A lifelong affinity for airplanes led an Innisfail-area farmer to bring a piece of aviation history to his property.
Originally from the Netherlands, Arnold Begeman, 49, said, “My father took me sometimes with him, and we drove to the airport in Amsterdam and watched airplanes. There used to be the Fokker factory; now it’s all gone."
Begeman, who in 2008 moved to the Innisfail-area farm his family now calls home, has for years been pursuing a project near and dear to his heart.
“I got into the Fokkers, and I kind of knew who bought what. Before I even moved to Canada, I knew there were all these Fokkers being stored in Saskatoon," Begeman said of the Dutch-manufactured aircraft. The company went bankrupt in 1996.
“There was one particular aircraft I saw when I was young, an F28 in Air France colours,” he said. “I fell in love with it."
In 2018, Begeman said he became aware some of the Fokkers in storage in Saskatoon were destined for the scrap heap, but that anybody who was interested in obtaining a part from an F28 could order one. He was soon off on a road trip with Rik Barry from the Time Air Historical Society.
“Rik and I decided it would be worthwhile to see if we could buy a complete F-28 instead of only parts,” he said, adding they reached out to the owners, Aero Logistics, who eventually agreed to sell an F28 to the Society, which is working to establish a museum in Lethbridge.
“I live very far away from Lethbridge. That’s when I asked if I could buy another one, and that was no problem,” he said, adding he chose a personal favourite from the remaining lot--Tizzy--which earned the nickname less as a result of its designation, F-28 C-GTIZ, and more because of its history.
In the early ’90s, the plane was flying for the government in Africa’s Ivory Coast when a part of its landing gear broke upon touching down and steered it into a ditch. Fokker eventually brought it back to the Netherlands to finish repairs.
After a fresh new paint job, the good-as-new plane was leased to Air Ivoire and registered as TIZ. Air Ivoire eventually returned the plane to Fokker, who in turn sold it to Time Air before it eventually ended up in the Canadian Regional fleet.
The company then leased the plane to now-defunct Inter-Canadien. Within the span of a month, there was construction happening on the runway at St. John’s airport and the plane ended up overshooting its landing.
“So, it was in the ditch again,” he said.
“The mechanic said, ‘Well, this plane certainly had a lot of tizzy moments!’”
Fast forward to today, and the plane once again found itself travelling – this time attached to a wide-load trailer.
Although Begeman’s plan does not involve making the plane airworthy, he intends to restore the Fokker as much as possible to its original condition so it might look ready for takeoff to the naked, untrained eye.
“The landing gear is attached to the wings, to make it a little bit more complicated,” he said, chuckling. “So, we cannot unload it off the trailer unless it’s got wings so that we can put it on its landing gears.”
“But we also would like to do a little storefront and sell beef and eggs,” he said.
Begeman’s wife Colleen told the Albertan that the couple, who met in Calgary and married in 2013 before going onto have two children who are now ages nine and seven, decided to pursue a business model that blends farming and tourism.
“The plane is meant to be sort of the showpiece,” said Colleen, adding the interior remains in remarkable condition despite sitting in storage for so long.
“We may or may not use it actually as a store. We'll have to see as time goes by."