British Columbia's aviation history has been a remarkable one. The Province is a landmark on its own, but with mountains, an ocean and many lakes and rivers within its borders, it is a place that has to find new ways for transportation of goods, services and residents. Because of its vast expanse of forests, it also has an air tanker program in place to combat forest fires, which many times are in remote places. British Columbia celebrates its aviation history in a number of museums around the province. You can learn a lot about the province, its brave flyers, and the innovations that came forward.
British Columbia Aviation Museum
Location: Approximately 25 km outside of Victoria, BC, in Sidney BC, beside the Victoria International Airport
- Open all year, closed Christmas and New Year's Day
- Summer hours (May 1-September 30): 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
- Winter hours (October 1-April 30): 11:00 am to 3:00 pm
- Adults: $10.00
- Seniors (65+): $8.00
- Youth (13-18): $8.00
- Children (7-12): $4.00
- 6 years and under: FREE
- Group rates are available (call for details)
About the museum: Walk through the museum and see the remarkable history of aircraft in Canada, but with a special look at British Columbia's history. Visitors get to look at restored airplanes, artifacts such as airplane engines, flight logs, and uniforms. Information is also provided through a collection of books, pictures, videos and interactive displays. For more information, a tour guide will accompany you through the displays.
Don't miss: Visitors should see the Memorial Room, which displays many items from Canadian fighters' past. In the room, there is memorabilia from the Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force, as at different times in Canada's history; men and women were members of British forces. The Pat Bay Airport display is also a must-see, as it tells the history of the airport and the selection of the Patricia Bay flatlands as a place for pilot training and air base and seaplane base for fighters in World War II. This airport became the eventual home for the Victoria International Airport.
Aircraft on display: Some of the aircraft at the museum include the Avro Anson MK II, which was used during WWII, and valued for crew training; the Bell 47 Helicopter, which was used for rescue and passenger use, and later was vital for logging in BC. Also take a look at the Bristol Bolingbroke MK IV, a restored piece from World War II that gives visitors an idea of what was flown by #3 Operational Training Unit at Pat Bay. See a piece of early aviation history in the Chanute Glider, Octave Chanute's 1897 glider which was an inspiration to the Wright Brothers, and used the knowledge of early European flight pioneers.
The Canadian Museum of Flight
Location: Hangar # 3 - 5333 216th Street, Langley, BC, V2Y 2N3
- Open all year
- Closed form December 25 to January 1
- Adults: $10.00
- Seniors (60+)/ youth (6-15): $7.00
- Family: $25.00 (2 adults and up to 5 students)
- Children under 6: Free
- Museum members, plus one guest: Free
- Special rates for Group Tours - call the Museum for more information
About the museum: Founded in the late 1970's by a group of people who fought to keep historic aircraft in Canada from being sold to the US and Europe. The museum is a labour of love, run entirely by volunteers, and besides educating visitors about Canada's aviation history, museum members also put a lot of energy into restoration and preservation of aircraft and artifacts such as log books.
Good to know: Wheelchair accessible; Hands-on displays; child friendly
Aircraft on display: More than 25 aircraft are on display at the museum. Restored and airworthy crafts such as a Tiger Moth, Fleet Finch, SE5A replica, Waco AQC Cabin, P-51 Mustang replica and the Harvard II are all at the museum. Visitors can also see aircraft such as the Avro CF-100 Canuck, Douglas DC-3, Mignet Pou-du-Ciel, Sopwith Camel Replica. Engines on display include de Havilland's Gipsy I, Gipsy Major and Goblin engines, and Garrett TPE331.
Comox Air Force MuseumLocation: Located at 19 Wing Comox, Vancouver Island
- Open 10 to 4 pm, Tuesday to Sunday
- Closed Christmas Day, New Year's Day
- Heritage Park is open from 10 to 4 pm, during May to September
- Admission by donation.
About the museum: The Comox Air Force Museum, based at 19 Wing Comox, is dedicated to West Coast Aviation history. The museum also proudly displays artifacts and aircraft form the history of 19 Wing Comox, a squadron that watches over the Pacific Ocean, and performs search and rescue operations. 19 Wing was established in 1942 to protect the Pacific coastline from a possible Japanese invasion.
Don't miss: The Library has a vast collection of books, periodicals, DVD's and photographs, and visitors can get a good knowledge of BC's aviation past, present and future. The extensive collection of books tells of Canada's and BC's air squadrons and their aircraft. There are also aircraft manuals, monographs and reference documents for history buffs.
Heritage Air Park: The park, which sits beside the grounds of the air base, lets visitors walk through history. The aircraft on display were used by 19 Wing Comox throughout their 70 year history. Examples of what can be seen there are a WWII era Spitfire (restored), Cold War aircraft and rescue aircraft, past and present. Some of the other aircraft on display are Avro Canuck, and Canadair's Argus, Silver Star, Starfighter, and Tutor.
When you come to British Columbia, or if you are lucky enough to live here, make sure you check out these museums.
By: Walter Zeiss