We often joke about the “museum pieces” that the Canadian Armed Forces have to operate, due to very long procurement processes and budget shortfalls, but this is the first time I’ve heard of scavenging spare parts from actual museum displays:
The Ottawa Citizen has learned that in July 2012 air force technicians raided an old Hercules airplane that is on display at the National Air Force Museum of Canada because they needed navigational equipment for a similar aircraft still in use.
The revelation highlights the difficulties military personnel have increasingly faced in keeping Canada’s ancient search-and-rescue planes flying after more than a decade of government promises to buy replacements.
The air force museum is at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ont., and boasts a large collection of military aircraft that have been retired and subsequently placed on display.
“They sort of called (Colton) up and said ‘Hey, we have these two INUs that we can’t use. Do you have any on yours?’ ” Windsor said. “Some of the parts are interchangeable. They just kind of got lucky on that.”
Defence Minister Rob Nicholson’s office defended the air force’s decision to ask a museum for parts to keep its search-and-rescue planes flying.
“The RCAF took the initiative to remove these functional, perfectly good parts and use them effectively,” spokeswoman Johanna Quinney said in an email.
But former head of military procurement Dan Ross said it’s “embarrassing” that the air force has to “cannibalize old stuff that’s in museums” to keep its planes flying.
Update, 16 September: The story triggered a question to the minister in parliament.
NDP defence critic Jack Harris: “Mr. Speaker, the government’s failed plans to replace Canada’s aging search and rescue aircraft hit a new low with the news that the RCAF had to source parts from a 50-year-old plane on display at the National Air Force Museum. It would be funny if it were not for the fact that Canadians rely on the Hercules and Buffalo aircraft to respond to thousands of emergencies every year. Though started by the Liberals in 2002, there will not be replacement planes in operation until 2019, at the earliest.
Does the minister simply expect the RCAF to raid other museums in the meantime?
Defence Minister Rob Nicholson responded: “What the honourable member was referring to was a mistake. When it was discovered, the RCAF took the appropriate measures. That being said, this is the government that has delivered 17 new Hercules transport aircraft, four strategic transports, and 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. How did the NDP vote? The NDP voted against all of these; every dollar for the military is opposed by the NDP.”
Not sure what Nicholson meant by “a mistake.” He didn’t elaborate in the House of Commons.
But it’s different than the earlier response from his office, which acknowledged the scavenging and praised it as taking the “initiative.”