Australian Company Seeks Exception to Repair Lancaster Bomber

Edmundston society for the Preservation of the Lancaster/Facebook
Edmundston society for the Preservation of the Lancaster/Facebook

Peter Smythe owns Revers Airbirds in Adelaide, Australia, with his family. They research aircraft and then buy and restore them.

Now, he’s interested in a Lancaster bomber that’s been a roadside attraction near Edmundston, in Canada, for over 50 years. To restore it, Smythe would need to move the plane to Australia.

Recently, he did just that with a B25 that he bought in the USA.

Lancaster bombers were popular in World War II. They were used by the Allies to bomb targets in Europe. The one in Edmundston survived 11 missions in Germany. It is one of six remaining Lancasters in Canada. It was purchased by the government of Edmundston from the federal government in 1964 in order to be displayed. It’s been an outdoor landmark, exposed to the elements, since that time.

Dick Werle is a geographer for AERDE Environmental Research in Halifax. He relies heavily on aerial photographs and satellite imagery. As such, he appreciates working aircraft. He stopped by the Lancaster bomber to check it out on his way to Halifax. “It seems to be a bird-nesting site and it’s exposed to the elements quite a bit,” said Werle. “But it has been a fixture for travelers I think for a number of decades.”

Werle’s opinion is that it would take a lot of work to restore the aircraft, but that it would be worth it since there are only two Lancaster bombers in the world that can still fly. “Right now it seems as though nothing is done with it and it seems to be getting into worse and worse shape … I think it deserves a better fate than it has right now.”

Alberta Aviation Museum was ready to take over the bomber last spring but could not cover the $300,000 it would cost to move the plane, so they decided not to move forward with the plan.

Smythe found out about the bomber a year and a half ago on social media. He began to ask around about it and became worried that the bomber will not last much longer where it is. “We can only base our activities on past experiences and past experiences tell us that the aircraft will continue to be ignored and will continue to deteriorate,” said Smythe. “And the legal advice that we’re getting from our Canadian contacts is that there’s an avenue there for us to make an application to have something done about the aircraft being left as it is.”

Canadian Heritage laws require objects of significant cultural heritage stay within the country. Smythe is applying for an exemption. He also needs to get the plane released to him by the Edmunston government. Smythe feels the need to act soon. He worries that the plane will not be repairable if the process takes too long. “We understand the condition of the aircraft, hence our action to move now is based on the fact that we want to stop any corrosion or any further damage to the aircraft,” he said.

He’s moving quickly to get permission to move the plane out of the country but still needs approval from his company before moving the plane anywhere. “I’m not a wealthy individual … but as I said, time is of the essence and we’re sort of being pushed a little bit quicker into making some our decisions because of the condition of the aircraft,” said Smythe. “The worst case scenario is that if immediate action isn’t taken, the aircraft will be lost.”

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE