Bush baby - recovering a classic from the muskeg

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In the summer of 2004 during a routine flight to Northern Québec, Patrick Cloutier, a bush pilot for Aventures Norpaq, noticed a familiar shape of an airplane reflecting from the vast plain of sub-arctic wilderness. It became clearer, the closer he flew, that this was not an ordinary aircraft. As he circled for a second glance, he recognized it as Lockheed Lodestar, a Second World War vintage, twin-engine transport. Upon his return from dropping off a group of fishermen, he started his research and came to the conclusion that this was in fact a Lockheed Lodestar that originally flew with Canadian Pacific Airlines during the Second World War. This sighting in the vast tundra was the beginning of a multi-year project of recovery known as the CF-CPA Project.

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Though photographed in the summer of 2007 by CF-CPA team member Guy Doiron, this is very much what Patrick Cloutier observed when he was flying overhead in 2004 - the Lodestar looking like a beached whale. One can still make out the gouges in the muskeg created by the fuselage as it ground to a halt in 1960. Photo: Project CF-CPA

An extraordinary task awaits the group of dedicated members of the CF-CPA Project.  The main objective of the group is to return a historic Canadian aircraft to the air. CF-CPA is a newly formed group of aviation enthusiasts dedicated to restore, preserve and operate the 1942 Lodestar.  The restored aircraft will serve as a tribute to the contributions of both the crews of Canadian Pacific Airlines and the R.C.A.F. Lodestar crews who served overseas during WWII.

The CF-CPA Project intends to restore the Lodestar to its original Canadian Pacific Airlines flying condition with complete 1942 original identification CF-CPA. The Lodestar, serial number 2177, served with Canadian Pacific Airlines during the Second World War.

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CF-CPA, resplendent in her post-war Canadian Pacific livery. The team's plan is to restore the aircraft to these beautiful markings.  Photo via CF-CPA Project

A brief history of the Lockheed Lodestar

The Lockheed 18 Lodestar was the last twin-engine transport designed by Lockheed. The prototype, a Lockheed 14 Super Electra, lengthened by five feet, flew on September 21, 1939. Designed for the commercial market, Lockheed found domestic sales slow due to previous commitments by airlines to buy the Douglas DC-3. A total of 96 Lodestars were ordered by foreign airlines in Canada, Africa, Brazil, France, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, UK and Venezuela.

In addition to commercial markets, the Lodestar also flew in the military. The first military orders for the Lodestar came from the US Navy. In 1940, the Navy ordered three variations, a seven passenger executive transport (R50-1), a personnel transport carrying 14, and a paratroop transport carrying 18. In 1941, the US Army Air Corps had 13 Lodestars built and designated them as C-57. In addition, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a number of civilian Lodestars were requisitioned and designated as C-56. Between 1942 and 1943, the USAAC acquired 324 18-seat paratroop transports C-60A. Some of these aircraft were passed on to the UK. RAF versions were known as the Lodestar I (C-56), Lodestar IA (C-59), and Lodestar II (C-60), and most were operated as medium-range transports. After the war, some Lodestars were converted into executive aircraft while others went to work for small freight operators.

The RCAF acquired a small number of Lodestar aircraft for transport duties. Starting in 1943, No.164 Squadron flew Lodestar aircraft on a run from Moncton, NB to Goose Bay, Labrador transporting essential freight, equipment and personnel during the construction of the RCAF Station in Goose Bay.

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Another fine photograph of CF-CPA being serviced in a post war Canadian winter. Photo via Bruce Alexander

A Brief History of the CF-CPA Lodestar

The CF-CPA Lockheed 18 Lodestar was one of those slated to join the Dutch East Indies Air Force in Java in 1940 where it was given the serial number LT-926. However, when the Japanese overran Java, the Lodestar was diverted (seized, might be a better term) by the U.S. Government to the Army Air Corps as a C-60-LO and given the serial number 42-108787. The Army Air Corps never used the plane and released it to Canadian Pacific Air Lines in the early 1940s.

