Special to the Record
Aviation lost a great talent with the recent passing of Bonn Svensson in Comox.
Born in Sweden July, 26, 1947, Bonn grew up in the small town of Eskiltuna, joining the army after grade school, and eventually entering his metalworker apprenticeship.
Having completed a long apprenticeship in Sweden as an automotive carriage builder, Bonn developed an ability to perform magic in metal forming and fabrication, skills which are rarely found in the aviation industry today.
He immigrated to Canada at age 27 in 1974, where he first arrived in Winnipeg, staying only 10 days, yearning to go back to Sweden; he was persuaded to try Calgary, with the promise of Chinooks and warmer weather.
Bonn remained in Calgary and was employed in auto body repairs and rebuilding, specializing in antique/classic cars and married there in July 1976. He became involved in aviation after being hired by Gerry Stauffer of Stauffer Aviation in the mid 1980s to rebuild the engine of Gerry’s 1929 Dodge.
So impressed was Stauffer with Bonn’s efficient, fast and impeccable workmanship that Gerry convinced Bonn to learn the trade of aero engine overhaul. Acquiring the AME Cat. D license, Bonn later went on to involvement in airframe structural repairs when his extraordinary metal forming skills became apparent and he subsequently qualified for the Cat. B licence as well.
It was at this point in his career that Bonn first became involved in warbird restoration and maintenance, with such aircraft types as the Sea Fury and Mustang for people such as Neil McClain of Nanton.
In November 1993, Bonn moved to Miracle Beach while building his own house in Courtenay.
Many will know Bonn for his years of restoration of the Y2K Spitfire project for the Comox Air Force Museum. Since the project at its commencement consisted of assorted junk yard salvage, this essentially meant hand forming and building the fuselage from damaged components used as patterns and from blueprints.
Anyone familiar with this aircraft will appreciate that it consists of numerous complex shapes and compound curves and makes few concessions to mass production.
Bonn formed the centre section structure from hand-made hardwood forming blocks that he fabricated himself from the junk yard specimens, hand-hammering the aluminum alloy in the soft state and then having the finished structure heat-treated subsequently by Boeing in Seattle.
Anyone who has seen this completed fuselage will appreciate the exceptional level of skill involved in its creation.
Although Bonn was a “spit and polish” kind of guy, when it came to aircraft finishing this sentiment did not extend easily to acceptance of the bureaucracy and pomp of the military structure with which he had to deal at the museum.
After completing the fuselage, Bonn decided to strike out on his own in 2009 and to set up his own warbird restoration facility. This led to the creation of Bonn’s Aircraft Restoration AMO in 2010, based at the Campbell River airport.
Tragically he was just getting busy when he was diagnosed with advanced, untreatable lung cancer in the summer of 2011. An ironman to the end, Bonn kept on working, finishing the rebuild of a wrecked Cessna 185 two weeks before his death.
So passes a set of trade skills and knowledge, which is essentially not being duplicated in the modern aviation industry and also more significantly, a great friend and happy spirit.