of the project remains “years” away. But still, having the Lodestar at the UFV hangar is a great opportunity and the students love working on it.
Because of the work being done on the Lodestar, the Canadian Museum of Flight will make a special presentation to the university to show its appreciation. That presentation takes place on Wednesday, January 19, at the UFV hangar located at 30645 Firecat Avenue, Abbotsford International Airport.
The presentation ties in nicely with the upcoming open house at the UFV hangar to show off the Aircraft Structures Technician program, which takes place the same day. People are welcome to come to the presentation and then stay for a while, explore the hangar, and speak with current UFV students and staff about the program and the many career possibilities. The open house runs until 8 p.m. and the public is welcome to drop by at anytime, even if they can’t be there for the 4 p.m. presentation.
“We are feeling very optimistic about the aerospace industry and have had several recent calls from companies wanting to know the status of our graduates because they are looking to hire new people,” Arnold says. “Aerospace is a growth industry and we’re excited to offer this program in the Fraser Valley and at the Abbotsford Airport.”
The program introduces students to the fundamentals of aircraft structural maintenance and repair. Everything from the use of basic hand tools to the repair of advanced composite materials is included in the curriculum and students work on shop projects and also repair real-life damage on actual aircraft. The Lodestar is a bonus component.
“It is wonderful to have the Lodestar available for our students to work on. It has added a great historical dimension to our program,” adds Arnold.
Completion of the restoration is still expected to take several years and depending on what pieces can be located, the seating and some instruments might also be installed before the aircraft is finished and returned to the Canadian Museum of Flight. Back in Langley, it will act as a sentinel outside the museum alongside a DC3. It will be placed upon a pedestal where all Canadians can learn about this magnificent machine and its historical working days.
UFV’s Aircraft Structures Technician program is a 42-week program that introduces students to the basics of aircraft structural maintenance and repair. Approved by Transport Canada, it is one of the leading programs in the country and can start students on a career as a licensed maintenance aircraft engineer. Seats are still available for the next intake, which starts at the end of January. To find out more, visit www.ufv.ca/aerospace or call UFV’s Trades and Technology Centre at 1-888-504-7441, local 5402.