A large piece of Canadian military history is moving from Chilliwack to Vancouver Island, where it will find a new home in the B.C. Aviation Museum.
But it will be no small feat getting the Grumman CP-121 Tracker aircraft to its destination.
Moving the massive airplane is a logistical challenge that will include a tow truck, an RCMP escort and eventually, a barge.
The whole thing is going to be filmed by the same Discovery Channel crews that work on the hit series ‘Highway Thru Hell,’ and the footage will be turned into a TV show in the not-too-distant future.
“Aggressive Towing are the ones that do a lot of the heavy towing on the Coquihalla that you see on that show, and they’re the ones who will be moving the Tracker once it gets dark on Saturday night (Jan. 23),” said Dean Fraser from the Canadian Military Education Centre (CMEC). “It will be a big job. The wheel base alone is 16 or 17 feet. The whole aircraft from left to right is 26 or 27 feet, and it’s about 17-1/2 feet tall.”
“We’re going to have power tools to cut some street signs as we go, and we’ll weld them back together afterwards. We’ve notified Telus and Shaw and we’ll have flagging crews that are watching for traffic at each intersection that it goes through.”
They will have seven hours, from 11 p.m. Jan. 23 to 6 a.m. Jan. 24, to move it.
The Tracker is going to be towed straight down Keith Wilson Road. It’ll hang a right on Lickman, take the overpass over the freeway and then head along Industrial Way to the Westview Lumber yard.
That’s where it will spend the rest of the winter before moving on to Victoria in the spring.
“When the water level is high enough, the guys from the B.C. Aviation Museum have a barge and a tug lined up, and it’ll be sent over to the Island,” Fraser said.
For years, this airplane was displayed near the Vedder Bridge. Visitors to the CMEC gawked at its massive near-70 foot wingspan and marvelled at the way its wings could fold up, like arms reaching 30 feet into the air.
It symbolized Chilliwack’s deep military heritage. Veterans reminisced about it’s heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was primarily deployed as an anti-submarine aircraft. The CMEC had tanks too, and lots of other memorabilia, but the Tracker was the centerpiece of the museum.
Then it lost its spot.
Around five years ago, the CMEC was forced to vacate when the Canada Border Services Agency moved in.
The Tracker was moved to the RCMP compound and then to a parking lot on the University of the Fraser Valley campus and there it’s been the last two years.
“We were recently given notice that we have six months to get it off the premises, or it’s going to be scrapped,” Fraser noted. “We don’t have any other place to put it.”
The CMEC is sad to see it go, but happy to see it going to a place where it will be put to good use.
“They can get it taxiing and idling for shows, probably by the summertime, if they put their elbow-grease to it,” Fraser said. “It is flyable, and it’s going to a group like us that wants to preserve history. They have guys who’ve actually worked on aircraft like this. It’s not going to be sitting on a pedestal somewhere. They’re going to take it and do something with it, so it’s going to the best home possible.”
Everything else that was once displayed at the CMEC site is still in storage, and the organization would welcome the chance to bring a couple tanks and other items out of mothballs.
“If there was an empty building somewhere, we’d love to start the museum up again for the public,” Fraser said.
Phone Fraser at 778-955-9111 if you might be able to help.
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