Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada’s bold new future

By Derek Gagnon

RAMWC Junkers JU-52 CF-ARM.
The skies of Manitoba and Canada’s North are set to be commemorated in the all new Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada. The museum celebrates the impact that aviation has had on the culture and heritage of Canada.

The museum was first opened to the public in 1978 at 11 Lily Street. It then moved to its current location at 958 Ferry Road (Hangar T-2)opening its doors in October 1983. A year later in 1984 HRH Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the doors of the Western Canada Aviation Museum. In November of 2014 the museum received a ‘Royal’ designation and assumed its new name. The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada is one of only six museums in Canada with a ‘Royal’ designation, an honour rarely bestowed by HRH Queen Elizabeth II.

Bush planes and the “Ghost of Charron Lake”
What sets the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada apart from other aviation museums in Canada is its commitment to telling the story of Canada’s bush planes and the pilots that flew them, and how bush flying influenced the development of Canada’s aviation and aerospace industry.

The museum has long been in the practice of retrieving and restoring planes from around Canada.

Some were at the bottom of lakes. Others were on the sides of mountains. These forgotten and neglected pieces have been found, transported to Winnipeg and restored to their former glory. Some bush planes in the museum’s collection include a Fairchild Super 71, a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver and the “Ghost of Charron Lake”, a Fokker Standard Universal that was found upright on the bottom of Charron Lake after 75 years.

The “Ghost” was forced to land on the lake in Northern Manitoba due to bad weather conditions during December 1931. It broke through the ice shortly afterwards, leaving the crew stranded. Fortunately, these were bush pilots and even in the cold Manitoba winter, they knew how to take care of themselves. Many days later, a fur trapper came to their aid. The Fokker sank in the spring melt of 1932, gliding to the bottom, where it remained for decades.

Charron Lake is 35-square-kilometres, and has a depth of 60 metres. Even with advancing technology, and a good idea of the plane’s location, it took searchers 30 years to find it, and another two years to raise it from the lake floor.


Flying into the Future
The museum secured $1.2 million from the federal government under the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund that was announced by Winnipeg MP Doug Eyolfson on behalf of Minister of Canadian Heritage Melanie Joly in October 2016.“This federal funding will help us build a new, world-class facility to celebrate the ‘Legends of Canadian Aviation’ — a remarkable story of adventure and innovation and an important contribution to Canada’s culture and heritage,” said Helen Halliday, President and CEO of the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada.Two North American architect teams have been enlisted to design the museum’s new look. Reich + Petch and Architecture 49 will work on the project. Reich + Petch have designed architecture and spaces for Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, the Canadian Air and Space Museum and the Smithsonian Institution National Museums in Washington, D.C. Architecture 49 includes in its portfolio the Canadian Museum of Human Rights and Remai Art Gallery of Saskatchewan.The museum will work with private donors and all levels of government to secure the necessary funding before breaking ground. Donor information can be found at to find the museum
The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada is currently located on the south-eastern edge of the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport, in a hangar that originally was the operating headquarters of Trans-Canada Air Lines, now Air Canada.The museum is open seven days a week with admission at $10.00 for adults, $7.50 for students and seniors, and $5.00 for children, with a family rate of $25.00. Guided tours of selected parts of the collection are available Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Inquiries can be made at (204) 786-5503.
One of the more unusual items in its collection is a replica of the Canadian-made Avro Canada VZ-9 Avrocar, which is a vertical take-off and landing aircraft

A Vickers Vedette replica.
A Vickers Vedette replica.