Retired plane comes back to life as an underwater attraction for divers in Quebec
TORONTO – A decommissioned plane from one of North America’s top aircraft maintenance schools comes back to life as an underwater attraction for divers.
For nearly three decades, a Piper Aztec twin-engine aircraft has been an important educational tool at the École nationale d’aérotechnique (ÉNA) in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, just outside of Montreal.
But as ÉNA upgraded its teaching fleet with new models for future mechanics, the Aztec had to be retired.
It was then that Serge Rancourt, professor at ÉNA and former army mechanic, had the idea to descend the plane into the depths of a quarry in Thetford Mines, Quebec. for his last landing.
“I’m a diver myself, so I saw wrecks, wrecks of planes,” Bancourt told CTV National News.
Before the plane could be placed underwater, some 80 students from ÉNA participated in the teardown of the plane to ensure that all contaminants were removed.
“We were given a toolkit, part of the plane to work on,” said James Alexander Midlash, a student at ÉNA, who worked on the engine mounts for the plane.
As the plane was not going to fly anyway, it didn’t matter if the students made mistakes.
“With this project, mistakes were allowed,” said Rancourt. “If they made mistakes it was okay because the plane went underwater later.”
For first year student Lisa Major, the experience confirmed her passion for the predominantly male field of aircraft maintenance.
“I was involved in taking the wings off the plane and it’s something you never have to do,” she said. “It was something that was a really cool experience.”
In the next phase, the team had to figure out how best to sink the plane, a process known as scuttling.
“For me, everything was a question of transport, but also of launching the plane,” explains diver and research engineer Pierre-Olivier Dubois.
To plan the landing, drones and other high-tech tools were used to create a 3D model of the aircraft and the underwater landing site.
The landing had to be precise. Otherwise, the plane could crash into the side of a cliff or get lost in nine meters of water, Dubois said.
After seven minutes, the aircraft was successfully submerged using a crane. It has already become popular with divers, serving not only as a fun for divers, but also as a time capsule for aviation. A plaque with the names of everyone who worked on the project was also added to the aircraft fuselage.