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Innisfail-area farmer owns full-size passenger jet

Aviation enthusiast Arnold Begeman saved historic F28 Fokker passenger jet from the wrecker
Innisfail-area farmer Arnold Begeman bought and transported this historic F28 Fokker passenger jet from Saskatoon to his farm. (Photo from Facebook)

As an aviation-mad boy growing up in the Netherlands, Arnold Begeman and his father spent hours watching planes take off and land at the local airport.

The Innisfail farmer now only has to step outside his front door to appreciate the sleek lines of a piece of aviation history in the form of an F28 Fokker passenger plane.

The journey from a Netherlands Fokker factory floor in 1974 to Begeman’s farm yard is a fascinating glimpse into international aviation history and the power of thinking big.

Begeman’s Fokker began its operational life in the 1970s in Ivory Coast in Africa, first with the air force then with Air Ivoire. It was later sold to Time Air, an Alberta-based airline that flew for about 30 years before merging with Canadian Regional Airlines. The plane flew with Canadian Regional until 2002, when it made its last flight between Calgary and Saskatoon, where it was taken out of service and stored with many other aircraft.

As a lifelong Fokker fan, Begeman was aware of the Saskatoon plane graveyard even before he moved to Canada in 2008. When he heard in 2018, that a number of the stored Fokkers were destined for the scrap heap he and fellow Time Air Historical Society board member Rik Barry headed to Saskatoon.

At first, they planned to buy some aircraft parts for their society’s future museum in Lethbridge. Then imagination took flight and soon the historical society worked out a deal to buy an entire plane, which would become part of the museum fleet.

That got Begeman thinking about buying his own. He picked a version that had been built in the Netherlands designated F28 C-GTIZ and had been nicknamed by its previous owners as Tizzy, for an unfortunate history of mishaps that saw the plane end up in airport ditches more than once.

The deal done, it would take another two years to get the 55-seat plane on the road because of holdups getting necessary transportation approvals and delays because of bad weather. Finally, a few days ago the plane, minus its wings and stabilizer, was on the back of a truck heading to Alberta.

Last Wednesday, the Fokker rolled into Begeman’s yard. With help from Olds-based Finlay Crane Service and three Finlay family members, Barry, neighbour Larry Novak and Jesse Millington, a friend with automotive repair skills, who led the reassembling effort.

That was a challenge in itself. “To be honest, I bought it before I thought all that through,” he said with a chuckle. “It was not easy.”

A Facebook group Friends of Tizzy (Fokker F28 C-GTIZ) was formed two years ago and has become an invaluable source of information. His plane is an F28-1000C, one of only eight of that model built.

He got help from as far away as Australia. An aircraft maintenance school there that owned an F28 sent him the manuals on how to reattach the wings. He also got help through Facebook from former employees of Fokker, which went bankrupt in 1996. He even got hold of photos of a dismantled F28 when it was packed up and taken by air transport from Ivory Coast to Netherlands for an overhaul in the early 1990s.

By Saturday reassembly was mostly done and the plane now sits on his property, a life-size testament to a lifelong passion.

“I am still surprised to see it there,” he says. “But I also see the amount of work that’s still left in it. I’m very keen on finding time to work on it again.

“The stabilizer still needs to go on the tail and the wing fairings need to go on — things like that.”

Begeman and his wife Colleen are already thinking of ways to incorporate the plane into a one-of-a-kind attraction for a future farm store, perhaps even to turn the plane into the store itself.

“It was a long and interesting story to get it here.”

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Innisfail-area farmer Arnold Begeman bought and transported a historic F28 Fokker passenger jet from Saskatoon to his farm. Here the wings are being put back on that had to be removed so it could be trucked. (Photo from Facebook)

Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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