An old British-built warbird that served aboard a Canadian aircraft carrier and was eventually found in the African desert has made its way to the Shearwater Aviation Museum.

It took 17 years to restore the Fairey Firefly Mk 1 – one of two Second World War carrier fighters left intact when former military attaché John Orr spotted them in the desert.

“It had been there through a horrendous war fought between Ethiopia and Eritrea and they looked to me like you could just pump up the tires and fly them away,” says Orr.

However, it wasn’t that simple. The Fairey Firefly Mk 1had been sold to the Ethiopian military and had acquired some bullet holes along the way.

“It won many battles. It’s a beautiful aircraft to fly, and state-of-the-art at the time,” says Paul Baiden of the Canadian Naval Air Group.

Restoration by a non-profit organization was slow and expensive and fairey aviation has been out of business for more than 50 years.The project relied heavily on expert volunteers and many parts had to be machined locally or elsewhere.

One of the biggest challenges of the restoration project was making a new propeller. It had to be made out of wood and was custom-made in Germany at a cost of roughly $26,000.

The Fairey Firefly Mk 1 is a rare warbird, with its distinctive chin radiator and loud roar of its Rolls Royce V-12 engine.

“It’s loud. It’s stirring. It’s rousing. It’s absolutely wonderful to hear,” says museum curator Christine Hines.

“What I’m really looking forward to is the first time I run it at night at high-power settings because there will be flames licking out of every one of those stacks,” says museum engineer John Webber. “It’ll be pretty impressive I’m sure.”

More engine run-ups and numerous safety checks will be made in the next few weeks before it can take to the air.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Ron Shaw