In the suburbs of Saskatoon, Dan Bradshaw is hard at work restoring a vintage German fighter aircraft. Already into the project for five years, the former civil aviation safety inspector for Transport Canada has plenty of experience in restoring machines, “I sort of went through my second childhood and did collector cars and things like that.”
Designed and built in the late 1930s, the Bf 109G-6 saw its first combat missions in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. The aircraft continued in active service in the Luftwaffe and allied forces until the end of World War Two. Considered to be one of the most advanced fighters in its day, it was powered by a Daimler-Benz DB 605A-1 liquid-cooled inverted V-12 engine. Maximum speed was 398 mph, and maximum cruise was 365 mph at 20,000 feet. Service ceiling was 39,000 feet.
The Bf-109 is the most produced fighter aircraft in history, with almost 34,000 produced from 1936 to mid-1945. However, says Bradshaw, “There’s only a couple of original [Bf] 109s flying in the world right now.” He spends a considerable amount of time on the internet hunting down hard-to-find parts, finding most success in Germany and Austria. Bradshaw also fabricates parts that he is unable to find. “This is a real labour of love, and technically demanding”, says Bradshaw, “The engine and its overhaul is a big task, and that will…probably be done in California,” says Bradshaw. “There’s some speciality shops there where that’s what they do.”
Backing the project is noted American aircraft collector Kermit Weeks, founder of the Fantasy of Flight museum located in Polk City, about 20 kilometres northeast of Lakeland, Florida.
“It’s horrendously expensive, but that’s where Mr. Weeks comes in,” adds Bradshaw, who expects his warbird to take flight in another year or two.