If you had the chance to take a leisurely drive around Poplar Ridge just west of Red Deer last weekend you would have come across truly unique.
A Royal Navy Sea Harrier Jump Jet was parked on the lawn of the Cotton family home and it was drawing all sorts of attention from neighbours and people who were passing by.
Ian Cotton, who purchased the Harrier recently from the Royal Navy, said they wanted to have a bit of fun with the jet so he parked it on his lawn for the Canada Day weekend.
Cotton, the owner of Orbital Energy in Red Deer, fell into collecting jets thanks to his line of work.
He considers them his hobby and now owns six jets; an English Electric Lightning, three Hawker Hunters, and a Strikemaster along with his Harrier, which he keeps all at his shop in Burnt Lake.
“I kind of fell into it since we do gas turbines for jet engines at the shop and I have a lot of interest in planes so when an opportunity came up to buy one I took it. Then word got around that I collected them so then the next thing you know I own six.”
The Harrier is an F/A2 single-seater that is capable of vertical takeoff and landing and has a wing span of 25.26 ft. and a length of 47.57 ft.
It was built in 1986 and was stationed on a Royal Navy aircraft carrier during the Bosnian conflict and was equipped with missiles, including sidewinders.
The Harrier has traveled both land and sea since being decommissioned in 2002, but Ian hopes to change that.
“I am going to get an engine for it in a month’s time and we are hoping to get it at least flying.”
He plans on fixing up the jet at his shop in his spare time, which he estimates should take a year.
The Harrier is the only one of its kind in Canada and the second owned privately in the world.
It took six weeks to get the Harrier across the ocean from the United Kingdom and another few weeks to get it across Canada by semi truck.
“I know my wife would rather I collect stamps,” said Cotton.
Cotton’s wife Kirsten said it was harmless fun to park the jet on the lawn and that they were not advertising the business in any way.
“Ian likes talking planes, engines and old cars so from that point of view he likes it, but as far as doing it for attention seeking, no, we like our privacy,” said Kirsten.
Both Ian and Kirsten are taking flying lessons so one day they will be able to take up the jets themselves, but Kirsten said she needs to get over her fear of flying first.
“It is not something I enjoy doing,” said Kirsten, “I don’t like flying at full stop so that is why I am taking flying lessons to get over my fear.”
They both agree that the best part of having the jet on the lawn is that it gives them a chance to meet their neighbours. They even plan on having the neighbourhood kids over to sit in the jet.
For now the jet is a beautiful showpiece creating conversation among friends but Ian hopes to have it up and flying soon along with his other collection.
“I would like to see it up in the air some day.”