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From pile of junk to restored beauty

Aug 05 2012
Harry Addison stands next to a refurbished Harvard at the B.C. Aviation Museum in Sidney on Saturday. 

Harry Addison stands next to a refurbished Harvard at the B.C. Aviation Museum in Sidney on Saturday.

Photograph by: Lyle Stafford , timescolonist.com (August 2012)

Standing in front of a restored aircraft from 1940, David Stillman turns to admire his handiwork.

"It was a pile of junk," he said with a laugh.

Aviation enthusiasts gathered Saturday to celebrate Canada's aircraft history at the B.C. Aviation Museum's annual open house, and to welcome a new addition - a single-engine Harvard trainer.

The plane was used to train pilots in the Second World War.

Stillman and friend Win Albecht began the restoration almost seven years ago. Since launching the project, Stillman has suffered a heart attack and Albecht a stroke, but both men were eager to show off the yellow plane on Saturday.

"I'd never worked on a real plane before," Stillman said, though he crafted model planes as a child. "I thought, I'll give this a whirl."

He said people who have followed the restoration told him they thought it was an impossible feat. "If they told me that when I started, I wouldn't have done it," he said.

The restoration team expanded to include four people and the plane required parts from at least three different models of similar aircraft.

Although the plane is not airworthy, Stillman said, the team accomplished the ultimate goal of restoration: to make the plane as close to the original as possible.

Harry Addison, the master of ceremonies for the museum event, said he has a personal history with the Harvard trainer.

"The Harvard is certainly one of the oldies," he said, adding that there were thousands built for training.

Addison, who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1951 and served for 25 years, trained pilots in the aircraft. He spent 1,700 hours of flight time in the plane while living in Penhold, Alta.

"It's a powerful plane," he said. Addison and his wife live in Brentwood Bay and have owned a Piper Cherokee since 1983. He said they log 25 to 35 hours of flight time per year - a passion limited only by fuel prices.

"That's my life. I flew all my life," he said, pausing to grin, "and I got paid." cclancy@timescolonist.com

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