An airplane statue central to Gimli’s waterfront has been removed after a heavy machine operator accidentally hit the plane, clipping the nose cone of its fuel tank.

“They were sorry,” Gimli Mayor Randy Woroniuk said of the operator. “It was an accident.”

Woroniuk said the T-33 trainer jet, which was gifted to Gimli by the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1971, has been removed from its pedestal and is now in storage being assessed.

Meanwhile, the RM of Gimli is searching for a new nose cone for the fuel tank, or a skilled manufacturer who could recreate the damaged piece.

“Whether we can get it repaired or one of the councillors said there’s an airplane graveyard in the Mojave Desert. Maybe we can scavenge some part of them,” he said.

The statue is a significant symbol for the Gimli community. The plane was once used by the Royal Canadian Air Force to train pilots, and the air force has had a prominent presence in Gimli.

“It represents the historical value of the Royal Canadian Air Force as they did their training here,”Woroniuk said. “That airfield has been here since the Second World War and trained pilots until the sixties. The plane was gifted to the community as a reminder as what the air force has done for the community.”

Not its first accident

Woroniuk said the damaged plane actually crashed in town once, and luckily no one was injured.

The pilot, he said, took off from the field when it started losing power.

“He had to eject, but pointed the plane toward the lake hoping it would go toward the lake,” Woroniuk said, “and the plane went between a building and a 10,000 gallon fuel tank and crashed into a garden shed at the old North American building site. If it would’ve hit the fuel shed, Gimli may have been looking a lot differently. “

Mayor Woroniuk said the RM of Gimli is still assessing the cost, and who will pay for it. He said the plane was insured.