Fittingly for the fastest plane ever fielded by the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Alberta Aviation Museum of Edmonton completed the restoration of their Canadair CF-104 Starfighter in what seems like record time, with the restoration effort taking a mere four and a half months, though the acquisition of the plane took a bit longer. According to Tim Hinderks, executive director of the Museum, taking possession of the warbird was a huge undertaking: “Seven years of searching, 18 months of working through three different governments, across two continents and an ocean.” We’ve been following the story of this Starfighter for a while here at Warbirds News, from its shipment from the Netherlands to its arrival, unloading and the restoration progress.
Once on the ground in Alberta, the former Royal Netherlands Air Force CF-104, D5805 was stripped of the markings and the all-over drab paint job it wore in Dutch service, followed by polishing off of the plane’s anodized coating, exposing the bare aluminum, that once polished, with RCAF red accents, matches the scheme that Canadian Air Force CF-104s sported.
The plane that the restoration honors by reproduction is Canadian Armed Forces Starfighter 104651 which was stationed at Cold Lake, Alberta when it met its end in 1980. The plane was flying at a low altitude on a simulated missile site attack, when at 540 knots (+/- 621 MPH) its engine ingested several large birds. While her pilot Rick Wall attempted to save the plane, it became immediately apparent that the plane was doomed, so he and his copilot ejected to safety and “651” crashed.
At the ceremony held last Saturday, the museum unveiled the “new” 651, attended by a crowd of approximately 500, including Members of Parliment, Members of the Alberta Legislature, The Alberta Minister of Culture and the last pilot of the “real” 104651, Rick Wall. Under sunny skies the plane looked resplendent with her highly polished fuselage and “RCAF Red”-accented tanks and tips. Over 30 former Starfighter personnel, air crew, ground crew and civilian workers from North West Industries, the firm that upgraded RCAF Starfighters in the 70s and 80s, were also on hand to see the plane that is destined to become the star attraction of the Museum’s collection.