Wings Over the Prairies
With a CF-101 Voodoo interceptor, Noorduyn Norseman bushplane and a Boeing Bomarc missile prominently displayed out front, you will not miss seeing this museum if you’re visiting the city of Edmonton and travelling along Kingsway Avenue.
The Museum and it’s Exhibits
Canada has a rich aviation history and Edmonton has been a major player in that history for decades and this museum presents that history, most specifically Edmonton’s role in it, very well. During the heyday of bush flying, Edmonton earned the name “Gateway to the North” as most of the country’s northern regions were not accessible by any means other than aircraft and the bulk of flights to those regions went from Edmonton.
The era of bush flying was one of adaptation to unexpected situations and this resulted in some very unique aircraft that were not built in large numbers and few if any examples survive today. This museum’s collection features a number of bush planes and the stories of their often legendary pilots.
During the Second World War, Edmonton was a major way point for American aircraft traveling to the Soviet Union as part of the Lend-Lease agreements. In the post war era, the military base at Edmonton was an Air Command installation until it was transferred to the army in the 1990s. The museum has many exhibits related to the base’s Air Command years including several aircraft which served as gate guards at the base during that era.
The museum’s restoration workshop is also available for viewing and gives a fascinating insight into the stages and work involved when restoring an aircraft. At the time I visited in July of 2012, there were several aircraft in one state or another of completion so it was easy to see how little a museum may have to work with sometimes when it comes to making an aircraft fit for exhibition.
The bulk of the museum’s collection is housed indoors in a hangar that lends a good deal of atmosphere to the place.
On a Personal Note
I grew up in Edmonton and had the sound of aircraft constantly overhead, I’m certain that is the primary reason I became passionate about aircraft. I’d always take a moment to look up when I heard an aircraft; it mattered to me not whether it was the drone of a Hercules transport from the base, the racket of a 737-200 from the City Centre Airport or a larger airliner from the international airport going overhead. I loved them all.
I volunteered with this museum in the late 1980s and can remember it as a much different place. At the time, it was a small group of older fellows in an old hangar on the opposite side of the runway and one or two aircraft. I was still volunteering with them when the current building was secured for the museum, I recall the effort that went into fixing it up as a display area and the leaps and bounds it was making when it opened to the public at that location. July, 2012 marked my first visit to Edmonton and the museum in about a decade and the difference was amazing. The current group of people running it and the volunteers have really done a great job with it.
Edmonton’s historic City Centre airport, where the museum is located, closed to commercial traffic in the 1990s and it’s full closure occurred in Autumn of 2013. It will come down to this museum to interpret Edmonton’s part in the fabric of Canada’s rich aviation heritage after the airport land has been reallocated and I’ve no doubt they are more than up to the task.
Visiting the Museum
The museum is not difficult to access by car or public transport. There is parking available in front of the museum and several city bus lines run to a large shopping centre which is within walking distance of the museum.
I would like to note that the information in this article is based on a visit I took to this museum in 2012. Much has changed at the museum in regards to how their exhibits are presented since my visit.
Follow this link for current information on operating hours, admission costs and activities of the museum: