Historic airplane inches closer to eventual takeoff
The restoration of the world's last flying T5 Fairey Gannet is well underway at New Richmond Regional Airport.
Stored in a hangar on the western edge of the airport, the impressive 1950s-era British military trainer first arrived in the community last fall.
Harry Odone, who is managing the restoration effort, said the overall project should be completed within a year or so.
"We're now in the thick of it," he said as he took a break from stripping old paint off the airplane's bomb bay door Monday. "It's going quite well."
The airplane is currently being dismantled and the old paint is being stripped. The wiring is being updated and the hydraulic lines are to be replaced soon. The engine and propeller will soon be removed as well.
Eventually the plane will be re-assembled and prepared for flight.
"We hope to get it done as quickly as we can," Odone said. "It will be nice to see it back up in the air."
Odone, who is working with about six other people restoring the aircraft, has been impressed with the community support for the project.
People driving by the hangar along County Road CC often notice the activity and stop by to see what's going on. Nearby homeowners have also taken an interest in the restoration, bringing their grandchildren and great-grandchildren over to take pictures and inspect the unusual airplane.
Airport Manager Mike Demulling has also lent a hand, as have other local airplane enthusiasts with the skills necessary to help the restoration progress.
"The support has been awesome," Odone said. "There's a wealth of skill at this airport that you don't get in other places. People have been fantastic."
The restoration project has also benefitted from donations from businesses willing to help, Odone said.
AkzoNobel, a paint manufacturer, is helping with the repainting of the airplane. Graco has helped by supplying electro static spray guns for painting. A company in the soda blasting industry has helped provide a way to strip the old paint off the Fairey Gannett.
"She's like a brand new airplane underneath the old paint," Odone said. "Everybody is excited about this project."
The Fairey Gannet XT752, built in the United Kingdom in 1954, is one of only eight that were manufactured by the British Navy. The XT752's original job was to hunt Russian submarines during the Cold War.
After the Fairey Gannet XT752 was taken out of military service, the plane ended up in the United States. It eventually found a permanent home in New Richmond.
Odone said the airplane's owner, Shannan Hendricks, plans to develop a museum with the Fairey Gannet as its signature aircraft.
Plans call for educational opportunities for young and old alike, including a local flight school. The hope is to provide young people a chance to experience the excitement of flying and encourage them to pursue careers as pilots or aerospace engineers.
"It will be a nonprofit foundation based out of here," Odone explained. "It will be about giving back something to the next generation."
The airplane's owner has launched a website so that people can continue to follow the progress of the restoration project, and so that sponsors can be found to help finance the effort. The website can found at www.faireygannetxt752.com.