A model airplane: pilots remember Cold War-era Starfighters
The centerpiece planes of Canada’s Air Force were the star of the show in the West Island on Sunday, with one Montrealer displaying six months of hard work on an elaborate model airplane.
Gilles Pepin took six months to build his replica of a CF-104 Starfighter. The planes were built in the Canadair facility in Cartierville and were in service from 1961 to 1985, during the height of the Cold War.
The model was sold at auction, raising hundreds of dollars for the Montreal Aviation Museum in Ste-Anne-De-Bellevue.
The gathering took place as Canada shops to replace its aging fleet of CF-18 fighter jets, leading some pilots who flew the Starfighter to reminisce about the Canada-made jet.
Pilot George Ellerbeck said the CF-104 was one of the premier aircraft of its time.
“It scared the living daylights out of the Warsaw Pact,” he said. “It was extremely fast, it was a beautiful airplane to fly low-level because of the short wings. It could climb like an angel.”
The CF-104 was designed to shoot enemy bombers down and was equipped with machine guns and missiles to aid it in that mission, and was capable of flying at twice the speed of sound.
However, as the Cold War never turned hot, the plane was rarely used in actual combat. Still, the plane served an important role in the victory over the Soviet Union, said former Starfighter pilot Marc Ouellet.
“A lot of people don’t recognize just how important the training that we did, the level of competency we had, drove the Cold War to its final conclusion,” he said.