Atlantic Canada is one of the most beautiful spots in the world, with different ecological regions at every turn. It is rocky, sandy, great coastal ocean views, and draws hundreds of thousands of people to the provinces every year. The people who live there are proud of where they come from. It is also a place that has harsh winters, and it is exposed to the temperament of Mother Nature, the ocean and all of the elements that make it such a beautiful place to live and visit. Because many parts of Atlantic Canada are remote, the ideal modes of transportation in and out of ports and villages are by boat (along the coast) and by plane. Because of the remoteness, Atlantic Canada has a varied and unique aviation history, one that makes its residents one more reason to be proud of the place they call home. Below is a list of aviation museums by province.
Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum
Location: Across from the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, on Highway 102, about a half-hour drive from Halifax.
Admission information: Closed during the winter season. Admission is by donation, with a suggestion of 5 dollars.
About the museum: While there are a number of monuments celebrating the history of different regions of Atlantic Canada, this museum is dedicated to preserving civil and military aviation history of all regions of Atlantic Canada. The museum has been in operation since 1977. There are sister museums at Greenwood and Shearwater.
Aircraft on display: Visitors can see a variety of aircraft, from the Cessna L-19 Birddog, the Canadair CF-104 Starfighter, the Ercroupe 415C and the TBM Avenger. Engines such as the WWII V-1 Buzz Bomb - Fieseler F 20-76 also are on display, and visitors can also see weapons such as a Sea Sparrow Missile and a CRV-7 Rocket.
Greenwood Military Aviation Museum
Location: Greenwood, Nova Scotia
Admission information: Open September to May, Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; June to August, seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors can also arrange for guided tours.
About the museum: Greenwood is a military base in the Annapolis Valley, and 14 Wing Greenwood is the largest air base on the East Coast, active in Atlantic sovereignty and surveillance, and search and rescue as needed. This small museum is dedicated to preserving and displaying the history of the squadron, established in 1942 as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
Shearwater Aviation Museum
Location: Bonaventure Ave. at 12 Wing, Shearwater, Nova Scotia
Admission information: Open year-round
About the museum: The museum is dedicated to educating visitors about the rich Maritime aviation history, and is also home to an extensive library and archives. With over 13,000 documents, books, photographs, newspaper clippings, maps, blueprints and manuals, it is a great reference centre for history buffs.
Don't miss: The Royal Canadian Air Force Eastern Air Command Exhibit displays the evolution of RCAF Station Dartmouth (now Shearwater) and the role of Eastern Air Command (EAC) and its historic involvement in the "Battle of the Atlantic".
The HMCS Bonaventure Exhibit is a ten metre by two metre diorama with 1/48 scale (approximate) models of the aircraft carrier Bonaventure and the helicopter carrying destroyer Assiniboine sailing in close formation.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
North Atlantic Aviation Museum
Location: 135 Trans Canada Highway, Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador
Admission information: Open all year. Adults: $6; children under 12: free (2013 rates)
About the museum: The museum was opened in 1996. Because Gander has been a vital part of national and international flight operations, this museum is not to be missed. It celebrates the aviation history of the area. Gander has been a hub for flights during world wars, has pioneered early trans-Atlantic flights, and was a major player during 9/11. The museum not only explores the aircraft and their roles in flight history in the province of Newfoundland, but also takes a look at the aeronautical industry and its impact on Northern Newfoundland.
Good to know: The museum is interesting but not really a place for children. Because there are no interactive displays - visitors cannot touch the displays - small children may lose interest quickly. The museum is easy to find. It is just off the Trans-Canada Highway.
Don't miss: Make sure you see the 9/11 display. The Gander airport diverted 42 planes that day, and the people of the city took in thousands of stranded passengers and made them feel safe. There is audio footage of the Gander air traffic tower personnel talking to pilots and diverting them to safety.
There are interesting displays and information of local air disasters, such as the crash that killed Sir Frederick Banting in 1941.
The flight simulator is a big hit with visitors who always dreamed of flying their own plane.
Aircraft on display: The museum makes sure that visitors get a complete look at the history of flight in the province. Business, commuter and war planes all are housed at the museum. Visitors can see such aircraft as the B-17, Ferry Command, Lockheed Hudson Bomber, Casno Water Bomber, CF101 Voodoo Fighter Jet, Beech Craft l8S, 1939 Tiger Moth and DC3 Cockpit.
Artifacts such as engines, weapons, uniforms, and documentation also will enthrall visitors.
Labrador Military Museum
Location: 5 Wing Goose Bay, Loring Drive, Building 295, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador.
Admission information: Open all year.
About the museum: 5 Wing Goose Bay squadron has been operational since 1941, first developed as a refuelling stop for the Atlantic Ferry Command, and has trained members of the military from all over the world through war years. During the Cold War, some American troops were stationed here (Strategic Air Command). The museum celebrates the history of 5 Wing, and Canadian, American, Dutch, German, and British Air Forces. The museum does not house any aircraft, but has a vast collection of memorabilia and artefacts such as radar scopes and flying suits.
Don't miss: There are many interesting sites close to the base and the museum, and should be seen. Lest-We-Forget Cemetery / Commonwealth Cemetery is the final resting place for 28 airmen from the Royal Canadian Air Force. The Pease Street Bunkers were built by the United States Air Force after the end of World War II. Some have been closed and destroyed, but there are some still intact for visitors to see. The bunkers are located north of the 5 Wing Goose Bay airfields, near Lest-We-Forget Cemetery.
Northern Lights Military Museum
Location: 170 Hamilton River Road, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador
Admission information: Open all year from Tuesday to Saturday; free
About the museum: A museum dedicated to the provinces' military history, particularly that of Labrador. While there are no planes on display at the museum, it is full of artefacts such as medals, weapons, photographs, uniforms and documents that were used by airmen and commanding officers stationed in the province.
Don't miss: While the museum does not have any aircraft on display, there are some in the area, and are only a short drive or walk away.
Across from Town Hall on Hamilton River Road, a T33, also known as an American T-Bird, is on display. Near the Goose Bay Airport, a Vulcan Low Level Bomber is on display. And, in front of the 5 Wing Goose Bay Headquarters on Forbes Road, you can see a VooDoo CF-101 monument.
Make sure you get to Pine Tree Lookout. This radar site, active during the Cold War as part of the North American defence strategy, is now also a great place to get a wonderful view of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the Churchill River Valley and the 5 Wing Goose Bay airfield.
Atlantic Canada has a rich and proud aviation history. Luckily for the rest of the world, that history has been well preserved for all of us to see.
By: Walter Zeiss