Canadian Pacific Railways purchased ten bush airlines in a short period of time, finishing with the purchase of Western Canadian Airlines in 1942, to form Canadian Pacific Airlines. In 1943, the first Lodestar was delivered to CPA and was registered as CF-CPA.

Canadian Pacific Airlines flew the aircraft until 1950, after which it was decommissioned and sold to Hollinger Ungava Transport from Sept-Îles, Québec. It served there until 1955 when it was sold to E.D. Bourque Aerial Photography of Ottawa. On August 20, 1960, while CF-CPA was performing aerial photography, it suffered fuel starvation and belly-landed 100 miles north of Schefferville, Quebec. As a result of the pilot’s extraordinary skills, no one was injured and the plane sustained only minimal damage. Due to the extreme wilderness of the landing area, the owner of the aircraft did not feel it was worth recovering it and it has remained in the tundra these last 46 plus years until it was discovered by one of our members, Patrick Cloutier.

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CF-CPA in much happier times. Two CP pilots including Captain Gordon Oliver Alexander (Left). Photo via Bruce Alexander

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Captain Gordon Oliver Alexander flew CF-CPA (background) many times during its years with CF-CPA. You certainly do not see this kind of winter weather gear on an airline pilot anywhere but the North of Canada. Photo via Bruce Alexander

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CF-CPA at the Québec airport in the late 1950s in the livery of E.D. Bourque Aerial Photography. Photo by Gilles Boily

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The forlorn wreck of the Lockheed Lodestar shortly after her crash landing in a clearing in the stunted boreal forest of Northern Quebec. Her paint is still relatively intact, but 50 years of deadly northern winters have changed all that.
Photo: Project CF-CPA

The CF-CPA Project was formed when Air Marcel Inc. founder Marcel Deschamps bought the aircraft in September 2006. Having had the desire to fly a biplane since he was very young, Marcel finally realized his dream of becoming a pilot at 50 years old. After earning his private pilot's licence, Marcel's passion for antique planes and their history has grown. He founded Air Marcel, a company whose mission it is to restore classic planes. Marcel is ready to pursue his passion with the CF-CPA Project, the crown jewel of his career. He hopes many will participate in this great adventure with him and his team.

Air Marcel already owns an impressive aircraft collection such as; a1943 Boeing Stearman, a beautiful 1946 Globe Swift, a Yak-18T, a classic 1946 Piper Cub and a replica of a Pietenpol, plus currently in the works are the following projects; a 1943 Stearman and a 1911 Blériot X11 military replica to be completed in 2009.

The first order of business is to recover CF-CPA , which will be no small task. The plane has been sitting in a swamp since 1960, where it belly-landed. The plan is to lift the aircraft in the summer of 2007 to allow for meticulous inspection of the entire aircraft by a team of specialists. After which a decision will be made on how to bring the aircraft to St-Hyacinthe, Québec for restoration.

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In August 2006, Chief Pilot Patrick Cloutier (standing on her tail) and a crew flew in to a nearby lake and trekked in to visit and inspect the wreck site. After nearly five decades, her paint has faded and she has taken on the pallor of bleached whale bones.
Photo: Project CF-CPA

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One of the first photos taken of the wreck upon the team's initial visit in 2006.
Photo: CF-CPA Project

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In 2007, the interior of the Lodestar was in tatters from the vagaries of nearly 50 Canadian winters exposed to the elements.
Photo: CF-CPA Project

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Members of the CF-CPA recovery team pose together in front of a deHavilland Otter supply aircraft at the time of their arrival to begin work in August 2007. 
Photo: CF-CPA Project

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In August, 2007, team members inspect the wreck. In this shot the beautiful lines of the Lodestar are evident. Photo: CF-CPA Project

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August, 2007 - work is begun.  Here the port engine lies half buried in the bog.
Photo: CF-CPA Project

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The stunted pines of the Boreal forest were cut to make an engine lifting device. Cables were laid out to other trees and the "crane" lifted by winching. Photo: CF-CPA Project

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The useless panelling and insulation was stripped from the cabin in order to save weight for the move to the edge of nearby Lake Weeks. Photo: CF-CPA Project

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The camp was re-supplied by a floatplane out of Schefferville, Quebec. 
Photo: CF-CPA Project

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The
Cessna resupply floatplane swoops in low after taking off - for the picture perfect Canadian bushplane shot. Photo: CF-CPA Project

There were several options being considered to retrieve the plane from its current location.

