Peter Trobridge left behind a successful career in high tech in 2007, and was looking for a fresh challenge when a chance encounter on a golf course set him on a new path.
A mechanical engineering technologist by training, Peter started a conversation with a group of men at an Ottawa-area golf tournament who turned out to be volunteers for Project North Star, a program which helps the Canada Aviation and Space Museum to restore the lone surviving military Canadair C54-GM – also known as the North Star.
The aircraft has a long and storied history as a military transport plane for Canada, and saw active service in the Korean War. Peter was intrigued enough by his conversation with the North Star volunteers that he joined their program and hasn’t looked back.
“I had never worked on an aircraft before EVER,” admits Peter with a laugh, “so at first there was a bit of nervousness working on something that is the only one left in the world, from the Museum’s understanding.”
However, Peter quickly fit in with a group of volunteers who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, all of whom do a little bit of everything to get the plane ship-shape.
“We do fuselage repair, cleaning, refurbishing, reinstalling, painting and polishing” says Peter. “We try to keep as many of the original parts as possible, putting them back into the condition they would have been in when they were new.”
“We’re trying to put it as close to a finished product as it can be, even though it won’t fly again,” he explains.
One of the goals for the volunteers this year is to get the fourth and final engine of the aircraft refurbished for Canada’s 150th birthday. That milestone has special symbolism because today, a flight from Ottawa to South Korea would take approximately 17 hours. “To do it during the Korean war was at least 24 hours in very harsh conditions,” notes Peter. “What Canadian men and women went through during that war in terms of air travel was tough and it’s important to reflect on that as we move forward as a country.”
“This plane was built for Canada, and it was built in Canada,” Peter says. “We all take great pride in getting this special piece of aviation history back to museum quality and into the museum collection.”
For more information on Project North Star please visit www.projectnorthstar.ca.