Friday, January 27, 2012

Spitfire has new name, timeline to soar

PRESIDENT ROB FLECK of Vintage Wings of Canada makes a presentation at 19 LWing Comox.

With the start of the final stretch of restoration underway, the renamed Roseland Spitfire may just fly for the first time in 2015 since reconstruction began on the classic military plane in Comox.

Terry Chester, spokesperson for the Roseland Spitfire Hangar at 19 Wing Comox, confirmed Friday the former Y2K Spitfire restoration is doing well in the hands of Gatineau-based Vintage Wings of Canada.

"The initial flight and and test flight will be here. She'll be flying, and we'll be having an open house and an air show day," he said.

In June 2008, an agreement was reached between the Department of National Defence and Vintage Wings of Canada which specified that the vintage Spitfire aircraft will continue to be built in Comox, that it will retain the Y2K markings and that it will fly in Comox.

Jon Ambler, former 19 Wing commander and Comox Air Force Museum volunteer co-ordinator/program manager explained due to overwhelming costs, the volunteer-run project (which began in 2000) was sold to Vintage Wings.

"Things don't make history, people make history," noted Ambler.

The cost of restorations to the vintage plane to make it airworthy is estimated between $2 million and $3 million, but could exceed that range, noted Rob Fleck, president of Vintage Wings, who was at the Spitfire hangar Friday for a presentation on the company, the dedication of planes in the "In His Name" program which honours the memory of military pilots and they types of planes the organization restores.

"Aircrafts are nothing but tools. They are cold, inert pieces of metal," he said. "And what we do, is we use these tools to teach Canadians about their proud history, often times re-teach Canadians about their proud history."

Fleck said the reason for the name change from the Y2K project is to connect everyone with Flight Lieutenant Arnold Walter (Rosey) Roseland, a pilot from 442 Squadron who flew the Spitfire 65 times in battle. He was shot down and killed over France in 1944.

"He did his job to this country," added Fleck.

He explained the work to the plane is going smoothly, with an engine in a test stand and a tail which is getting closer to going on the plane.

As part of the agreement with the organization, Vintage Wings will manage the completion of the project in Comox, with wings and engine to be built under subcontract in England and the U.S., but the completion of the main fuselage and final assembly will continue in Comox.

Chester said although there is no confirmation on where the plane will stay once it tours the country in air shows following completion, but noted he hopes it might remain close by.

"Where it goes after that has not yet been decided, but if I was a betting man, I would say it would be somewhere in Western Canada," he added.

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