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Buzzing the Brits: Canada's legendary Lancaster off to Blighty for August tour

Image: Daniel Martins

Image: Daniel Martins

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 2:52 PM -

Hamilton-area residents are used to seeing their friendly neighbourhood Avro Lancaster bomber gracing the skies, usually around the time of the Hamilton Air Show.

Now the vintage Second World War icon is in for a journey a little bigger than an air show fly-by: A 6,000-km jaunt across the pond to join the only other one of its kind still flying.

"We've actually  been trying since we started flying ours in 1988 to get the two Lancasters flying together," Al Mickeloff, Marketing Manager at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, says.

The plane will take off from the Museum in Hamilton, Ont., on August 4, with stops in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador, Narsarsuaq in Greenland, and Keflavik, Iceland before arriving on August 8 at the Royal Air Force station in Coningsby, Lincolnshire. 

The plane will fly only in daylight, and in good weather, but Mickeloff says if the skies are clear enough, the crew will skip their Greenland stop altogether and go straight from Labrador to Iceland, where they will stay an extra day before arriving in Lincolnshire. Then the  six-week tour of the UK starts, lasting until the end of September.

Image: Bzuk / Wikimedia Commons

Image: Bzuk / Wikimedia Commons

Mickeloff said the dual appearances were more likely this year since, due to a fortunate convergence of component maintenance cycles, all the Lancaster's major parts have been recently replaced.

He adds there's also aging Second World War veterans to consider.

"The timing is getting long in the tooth for veterans in Bomber Command for them to see both Lancasters together," he says.

It’s a costly flight: Around $600,000. The Museum is raising the cash through several fundraising efforts, including air show appearances, retail sailes, donations, special events and a sponsorship by the Thwaites Brewery in the UK, which produces Lancaster Bomber Ale (“You couldn’t find a better match for a sponsor name!” Mickeloff chuckles).

They also auctioned off a special membership that includes a seat on the Lancaster itself, these kinds of views awaiting him or her:

Before you reach for your wallet, sorry: It’s already been filled. And it went for around $80,000, paid for by British entrepreneur Matthew Munson, who bid for the seat on eBay.

The Hamilton Spectator reports the 34-year-old entrepreneur, who identifies himself as a Second World War enthusiast, has experience as a helicopter pilot, and runs a multi-purpose company that includes tractor hiring services, will undergo training at the museum in Hamilton before the trans-Atlantic voyage. He will function not as a passenger, but a member of the crew.

“It's a helluva lot of money, but I'll just have to sell a few tractors to make up for it,” Munson told the Spectator. “You can't take it with you. You have to enjoy it.”

The Canadian Lancaster flies regularly and the plane, and its counterpart at the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in the UK, are the only two Lancasters left in the skies.

First manufactured in 1941, Lancaster Bombers are an icon of the Second World War, flying high-profile missions against Germany targets, such as the “Dam busters” rain on the Ruhr dam complex, and the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz.

The Hamilton Lancaster was built in 1945, one of 230 in total that saw action with the RCAF.

It flew Maritime patrol and search and rescue missions from bases at Greenwood, NS and Torbay, Nfld, before being retired in 1963.

It was put on display in Goderich, Ont., but was destined to return to the skies. It was acquired by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in 1977 and took wing once more in 1988 after a lengthy restoration process.

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