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Lancaster to make Sunday trip to Devonshire Mall

Sonja Puzic, Windsor Star
Published: Monday, April 23, 2007

Early Sunday morning risers will be rubbing their eyes this weekend when Windsor's 61-year-old Lancaster bomber arrives at Devonshire Mall.

The FM212 plane will leave "the shoebox," its temporary home at the rear of Jackson Park around 6 a.m. and head down McDougall Avenue, then south on Howard Avenue toward the Sears department store.

The Lanc will certainly be the eye-catcher of the parking lot, where it will be on display for several days so that people can admire it up close and learn about its role in Canadian history.

That's only the first phase of the airplane's ambitious journey, carefully mapped out by a group of dedicated volunteers who saved one of this city's most recognizable landmarks before it succumbed to the elements, perched on a pedestal in Jackson Park since 1965.

On May 13, the plane will again be on the move, this time heading to the Windsor Airport, where it will undergo a decade-long facelift. There will be a ceremonial stop at the Tim Hortons on the corner of Walker Road and County Road 42.

"There are three reasons why we're doing this," Michael Kohuch, assistant manager of the restoration project, said Monday as he and several other volunteers padded Lance's interior to cover up sharp edges in preparation for the public viewing.

"Reason No 3: This is a really cool plane and it needs to be preserved. Reason No. 2: We want to educate people and children about the Lancaster and (the Second World War). And reason No. 1 is, always, honouring our veterans."

Kohuch said the restoration team of about 40 people, including engineers, electricians, carpenters and labourers, has already spent
"thousands of hours" cleaning up and polishing the airplane.

"We'll spend tens of thousands of hours more restoring in," project manager Ed Curnutte added.

Curnutte said the plane was removed from the pedestal "just in time" in 2005, before corrosion became irreversible. He said the team's goal is to house the Lancaster in a small museum at the airport once the restoration is complete, so that future generations can have "a beautiful memorial."

"(City) council made the right decision in letting us do this," he said.

The Lancaster's restoration and the museum will be funded by community and corporate donations.

Kohuch said a fundraising team has already been very successful in getting financial support.

When the plane is ready for its close-up on April 30, visitors will be asked to make a donation in exchange for climbing into the cockpit.
There's also something else Windsorites can do to help immortalize the Lancaster - look for pieces and parts of the plane that may have ended up in their garages, sheds or attics.

It may sound strange, but one of the Lancaster's seats was found on a city parks and recreation department lawn roller, Kohuch said.
"If people have pieces that belong to the plane, now is the time to bring them to us," he said. "No questions asked."

spuzic@thestar.canwest.com