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Fairey Firefly WB518 and Fairey Firefly Mk. VI
Captain Eddie Kurdziel and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum
The Firefly was born from a requirement made by the British Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm seeking an all-modern, two-seat reconnaissance-minded navy fighter to succeed its aging line of Fairey Fulmars. In June of 1940 the Royal Navy placed an order for 200 of Fairey Aviation’s newly proposed two-seater before the aircraft had even physically materialized.
The new monoplane, with folding wings for carrier storage sits its crew of two in tandem, though in separate, cockpits. The pilot up front near the leading edge while the radio operator/observer is located some distance aft. With a variety of prototypes completed production began in March 1943, although it was July 1944 before the type became operational. Its first assignment was on the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable off the coast of enemy-held Norway. It was involved with a series of missions against the German ship Tirpitz and eventually was used in all theaters of operation during the Second World War. The Fairey Firefly harassed Japanese aircraft and ground installations throughout the East Indies, and in July 1945 became the first British aircraft to overfly Tokyo. From 1941 until 1955, some 1,702 aircraft were built. It saw service as a long range escort and strike aircraft during the WWII and as a strike aircraft during the Korean War.
Fairey Firefly WB518, was built in 1950 and originally delivered to the Royal Australian Navy. It entered service with 817 Squadron (it later served with 816 Squadron) and saw action during the Korean War when it flew from the deck of HMAS Sydney. Its service career over, the aircraft was retired and displayed on a pole in the town of Griffith, New South Wales as a war memorial.
The Museum’s Firefly, Fairey Firefly Mk. VI was built in 1951 and first served with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, at Ford, UK. Later, it was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in 1953. It was retired from the RAN in 1960 and ended up in a museum in New South Wales, Australia. The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum purchased it from them in 1979. Although a
, it has been restored in the colours and markings of a RCN No. 825 Squadron Firefly Mk. V operating from HMCS Magnificent in 1949-50.
Capt. Eddie Kurdziel
is a retired United States Navy and commercial airliner pilot with thousands of hours logged. His journey with Fairey Firefly WB518 began in 1974. After reading a Flying Magazine article featuring the Canadian Firefly, he says he remembered being entranced with the aircraft, but never had an opportunity to see it in person let alone see it fly. A chain of unusual events followed in his life that all lead to the purchase and restoration of WB518. During Thanksgiving, November of 1993 he was perusing every pilot’s favorite wish book Trade-a-plane when he spotted an ad for a 60% restored Firefly! He purchased it for $200,000 and spent $60,000 having it shipped to the United States. The captain’s initial plan was to sell rides on the plane, “The Firefly had a crew of two, so I guess the passenger would get the navigator/weapons officer spot”. Of course, that required making the 60% restored Firefly 100% flyable. That took eight years and 45,000 man hours.
Kurdziel’s Firefly, was a Grand Champion at the EAA AirVenture 2002, won both the Rolls-Royce Aviation Heritage Trophy and the National Aviation Hall of Fame People’s Choice Award. It has been especially rewarding for Captain Eddie to see how much pleasure the Firefly has brought to others, especially those that have never seen one before.
has been the Chief Engineer at Technisonic Industries Ltd., an avionics maunufacturer for the last 29 years. He joined Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in 1991 as a non-pilot. He learned to fly at the Hamilton Flying Club in 1993 and in 1996 started flying the museum’s de Havilland Chipmunk. Steve now fly’s most of the small trainers as well as the Harvard, Stearman, Beech 18, Norseman, DC3, C47 and Firefly. He also has time in Technisonic’s Citation 501 and a P51 Mustang. He has an Airline Transport Pilot License and also holds a FAST card.
is a retired RCAF pilot and currently a Captain for Air Canada flying the 787. He has flown several types of aircraft such as the CF-101 Voodoo, Grumman Tracker and various helicopters.
Andy joined Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in 1999. He currently fly’s the Lancaster, DC3, C47, B25, Beech 18, Firefly and many of the museum’s trainers. He has an Airline Transport Pilot License and is a FAST instructor.
Founder/Chairman Warbirds in Review President, EAA Warbirds of America
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