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Silver Star lands at Calgary's Air Force Museum of Alberta

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It's a sleek looking jet with a matte-grey finish but it’s far from the technological wonders military pilots fly today.

The Silver Star, or Canadair CT-133, played an important role in Canadian aviation history and is the fifth Cold War-era fighter plane on display at the Air Force Museum Society of Alberta.

As of March 31, 2005, the Silver Star had flown in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) for 54 years and logged nearly 2.4 million flight hours – making it the longest serving aircraft in Canadian military history.

"(We’re) really happy to get this airplane that was being held at a museum in Cold Lake, Alta.," said Bob Wade, former RCAF pilot. "We wanted to include it in our Cold War exhibit because it represented a major portion of air operations during that period of our history. That's where all pilots trained on that airplane during that period."

The Silver Star was a transitional aircraft for pilots moving from propellers to jet engines. Wade flew many fighters in his career but has a special place in his heart for the one known as the “T-Bird.”

"You know I love that T-Bird," he said. "When I was a young fellow just graduating out of pilot training and I could travel around North America in the jet, I'd never been in an airplane before joining the air force, you know and it was quite something for a young fella in those days to get on an airplane like that."

Wade joined the RCAF in 1968 and graduated pilot training a year later. He remembers the aircraft was maneuverable, but not fast compared to today's fighters.

"As far as altitude capability, it was good to 46,000 feet," he said. "Although it took you a long time to get up there and it would cruise at about eight tenths the speed of sound."

Dave Lowery, one of the museum’s directors, says the T-Bird was on display in Cold Lake for about a decade. It's still in the inventory of the Department of National Defence, that've loaned it to the Calgary museum.

Lowery says it’s an important representation for the Cold War exhibit.

"It's great to be able to educate the public about the Cold War era," Lowery said. "I speak to school groups that come in here and you wouldn't believe even the teachers whose jaws dropped when they see what we have.

“They had no idea about Cold War they had no idea about the people involved, nor the equipment."

The museum is working on a larger facility that will hold three new aircraft, including the T-Bird.

"So the CT-133 is outside and we're hoping to expand and more than double our square footage," he said.

"We hope to add a Voodoo, otherwise known as a CF-101, a Clunk (Canuck), otherwise known as a CF-100 and we have the CT-133. We want to enclose all those and make this a very comprehensive exhibit of the aircraft flown during the Cold War era."

The plan is also to restore the T-Bird because it's been stored outdoors for much of its life time.

More information about the museum and the Cold War exhibit can be found online.

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