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Hidden treasure: A Spitfire to regain its wings

029There was rumoured for years to be “a Spitfire being restored in a barn near Montreal, Que., Canada.”  In the little-known town of St-Balise Le Grand is where the best kept secret of the famous Second World War fighter was hidden.


August 8, 2008
By Michel Côté Gatineau Que.

Hanging from the barn’s ceiling was the fuselage of the Supermarine Spitfire SL542 just acquired by Marcel Deschamps from Air Marcel (CF-CPA Project) in partnership with Jocelyn Côté of Morin Heights, Que.

Marcel Deschamps founded Air Marcel Inc. in 2004.  Its goal is the restoration and flying of classic aircraft. 

Presently, in the hangar at St-Hyacinthe, Que., the collection consists of a 1943 Boeing Stearman, a Globe Swift, a 1974 Beechcraft Sierra, a beautiful1946 Piper Cub and a replica of a Pietenpol. Air Marcel is involved in the restoration of a second 1943 Stearman and a 1911 Blériot X11 military replica and now in the restoration of this magnificent Spitfire MK-XVI SL 542. Air Marcel is also responsible for the CF-CPA Project, the restoration, preservation and demonstration of a 1942 Lockheed Lodestar aircraft. The CF-CPA Project intends to restore the 1942 Lockheed Lodestar to its original Canadian Pacific Airline’s flying condition, complete with the original identification CF-CPA. A PBY Canso water bomber may be joining this great collection in the near future.

An airline pilot for 41 years, accumulating 22,400 hours of flying during his career, Jocelyn Côté flew a variety of aircraft such as the famous DC-3, DHC-6 Twin Otter, FA-27, BAC-111, L-1011, DC-8, B-737, B-747, B-777 and Bombardier’s CRJ. Jocelyn retired as a test pilot for Bombardier Aerospace in January 2003.  Now his passion in aviation continues to grow with his reconstruction project of 8 Boeing Stearmans and now with this magnificent Spitfire MK-XVI SL 542’s restoration.

Probably the most famous aircraft of all time, the Spitfire began operations before the Second World War.  It was one of the few pre-war types to remain in first-line service until the end of the war. As the war progressed, the Spitfire was improved with heavier armament and more powerful engines.  In all, 21,554 were built in 24 different versions, including some 1,200 Seafires fitted for aircraft carrier operation for the Royal Navy and for the Royal Canadian Navy.

This newly found treasure is a Mk. XVI which was delivered to the Royal Air Force in July 1945 and operated by the 595 Squadron late in the war. It was then transferred to several squadrons before suffering a landing accident in 1957 during the month of January at RAF Little Snoring.  It was removed from airworthy status and became a gate guardian at Duxford, and from 1966 to 1988 it was displayed on a pole at RAF Coltishall. In June 2008, after a history of several owners from the U.K. and the U.S., Marcel Deschamps and Jocelyn Côté purchased the Spitfire from Anthony Gurak of Florida.  Gurak was having the aircraft restored by Pierre D’André where he has restored other aircraft such as a T-28 Trojan and DH Beaver at his St-Basile Le Grand farm outside of Montreal, Que.

Jocelyn found out about this Spitfire in April 2003 through his friend Bob McCunn, a Boeing Stearman owner and waited the right time to purchase the aircraft.

For now, the partially completed aircraft will undergo a thorough inspection and at this time it is not known when the aircraft will be back in the air or which markings it will bear once completed. Brand new propellers will be required and ordered from Germany.  The engine is the original one that SL542 came out of the factory and the will be inspected completely. There is a possibility that Pierre D’André’s shop will continue the work on the unrestored wing. It is expected that the project will take up to five years to be completed.

As the Vintage Wings of Canada based out of Gatineau, Que., also possesses a magnificent Mk. XVI Spitfire, we can certainly dream of hearing the sound of several Spitfires over Eastern Canada in the near future.

Keep ’em flying.

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The hidden treasure Mk. 16 Spitfire hanging from the roof. The majestic Rolls-Royce engine, dust and all, will have to be rebuilt.
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Hard work for the crew to stand the fighter into the jig for transporting it to St-Hyacinthe, Que., Canada. Some of the sheets that were replace were kept; this one still has its markings from the tail section.
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A view of some of the several parts and pieces that had to be transported. The majestic Rolls-Royce engine, dust and all, will have to be rebuilt.

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The cockpit section is in excellent condition and the tail section was completely rebuilt.

Some of the
sheets that were replace were kept; you can see the tail section with
RAF markings from its day as a gate guardian.
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Photo of the unrestored right wing. Marcel already at work after arriving at St-Hyacinthe, Que.
 
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Marcel and Jocelyn stand proudly in front of their new prize. The Spitfire after its arrival in St-Hyacinthe,
Que.