IT HAS ARRIVED!
The fuselage of English Electric Canberra B(I)Mk8 – WT346 has completed the 1200km road journey from Christchurch and now resides at its new home, Ardmore. The ex-RAF airframe will undergo a 2 to 3 year restoration programme to closely represent the Canberra B(I)Mk12 type operated by the RNZAF between 1959 and 1970. Worldwide, there are no known B(I)Mk12 versions in existence.
The Canberra Support Group (CSG) has been setup to oversee this ambitious restoration project and consists of ex Canberra pilots, maintenance engineers, ground crew and aviation enthusiasts. When completed WT346 will be on static display available for public viewing as part of the NZ Warbirds at Ardmore collection.
WT346 was manufactured in 1955/56 and was delivered to No.88 Squadron RAF based at Wildenrath, Germany. It served a number of years with No.88 before being loaned to the Ministry of Aircraft for use in Electromagnetic Compatibility tests; after 2 months she was returned to Wildenrath and the squadron was renumbered to No.14 Squadron in December 1962.
WT346 was later transferred to No.3 Squadron RAF based at Geilenkirchen and subsequently No. 16 Squadron RAF based in Laarbruch. WT346 became “Instructional Airframe 8197M” on 22 May 1972 and struck off charge on 8 Aug 1972. It was moved to the museum at RAF Colerne on 17 Jun 1972 and to the Cosford Aerospace Museum in Apr 1976.
WT346 was then obtained by Mr Albert Stone, a London scrap dealer, then subsequently purchased by the Air Force Museum of New Zealand Trust Board in 1993 and shipped to New Zealand.
Restoration to static display has been made possible under a loan agreement between the Air Force Museum of New Zealand Trust Board and New Zealand Warbirds. This arrangement has come about due to a change of direction at the Air Force Museum and review of policy around prioritising projects with RNZAF provenance in line with the Museum’s mission.
Coupled with increased pressure on available storage space at Wigram, it resulted in a concerted effort to find an appropriate new home for this relatively unique aircraft. The Museum is delighted to be able to work with New Zealand Warbirds to give this historic aircraft a new lease of life.
A formal restoration plan will keep a detailed track of progress. The initial cleaning of the fuselage and other components will be carried out by volunteers under supervision. Specific restoration of components will occur under the direct guidance of personnel experienced in aircraft restoration to ensure that major components can be reassembled safely.
The project group has broken the restoration phase into the following stages:
The relocation of the fuselage to Ardmore to be followed by all of the components necessary to complete the restoration for static display and representative of the RNZAF Canberra B(I)12 variant.
Restoration of components to allow complete assembly over the next 2 or 3 years.
Assessment of options and provision of an all-weather home for this heritage aircraft.
The target date for completion is February 2024 subject to reassessment when all components have been inspected.
We have a Facebook page also dedicated to our restoration progress, please click here
This project is totally self-sufficient in that no direct funding will be available from the NZ Warbirds Association Inc. Fundraising commenced 1 November 2020 for Stages 1 & 2 while funding for Stage 3 will follow a decision on the final location and housing requirements.
If you would like to get involved by donating any small amount you can afford to help in the restoration of WT346, please make a donation to NZ Aviation Heritage Trust, a registered charity, account 12 3031 0819442 000.
All donations will be provided a donation receipt and certificate to thank you. Donors will be given the opportunity to become members of the Canberra Support Group and will receive regular updates on funding and restoration progress.