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Snowbird Tudor soaring permanently over Vancouver Island Visitor Centre
It was up, up and away for a Snowbird Tudor jet Friday morning, although this particular plane didn't require a pilot or an engine.
The plane, which made its late-night transfer to the Vancouver Island Visitor Centre, was hoisted by crane atop a support pole Friday morning as a permanent fixture in front of the centre, on loan from the museum.
"About a year ago, (Comox Valley Economic Development executive director) John Watson asked me if I had any ideas of what we could do at the visitors' centre to make a real statement," said Dave Mellin, honourary colonel of the 407 Squadron.
"I said I lived in the Valley for 51 years, and there's really no visible presence that we have a military base. What if we asked the base if we could take the Snowbird and put it on a pedestal like they did in Moose Jaw?"
Mellin added in typical Comox Valley spirit, the community played a large role in the project, with volunteers and donations bringing the project to fruition.
"It's a huge, huge project. It's a thank you to the military ... it's the economic driver of the Comox Valley, yet we don't do a heck of a lot to acknowledge the military," he noted. "The Snowbirds come here each year, and we get two air shows a day for two to three weeks ... and we're pretty fortunate. Not too many communities get that."
Mellin said moving the 41,000-pound plane from its sedentary spot at near the airport to resting on a pedestal did present some challenges.
"It was getting pretty tired and in desperate need of a paint job. Everything sort of came together, the whole community pulled together to make this project come together," he explained.
Mellin added the plane still had 30 gallons of jet fuel inside that had to be carefully removed, and time to work on the plane inside a hangar at 19 Wing Comox had to be scheduled around military members working on operational aircrafts.
The plane then had to be taken 21 kilometres to the paint shop, which required two hours to transport.
Now, it rests facing northeast towards 19 Wing, welcoming visitors from near and far to the Comox Valley. The plane was raised to its new home at the Vancouver Island Visitor Centre just in time for Saturday's grand opening.