Members of 19 Wing Comox and the Comox Valley Air Force Museum are hoping to mark the centennial of the Royal Canadian Air Force in 2024 with a very special display.
The DeHavilland Vampire Mark III has been stored in various hangars at the base since May 2000 after the museum took possession of the aircraft. Because of its unique wood construction, the Vampire can’t be stored outside, explained Maj. Kevin Stevens, project manager.
The goal is to bring the aircraft back into public display at the Heritage Air Park on Military Row with the construction of a pavilion to house the Vampire.
Stevens said the air force purchased 85 Vampires in 1948 and were primarily assigned to auxiliary squadrons, and served the RCAF for 10 years. The Vampire never actually flew in Comox, he noted, however, its affliction is with 442 Squadron (Transport and Rescue Squadron at 19 Wing) which initially flew out of Sea Island – now known as Vancouver International Airport prior to moving to its current location.
“In an effort to preserve our history and heritage, we want to share this particular aircraft with the community the same way that we’ve done with the other aircraft,” he added.
In December 1945, the Vampire became the first jet to operate from an aircraft carrier, the HMS Ocean, and a few years later in 1948, it set the world altitude record of 59,500 feet. That same year in July, it became the first jet to fly the Atlantic crossing from the United Kingdom to Goose Bay, N.L.
By the early 1950s, it had been determined that Vampires had been outstripped by newer jet aircraft, and by 1958, the Vampires were replaced by F-86 Sabres.
Project team member Dave Mellin said the next step in the project is fundraising to ensure that the project – which will see the plane enclosed around its perimeter with glass and illuminated for nighttime viewing – comes to fruition.
The goal is to raise $1.5 million for the construction of the pavilion to house the Vampire, and currently, they have raised about a quarter of the total amount.
“We’ve moved (the display) tight to the aircraft so people can get in really close – it’s a unique idea and people as they do in the Comox Valley, are stepping up and providing what they can,” said Mellin. “It’s a special piece of history that needs to be preserved.”
For more information or to donate to the project, visit comoxairforcemuseum.ca.