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Reconstructing history…in a garage

Graduate student Lech Lebiedowski rebuilds an old German fighter plane, piece by piece.

BY LAURA RYCKEWAERT | MAR 29 2010

When Lech Lebiedowski was 12 years old, he found an old Second World War German motorcycle in a forest outside his hometown of Warsaw, Poland. It became his first restoration project.

Later, as an undergraduate student at the University of Alberta, Mr. Lebiedowski restored a Japanese kamikaze plane, a Yokosuka Ohka. Now 34, he is working on a new project: a Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter plane, also from the Second World War.

“The more something is damaged, or the more impossible the project seems, there’s way more chance that I will take it,” says Mr. Lebiedowski. “If somebody tells me ‘you can’t do it,’ that’s what I’m going to do.”

Mr. Lebiedowski, a graduate student at U of A, is studying the history of science and technology, a major that he picked as a result of his passion for design.

His current project has been a couple of years in the making. It began with a few Messerschmitt parts he had in his garage. Knowing the history of the plane – it was a standard fighter of the Luftwaffe and was flown in the Battle of Britain – Mr. Lebiedowski wanted to “bring it back to life, in a sense.” Though the plane will never fly, it should be able to taxi down a runway.

His project, nearing completion, has caught the eye of museums interested in purchasing the historical aircraft. “I would like it to stay in Canada … but I can’t afford to give it away,” says Mr. Lebiedowski, noting that he and his wife have paid for the entire restoration themselves.

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