‘It’s timeless’: Historic Second World War plane stops in Winnipeg

A historic World War II plane once left for dead in a Northwest Territories lake is flying once again.

A PBY-5A Canso restored by the Fairview Aircraft Restoration Society has stopped at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada on a cross-Canada tour.

The Cansos were used for anti-submarine warfare, patrol bombing, air-sea rescue and cargo transport during the Second World War. This particular plane first flew in 1943.

“The Canso would dive over the submarines, pass over them at 100 feet, drop four depth charges as they passed over them,” said Don Wieben with the restoration society.

Following the war, it was converted to become a water bomber and was used to help fight wildfires in Western Canada until 2001, when it met its end.

“This one was fighting fires up in the Northwest Territories, dug its nose in picking up water on Sitidgi Lake and was damaged and sank in 100 feet of water,” Wieben said.

Not wanting to let the lake become the Canso’s final resting place, the restoration society bought the salvage rights, dragged the wrecked plane across the tundra and then got to work restoring it and repairing it a nearly decade-long effort.

“When you put that many farmers together, by the time stories are told, it’s coffee time and nothing got done,” Wieben said. “So if we eliminated all the storytelling, we’d probably be done in three years.”

Oliver Evans sits in the cockpit of a PBY-5A Canso restored by the Fairview Aircraft Restoration Society on July 9, 2024 in Winnipeg. (Jon Hendricks/CTV News Winnipeg)

The plane was finally ready in 2017, but a pilot was soon needed. Enter Oliver Evans, who has been flying Cansos since he was 25.

“This aircraft doesn’t have any powered systems,” he said. “It’s not hydraulically powered.”

Evans notes the plane is a slow flyer, and you can feel everything when flying.

“You’ve just got to move slowly along with it. Just do everything very methodically, step-by-step. Don’t be in a rush. It flies very low, very slow, and you just have to ride with it.”

The plane will be in Winnipeg until July 10 before it travels to its next community to highlight the Canso’s role in Canadian military history.

“It’s really a testament to the people who flew in it and the people who fixed it, the people who rode in it, and the people who took care of it. It’s timeless,” Evans said.

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