Lockheed Lodestar 18-08 CF-TCY

Lockheed Lodestar 18-08 CF-TCY

An icon of Canadian Aviation History is being preserved by the Canadian Museum of Flight at the Langley Airport, in partnership with the University College of the Fraser Valley at Abbotsford. Together they have undertaken to refurbish and preserve a former Trans-Canada Airlines Lockheed Lodestar aircraft. This aircraft CF-TCY is of significant cultural and historic importance to Canada in that it was once the primary wartime air transport of TCA flying between Victoria and Newfoundland during the war years. Fifteen of these aircraft were operated by TCA on a transcontinental service and Canadian Pacific Airlines operated nine, initially on the Northwest Staging Route, building the Alaska Highway and the oil pipeline from Norman Wells to Whitehorse.

The Museum aircraft, CF-TCY was a California Lockheed model 18-08 aircraft known as a Lodestar. It was the sixth aircraft of this type delivered to TCA on February 13th, 1941. Trans Canada Air Lines had previously received an initial order of 15 Lockheed Super Electra aircraft to commence the transcontinental airmail service in 1939. These were smaller ten-passenger aircraft, whereas the Lodestar was a 14-passenger aircraft with greater speed and range.

The Lockheed Lodestar was the flagship of the TCA fleet from 1941 until 1947. There were no further civil aircraft available during the war years and it was not until after the war that surplus DC-3’s became available and the airline commenced replacement of the Lockheed fleet. It was considered that the DC-3 did not have sufficient single engine performance above 11,000 feet, the minimum altitude for instrument flying between Vancouver and Lethbridge, Alberta. Consequently a number of Lodestars were maintained on the B.C. portion of the transcontinental route until the advent of the North Star aircraft.

This aircraft was sold to the Dept. of Transport in March of 1948 and was converted to Club Executive Model for use by Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, Cabinet Ministers and visiting Heads of State, to destinations in Canada, USA and Mexico. When not required in this role, it was used for ice patrol off the Labrador Coast and in the far North. In April 1958 it was sent to Crown Assets Disposal Corp. and sold in December 1959 to a Winnipeg operator. Little is recorded of its work for the next eight years at which time it was found abandoned at Chicago Midway Airport, still in Transport Canada markings where it was seized by the airport authorities and slated for scrap.

Mr. Earl Reinert salvaged the aircraft in 1968 for his Victory Air Museum at Mundelien, Illinois. Unfortunately, he had the wings sawed off close to the fuselage to facilitate a hasty exit by road from Midway Airport and through the streets on the south side of the City of Chicago. At Mundelein he had the wings reattached and the aircraft painted in camouflage to resemble an RAF Hudson Bomber, which was the wartime version of the Lockheed 18-08. In 1986 this museum was forced to close and the collection liquidated, and offered for sale to the Canadian Museum of Flight and Transportation in Surrey BC.

Initially, the purchase price was covered by the Zalesky Family until adequate funding was secured. Purchase and moving costs were covered by private donations from ex-TCA and Air Canada people. The costs including the move were about $12,000, the balance being covered by the Canadian Museum of Flight and Transportation. The aircraft was moved by road from Illinois to Crescent Beach in August 1987. In 1996 the Zalesky farm was expropriated for park land and the air museum was moved to the Langley Airport and the aircraft was moved again, this time ‘temporarily’ to Delta Air Park where it has been on static display until the recent move to Abbotsford for repair and refurbishment.

This aircraft type has relevance to British Columbia and to Langley. The history of Trans-Canada Air Lines, now Air Canada, is the history of the dawn of scheduled air transportation in Canada. Trans-Canada Air Lines history started with its first flight from Vancouver to Seattle in September 1, 1937 and the first transcontinental flight Vancouver to Montreal on April 1, 1939. The first three Lockheed aircraft were Model 10A, 10-passenger aircraft used on the Vancouver-Seattle service and for pilot training over the mountainous route to Lethbridge, for a year and a half prior to the first transcontinental flight. A larger aircraft, the Model 14, called a ‘Super Electra’, was purchased for this 1939 transcontinental airmail service. However the aircraft lacked carrying capacity and a stretched version was ordered from Lockheed and became the Model 18-08 or the Lodestar, of which CF-TCY was the sixth of the next 15 delivered.

Langley airport had its origin back in 1935 when the plans for the transcontinental air services were being formulated. It was felt for safety that emergency landing areas should be provided about every sixty miles or so along the proposed route, and there followed a frantic building of grass fields across Canada from 1935 to 1937. Many of these fields became wartime training fields. Langley was one of the first of these emergency fields.

It is fitting that this aircraft, the type that carried some of the first airline passengers in Canada, by both Trans-Canada Air Lines and Canadian Pacific Airlines, an aircraft that served the Canadian public from British Columbia to Newfoundland and through the North to Alaska, throughout the war years, should find a home in a museum in British Columbia where both these International Airlines had their beginnings.

It is doubtful that there are any Lodestars flying in the world today. The Museum of Flight here at the Langley Airport, is proud of our ownership of both a DC-3 and this Lodestar aircraft that will soon be put on public display. These aircraft are symbols of the beginning of the fastest long haul transportation system that has yet been devised and they are undoubtedly of great historical interest.

CF-TCY is being refurbished and brought up to museum standard by the University College of the Fraser Valley, (UCFV) in the College hangar at Abbotsford. This aircraft has been somewhat neglected for the last 20 years because of fiscal restraints and lack of museum funds. A number of senior TCA/Air Canada retirees have encouraged the museum to safeguard and preserve this aircraft for posterity, and to this end have agreed to raise some of the funding to facilitate this project. We are pleased to relate that at year end we have made remittances to the Museum of $9,260. This is indeed a good start and we send our gratitude to all those who have supported us in this venture. Much of the work to date has been to open up the wings and fuselage to gauge what work must be done. The corrosion is quite extensive. The current work appears to be some essential initial repair work on the outer wing panels, and to mount them on edge to allow more working space. They have looked at the fuselage and tidied it up; it in itself takes considerable room.

Written by Captain Bill May, one of the pilots of the Lodestar.