Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Bolingbroke will not fly:Vintage aircraft to be restored to run-up condition only

The Bristol Bolingbroke aircraft that has been under restoration at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum since 1986 will look and sound like it did during the Second World War — but it won’t fly.

Al Mickeloff, marketing manager at the Mount Hope museum, said they decided to ground the aircraft late last year.

“After a very thoughtful and open group discussion and in consideration of the real-world challenges included in restoring and safely operating an airworthy Bolingbroke, it was decided by the team, including the restoration team and management, to continue to restore the aircraft to just ground-running operation,” Mickeloff said.

As reconnaissance bombers, Bolingbrokes were used by the Royal Canadian Air Force on anti-submarine patrols and as trainers at bombing and gunnery schools at British Commonwealth Air Training Plan bases during the Second World War.

The museum’s Bolingbroke Mk IVT is being rebuilt from the remains of eight aircraft salvaged from Manitoba.

CWH president and chief executive officer David Rohrer estimates the museum has spent $50,000 to $80,000 on things like fittings, wiring, engines, propellers and other parts since the restoration began, and all the new parts had to be approved by Transport Canada.

“It’s a complicated airplane,” Rohrer said. “Materials approval took years, not months.”

A contributing factor to the decision was the reliability of the Bolingbroke’s two Bristol Mercury XV engines.

“The Mercury engines don’t have a great reputation,” Rohrer said.

In June 2016, a CWH Lysander crash-landed in a field near Cayuga after the pilot experienced problems with the same type of engine that will be installed on the Bolingbroke.

Although no one was injured, the crash landing gave museum officials pause for thought, and Rohrer said they decided not to take any chances with the Bolingbroke, when it comes to safety.

Rohrer said the decision means they no longer require Transport Canada approval for the restoration work, and it should save the museum a lot of time and money.

“What it means is we don’t have to do everything to an airworthy standard,” he said. “It makes the ability to finish the project a lot easier. We don’t need certified shops to do some of the engineering work.”

Rohrer said they should be able to finish the project in-house, hopefully in time for the museum’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2022.

Wayne Ready, who has been leading the Bolingbroke restoration project since it began, said he was disappointed with the decision and thinks about the restoration crew members who have died over the years without seeing the aircraft completed.

“It hurt a little bit, but we got over it,” said Ready who noted the restoration group is now down to eight people from as many as 18 several years ago.

Ready said the fuselage and centre section of the aircraft are essentially complete and some work still needs to be done on the engines.

Then it’s a matter of attaching the wings and engines and painting the aircraft in the brown and green colours of RCAF 119 City of Hamilton Squadron.

“It will be quite a day when it rolls down the tarmac,” said Ready, who noted the CWH aircraft will be the only Bolingbroke in North America that has been restored to run-up condition.

The only flying Bolingbroke in the world is operated by the Aircraft Restoration Co at the Duxford Airfield in Cambridgeshire, U.K.

Ready said the CWH aircraft could be restored to flying condition sometime in the future should the museum wish to do so.