Option 1:
After inspection, dismantle the plane at the campsite during the summers of 2007 and 2008, taking off the wings, the power plants (engines) and the tail section. During the winter, using equipment like a SnowCat, take all the parts out on sleds and bring everything to the nearest road which is in Pau Lake Dam, Caniapiscau, Quebec. To get to Pau Lake Dam from the crash site, we will have to go through 60 miles of tundra and frozen lakes near the Caniapiscau River. Once in Pau Lake Dam, the parts and equipment will be taken by truck to St.-Hyacinthe airport. The trip by truck is a four-day journey because of the circuitous route we need to take, as there is no direct road from Pau Lake Dam to Montreal/St.-Hyacinthe. Consequently, we have to go by way of Radisson near Hudson Bay, approximately double the mileage due to the western detour necessary to follow the only road available to us. Total travel time: One month.

Option 2:
Similar to Option One regarding inspection and dismantling the plane and putting the parts on sleighs, however, bring everything to Schefferville, Quebec where it would be loaded onto a train and from there transported to St.-Hyacinthe. The difficulty would be going over a high ridge between the crash site and Schefferville. Total travel time: One and a half months.

Option 3:
Using a heavy lift helicopter to bring all of the dismantled parts to Schefferville, Quebec, where it will be loaded onto a train bound for St.-Hyacinthe. Our big concern is the risk involving helicopters. Should something go wrong during the flight, the pilot would have to drop its load and the project would be lost. All would be sold to a scrap yard. This is the least attractive option due the risk but most attractive due to the short travel time. Total travel time: Five days

Option 4:
After inspecting and dismantling the plane, if the plane is decent condition, the engines will be flown to St.-Hyacinthe to be rebuilt. In the meantime, at the camp site during a series of summers, the existing engines will be temporarily replaced by serviceable engines. The spar of the left wing will be permanently replaced. All cables, pulleys and necessary equipment will be replaced as well. Damaged skin will be repaired, landing gear will be deployed and locked in the down position. Flaps will be blocked in up position and new cockpit glass will be installed. All repairs necessary to fly the plane will be done on the site. When the chief mechanic gives the thumbs up, we will fly the plane to St.-Hyacinthe. To achieve that we will build an ice runway during the winter on the lake adjacent to the camp site. Several days of run-ups and tests will be necessary to assure a safe flight. Hardships to be endured will include temperatures near minus 30º F with strong winds and only tents for shelter. The first part of the flight will bring us to Schefferville, Quebec, and from there several other airports and ultimately to St.-Hyacinthe. Total travel time: Seven hours air time

As difficult as the last option seems, it is in fact the one chosen by the team as there are tremendous difficulties, not to mention ecological negatives, to hacking a path through 60 to 75 miles of pristine Boreal Forest.

Once on the ground in St Hyacinthe, CF-CPA will be taken down to the smallest manageable piece, making sure each part is labeled for later identification. Parts will be then cleaned and checked to determine if they can be used again, repaired for use, or replaced entirely. Damaged parts will serve as templates for construction of replacements. We estimate seven to 10 years before the plane will be restored to pristine condition and ready to flown again as it was in its glory days. Finally the other and most preferred option is to repair the plane at the crash site, have it certified, build an ice runway for take off and fly it to St-Hyacinthe in southern Québec. All this of course, if the plane can be repaired and the weather cooperates. During a typical winter at the crash site, the temperatures average minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit with high winds.  Not the best conditions for a repair crew using tents for shelter.

In the summer of 2007, after setting of a semi-permanent base camp and lakeside dock, work began on the assessment and dismantling of major components. That summer, the engines were removed and set on log cribs to keep them out of the water, while the wings outboard of the engines were removed. The fuselage was raised and the gear cycled down. By the end of that summer, she stood on her own two wheels for the first time in nearly 50 years.

