The pandemic halted the restoration of a Lancaster bomber that spent 50 years in Edmundston, but the passionate volunteers working on the plane at the National Air Force Museum of Canada are committed to having it ready by its original target date in 2024.
The COVID-19 pandemic shut the doors at the Trenton, Ont., museum on March 17 and didn't reopen until August, leaving work on the Second World War plane idle for five months.
Kevin Windsor, executive director of the museum, said the volunteers were eager to get back to work on the restoration.
"They were calling weekly, some daily, just to see when they could return to work on the Lancaster," he said.
When the volunteers returned to the shop, there were adjustments made to the process because of COVID-19 guidelines.
To reduce the number of people in the workspace, the volunteers are working in rotating shifts of teams — with 10 people in each group.
"Especially working around in a restoration workshop, there's some pretty tight spaces that people have to work in, so we had to factor all of that in as well."
The volunteers are retired mechanics and members of the aviation community who are thrilled with the opportunity to work on the rare plane.
When the museum took on the project back in October 2017, it set the target finish date to April 1, 2024 — just in time for the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
But when the restoration group set the timeline, it left several buffer months. Windsor said the time lost from the pandemic shouldn't impact the projected finish date.
Windsor added that volunteers are trying to double up on their work to make up for lost time.
Currently, there are teams of volunteers working on the interior of the rear section of the plane and another working on the undercarriage.
The outside of the plane is waiting to be painted, which will happen closer to the finish date.
Originally the crew was worried about the condition of the tires, but Windsor said the team was pleasantly surprised when the crew removed the rubber and found they were in good condition. He said only the inner tubes that will need to be replaced.
The wing section of the plane is mostly restored.
Windsor said of all the work that's been done to date, he's most excited about the four engines in the aircraft which have been taken apart, cleaned, restored and reassembled.
"The engines now are in, gosh, almost as good as shape as they were in in 1950."
The Lancaster bomber will never fly again but once the project is complete it will look as good as it did before its first flight.
Windsor said once the aircraft is on display at the museum in 2024, he expects there will still be another two years of work to be done on the inside of the plane.
But that work can be done while it's on the museum floor.