I love pretty much anything aviation related. I love seeing airplanes, reading about them, building models of them and for a short while – actually flying them. And when it comes to seeing actual planes, I really enjoy visiting aviation oriented museums.
I have featured several aviation museum visits on Model Airplane Maker:
- A Visit to the United States Air Force Museum
- A Visit to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
- Two Visits to the Commemorative Air Force Museum (Mesa AZ)
- A trip to the Pima Air & Space Museum
When I visit aviation museums I do the walk around, I do the multiple pictures of a featured airplane and I always learn something new (or rediscover something that I used to know). Lately I have a little one with me who asks all sorts of interesting questions. So I now get to experience the museum from a different perspective (usually while squeezed into a teeny cockpit!)
No matter what, I always get inspired. The inspiration may be to someday build one of the planes in the museum; it may be to do some further research on a given plane, pilot or theater of war; it may also be to add further intricate detail of find some decals for one of my planned builds.
It has been this way ever since I visited my first aviation museum with my dad back when I was old enough to ask how those big airplanes can get up in the sky. That museum is still my local aviation museum and the one that I have visited the most: The Canada Air and Space Museum.
Built on the site of the former RCAF Station Rockliffe, the museum I first visited was housed in 2 or 3 wartime hangars and was called the National Aviation Museum.
I do not remember a lot of detail from those visits except I always looked forward to going with my dad and being up on his shoulders. I recall how cold it was in those hangars and how dark and intimidating the Lancaster looked.
I also remember how packed all the planes seemed to be in those buildings. I guess I was not the only one to notice that because sometime in the mid-1980s, the collection was moved over to a new building, got a new name, was augmented and has been receiving visitors ever since.
The collection is divided into what could be described as “islands” containing like aircraft or aircraft from a specific era. Here are some highlights:
World War 1
Right next to “early aviation” is the nice collection of WW1 aircraft. These planes consist of little more than spruce, doped fabric and thin wiring. These pilots must have been a combination of brave and crazy to climb into them. There is a Snipe as well as a Fokker VII. The star of the collection is the German AEG Bomber but they put it in a very dark place so my pictures did not work. Back in the day I would just walk by this collection but now I look at it closely. I think the models from Wing Nut Wings have revived WW1 modeling and I have two of them in the build pile.
World War 2
Probably one of the more popular sections is the one featuring planes from the second world war. Canada figured prominently in training allied pilots. Back during the war years, this area must have been pretty noisy given there were some 3 or 4 air stations training pilots. The museum has a pile of these yellow trainers.
They still have that big dark Lancaster as well as a Lancaster nose section that has been opened up for all to see. Funny thing is this – when I was a kid, this plane seemed so big. Now it looks cramped, cold and uncomfortable! Still, it is very neat to see inside.
Civil and Bush Planes
Strange how this section is less popular. Bush flying was and continues to be a big part of aviation in Canada and these planes are built tough. They are designed to take a beating and still fly.
I personally like the Boeing 247D – it was a 1930s Boeing twin passenger airliner but you can definitely see the lines that would eventually become the B-17 Flying Fortress.
From the Vampire to the Hornet, and everything in between, its all in there. This section contains a wide variety of fighters, helicopters and experimental aircraft. Off to the side are jet engines and a BOMARC missile. Best of all, this section seems to be the best lit so one can really appreciate the aircraft. Missing are the navy planes, more on those down below.
The shiny Starfighter is interesting because it was modified for a record flight attempt and the museum kept all of the modifications. However, my favorite is the Sabre and it is in my build pile. Although it is not shiny like the earlier variants or the Korean war vets, but it has a subtle camouflage pattern and a cool cobra on the rudder. I was lucky enough to find the right decals and some resin bits to make this particular aircraft.
I only have three nits against the Canadian Air and Space Museum: There are no Corsairs, the lighting inside the museum is low which makes it difficult to get nice images and a good chunk of the collection is in another building! There are tours of the other building but they are on a limited schedule and cost an additional amount over the regular admission. Unfortunately I cannot find my pictures of these ones but I will update whenever I find them or get back to another tour of the special collection.
The aircraft are packed into this building and there are some great ones:
- F3H Banshee
- Sea Fury
- Comet (nose)
I am a fan of Sea Furies in general and the Canadian Navy Sea Fury has one of the classiest paint schemes of them all. However, one my favorite cold war airplanes is the Banshee. I just love the look of it. I built one from the 1/72 Hobbycraft kit years ago but I’d like to replace it with a 1/48 model – if one ever comes out.
Museum models have always impressed me and I love these as much as seeing the real thing in aviation museums. There are some true works of art when it comes to the models in this museum. I do not know who built them but I do know none were from kits. My favorites are the models that have been opened up. Wow…
Inspiration, research or just a great way to spend a cold afternoon in the winter, I can’t get enough of Aviation museums. Visiting the local aviation museum with my dad probably got me started in this lifelong fascination for all things flying.
I have been to many more than have been featured on this site: Smithsonian, Hendon, San Diego – but these were all back in the dark days of camera film and crappy pictures. But I intend to go back to each of these and visit many more.
Do you get inspiration in Aviation museums? Have you built a model to match a museum exhibit? What museum is your favorite and why? I’d like to hear about it in the comments.