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Fully clear of the muskeg for the first time in five decades, CF-CPA dries out in the weak sun of Northern Québec. Constant work in, around and under the aircraft have churned the muskeg into a muddy quagmire. Smoky fires help but do not rid the area of blackflies and mosquitoes. Photo: CF-CPA Project

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By the end of the August 2007 expedition, the Lodestar was lifted clear of the muskeg, standing on its own extended main gear. The main spar and much of the fuselage were found to be in excellent condition. Photo: CF-CPA Project

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Despite cosmetic damage, the team found the main fuselage to be in good condition. Photo: CF-CPA Project

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The two Pratt and Whitney radial powerplants were upturned onto log cribs to keep them out of the frozen bog we Canadians call Muskeg. The these particular engines will be brought back to St Hyacinthe separately and fully functioning spare engines will be fitted on site.  Photo: CF-CPA Project

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The good internal condition of the wing centre section is evident.  Photo CF-CPA Project

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The black muck line on the underside of the fuselage shows us just how deep the Lodestar sat in the boggy muskeg for all these years. There was surprisingly little corrosion, possibly due to low oxygen levels in the water. Photo CF-CPA Project

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The port wing outboard of the centre section was heavily damaged in the landing - it will be dragged out of the bush and replaced by a spare wing section from a second cannibalized Lodestar airframe purchased by Marcel Deschamps. Photo CF-CPA Project

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A second set of spare Lodestar wings rest in the Air Marcel hangar in St Hyacinthe, Québec. The spare port wing will be brought to the camp site and installed for her eventual flight home. Photo CF-CPA Project

The CF-CPA team returned to the tundra during the month of March, 2009 to work on the Lockheed Lodestar. The plan for this year was to move CF-CPA from the swamp closer to the camp on the edge of the lake to facilitate the work to be performed on the aircraft in future visits. The wheels and brakes were taken off and replaced by homemade skis made of large sheets of Teflon that would permit easy movement of the heavy aircraft. The plan was to move her 996 ft, but with a lot of effort they were only able to move her 564 feet.  The team is planning to return to the site during the winter of 2010 to continue the move to the edge of the lake and the camp where it will be easier to work on in the following summer and winter seasons. She will undergo years of restoration, before she is ready to fly home, taking off from an ice runway.

Once the plane arrives in St-Hyacinthe it will be taken apart down to its smallest manageable component. All parts will be labeled and cleaned. As the labeling and cleaning is underway, each part will be evaluated and either reused in the reconstruction, or held as a template for replacement parts.

We estimate that it will take seven to ten years to completely return the plane to pristine condition and be ready to fly as it was in its glory days

The Lockheed Lodestar Project is a huge task that we cannot do alone. Anyone who wishes to get involved or is ready to supply the expertise, time, and muscle are welcome to join us. All the help you give will go a long way toward getting CF-CPA back in the air.

For information on the project or to get involved, check out our website at www.cf-cpa.ca.

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Guy Doiron
, the team's medic and mechanic, takes a break on the wing of CF-CPA during recovery efforts in the summer of 2007. Photo: CF-CPA Project

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An exhausted but happy crew lead by Recovery Expedition Manager and mechanic Raymond Cloutier Jr. (Centre) gives the photographer thumbs up after successfully removing the starboard engine.  Photo: CF-CPA Project

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This past winter, the team avoided the black flies and mosquitoes, but had to endure the harsh Canadian winter. Photo CF-CPA Project

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In March of 2009, teflon skis were fitted under her wheels readying her to be dragged by cables closer to the edge of nearby Weeks Lake where, close to the base camp, she will be readied over the next few years for her own flight of the phoenix.  Photo CF-CPA Project

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A view from behind as the Lodestar is being dragged to the edge of the lake.  Photo CF-CPA Project

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The first of a series of triumphs that will be needed to get her home - members of the team pose with the Lodestar at the shores of Weeks Lake - the first leg of her long journey home. Photo CF-CPA Project

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