1950s-era plane arrives at Aviation Museum

A historic plane has arrived in Victoria via barge from the Lower Mainland.

The Grumman Tracker, produced by De Havilland, will be featured at the B.C. Aviation Museum, next to Victoria International Airport.

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The plane is one of 99 built from 1956 to 1960. The Tracker was largely deployed from aircraft carriers but it was also based on land sites at Comox and Patricia Bay, said the museum’s Doug Rollins.

The twin-engine aircraft — a small bomber and patrol plane — features folding wings and a gear that allows it to “stop on a dime,” he said.

“They retired from military service in 1990, but they went on to a very robust civilian role,” Rollins said. “Because of their flexibility and their range, they were extremely popular as firefighting aircraft.”

He said aircraft company Conair specialized in modifying Trackers for use in firefighting. They are still used for that in B.C., other parts of Canada and Europe, and have become known as the Firecat or Turbocat, Rollins said.

The plane, which is in its military state, will remain outdoors while it is worked on.

A hangar will be built to accommodate it, said Rollins, adding it’s unclear how much restoration will be required.

Although the plane has been outdoors for about 30 years, it’s still in good shape, he said.

The plane had been with Conair in Abbotsford and then went to the military museum in Chilliwack before being donated to the B.C. Aviation Museum.

The plane’s barge journey attracted a lot of attention, Rollins said.

“You could see aircraft tilting their wings to have a look.”

jbell@timescolonist.com

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