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Reconstructing history…in a garage

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


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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