Posted by: Rob | September 12, 2009

Seen from my front yard

There’s a small airstrip near our house, about a kilometre away. There’s a few hangars there, presumably housing private planes. The strip used to be smaller, for airplanes of the single engine, recreational variety only, but a couple of years ago it was doubled in length to accommodate corporate jets. Part of the plan to entice more bitumen processing industry here, I suppose.

I know from a private pilot friend that a requirement to keeping your license is to actually complete a number of take-offs and landings periodically. The local flying enthusiasts here do that via a large circle; one side of the circle lines them up with the airstrip, while the other brings them over top of my house. So, I’m used to hearing aircraft engine noise as planes circle nearly endlessly overhead while I work outside in the yard.

A few weeks back, as I prepared forms for a new sidewalk, I heard the rumble of an aircraft engine. But this one sounded much, much different than what I was used to hearing. I looked up and found the source to the south of our place. As the plane appeared from behind my neighbour’s house I could immediately see why the noise was so different. The airplane had not one, not two, but four engines!

I knew right away from my airplane model building days that this was a bomber. World War II vintage. The tail configuration confirmed the aircraft was a Lancaster. I thought about what it must have sounded like as squadrons of tens or hundreds of these flew overhead; how terror-inspiring it would have been if you lived in within the bombers’ target area.

I ran to get my camera. The Lanc was pulling away and out of sight fast. But I still managed to snap this picture:

Lancaster

Lancaster bomber; one of two in flying condition worldwide. Flying to Cold Lake, AB

Later, I wondered what it was that brought this flying antique past our little hamlet.  A google search informed me of the reason.

The Canadian Warplane Heritage Lancaster Bomber will be arriving over the City of Edmonton late Friday afternoon as a visiting display and tribute to Alberta’s war veterans.

This is one of only two flying Lancasters in the world today, and the Alberta Aviation Museum is playing host to the Lancaster.

The Lancaster is also set to fly to Cold Lake, Alta. on August 1st and August 2nd for an air show. It will return to Edmonton after each show.

This Lancaster belongs to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.

There are a few other – non-flying – Lancasters housed in museums across Canada and around the world; some are in not-quite-complete condition.  One such is the Lancaster now owned by the town of Nanton, AB.  They maintain an excellent website with interesting information about the Canadian Lancasters as well as an inventory of the remaining Lancasters here and across the globe.

A brief overview of how Lancasters came to be manufactured in Canada is excerpted:

On September 18, 1941 a decision was made to build Lancasters in Canada and the first drawings arrived in January 1942. For a country still largely agrarian and just recovering from a decade of depression, the challenge was immense. 500 000 manufacturing operations were involved in building a Lancaster which was made up of some 55 000 separate parts even when engines and turrets were only considered as one and small items such as rivets, nuts, and bolts were not included. A Lancaster from England was flown across the Atlantic in August, 1942 to act as a “pattern” and a Crown Corporation named Victory Aircraft was formed to do the work in Malton, Ontario.

What is also quite interesting is how the surplus aircraft were sold off to farmers after the war; farmers whose ingenuity put the aircraft components to all sorts of uses.

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Responses

  1. wowzers! i adore the old planes! didn’t know much about the lancaster, but you got me digging…

    the sad/amazing fact from my world? the B-52, designed in the early 50’s and fielded in 1955? still in service. some of those bad boys are 50 years old and still flying. think about everything you know about fatigue, fracture, corrosion and stress cracks next time you see one fully loaded.

    loved the clever farmers. every outhouse needs an escape hatch! brilliant!

  2. My dad was a rear gunner in a Lancaster in the second world war

  3. WoW, Signor Roberto

  4. Sweet!


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