GUEST COLUMN: Hats off to Golden Hawk team

Bonnie Stevenson

The team currently engaged in the restoration of the Sarnia F-86 Golden Hawk Sabre memorial is to be commended for their commitment to the project. Well over 3,000 man-hours have already been expended and the result has been nothing short of remarkable.

The badly-damaged jet has undergone a stunning transformation that required the replacement of 300-square-feet of its outer skin. The aluminum used to accomplish this daunting feat was donated by a local company, as were many other vital items from paint to sandblasting services. The community has come through for the team and the result will soon be back in its proper place atop the tall column in Germain Park. The memorial site will also bear a large black granite commemorative monument, another show of support funded by the Hon. Malcolm Cameron IODE Chapter.

This stunning marker will tell visitors they are in the presence of a new memorial to the Golden Hawk aerobatic team (predecessors of today’s Snowbirds) that thrilled millions with their daring aerial displays of power and precision, as well as all air force personnel who have served their country in past and present conflicts.

All of this has been done without the aid of professional fund-raisers or an overabundance of fuss. The men on the team simply heard of the Golden Hawk memorial’s deplorable state and the need for its immediate repair, and they stepped up to the take on the challenge.

The project has not been without setbacks. Early in the project, the team discovered that the primer they had used on the front section of the fuselage was peeling away from the surface.

All of the preparation work that had been done had to be stripped away, a more suitable type of primer found, and a great deal of work redone, putting the project behind schedule and the spirits of the team members at a low point.

But with renewed commitment to seeing the project through for their comrades the Sarnia RCAF 403 Wing, the team now has the entire fuselage repaired and painted in its signature gold coat.

What remains of the project will revolve around detail work and the application of the decals that will restore the lovely bird to its former glory.

I’ve been privileged to witness the efforts of the team as they have worked through the setbacks and enjoyed the tremendous results they’ve achieved. They’ve done it with good-natured co-operation, encouraged by the knowledge that the final product will pay homage to the legacy of the Golden Hawk aerobatic team and to the thousands who have served, and continue to serve, with such distinction in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Bonnie Stevenson is a Sarnia-based freelance journalist, writer, and author of Ahead of Her Time: The Tale of Bootjack Mary and its upcoming sequel