After an absence of many years, a former Royal Canadian Air Force Beech Expeditor is back on its display in Parade Square.
The plane was taken away to where the Ghost Squadron volunteers (a mostly civilian restoration team) were finally able to restore it, noted Gord Crossley, Wing Heritage Officer.
Mr. Crossley was part of a small morning procession on October 13, 2022 from the military tent by the Ghost Squadron’s maintenance area to Parade Square.
The Beechcraft Model 18 (or “Twin Beech”, as it is also known) is a 6- to 11-seat, twin-engine, low-wing, tailwheel light aircraft manufactured by the Beech Aircraft Corporation of Wichita, Kansas.
Over 9,000 were produced from 1937 to November 1969 (over 32 years, a world record at the time), making it one of the world’s most widely used light aircraft. As well as serving as a civilian aircraft for executive, utility, cargo, and passenger transport, it was also used by the military.
Over the years, weather conditions forced the plane to undergo repairs, noted Colin Craddock, a retired military pilot who now flies for Air Canada.
“With the 100th anniversary of the RCAF coming up in 2024, many of the aircraft on the base are being refurbished to look pristine and shiny for the anniversary date,” he said.
“This aircraft had a new paint job. The aluminum was all cleaned and polished. It took about a year to get all the painting done and add new decals. Things age over time, and unless care is taken to restore them, we may lose valuable pieces of history.”
Mr. Crossley called John Hockman, a “fantastic woodworker,” who completed the work on the rotted interior.
“He essentially built a complete new floor and interior for the aircraft. The exterior work was done by Western Industrial Services Limited.”
Mr. Hockman, who was part of the procession, said it took him about 18 months working one day a week to make the Expeditor’s floor.
“It’s got a curve to the bottom of the floor. So, I had to make a mold that actually allowed me to bend and laminate three thin layers of plywood into a curved surface. Our floor pieces were edged with aluminum by Perimeter Aviation.”
Mr. Crossley said this particular Beech Expeditor, built in 1952, was retired by the RCAF around 1970.
“It was used as a bush plane for many years,” he added. “It was picked up mainly as scrap in the 1990s, rebuilt, and put in its original RCAF colours.
“Over the past five years, a main core group of about five individuals has worked to restore the aircraft.”