The new Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada will be a world-class facility with enhanced experiences. Engaging visitors in Canada’s aviation and aerospace heritage while providing an environment to inspire future generations of aviators and innovators.
The Museum will be a signature attraction, like no other in Winnipeg, Manitoba or Canada.
Even before its establishment as a city, Winnipeg was the epicentre of trade and commerce for Indigenous nations and travelers headed for all points north. When air travel landed in Western Canada in the 1920s, Winnipeg continued as a gateway for development, eventually becoming the operational headquarters for each of Canada’s first three national air services. From aerial survey and mapping, to cargo and passenger transport, to innovation in cold weather flying and rocket science, Manitobans have led the way both nationally and internationally. We recognize the importance of aviation history to Manitobans, and have been collecting historically significant artefacts for decades.
We have been curating our large collection of more than 90 historic aircraft, 70,000 artefacts, texts and photographs for more than 40 years. We started with a small group of visionaries and are now proud to have one of the largest aviation heritage collections in Canada. We are one of only six “Royal” museums in Canada, recognizing the hard work of our team and partnerships we hold, all to help preserve the legends that aided in shaping the nation that we know today.
The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada seeks to honour and commemorate the history of Indigenous Peoples and aviation in Western Canada while engaging with the complex history of travel, trade, and relationships in this place. We are committed to facilitating a safe space for reconciliation to occur.
The new home of the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada is located on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional territory of Anishnaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, Lakota, and Dene Peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation.
We respect the Treaties that were made on these territories, we acknowledge the harms and mistakes of the past, and we dedicate ourselves to move forward in partnership with Indigenous communities in a spirit of reconciliation and collaboration.
We preserve and promote the stories of aviation in western and northern Canada while educating, entertaining and inspiring.
We will be an inspirational, world class destination that tells the story of bush flying, Canadian aerospace and aviation.
Grand Opening – In 2022, the new Royal Aviation Museum will be open to the public. It will feature never-before-seen aircraft, moving storylines and awe-inspiring exhibits.
Preparation for Homecoming – Restoration, onboarding, exhibit development. Preparing aircraft for display in the new Museum, new facility to restore, preserve and conserve our collection. WE will be moving all of our aircraft into the new Museum in preparation for the Grand Opening.
Construction Begins – In Spring, 2020, ground was broken on the new site of the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada. A vision was made for a new 86,000 square foot Museum, located on the grounds of the Winnipeg James A. Richardson International Airport. The project is a complete transformation of the Royal Aviation Museum from its humble beginnings to its magnificent, world-class future.
Moving Out – In October 2018, the entire Museum collection was moved out of its home, the same home that it had been in since 1984. The collection was kept in proper storage, awaiting the construction of a new home.
Royal Designation – In late 2014, the Western Canada Aviation Museum received the highest honour which any museum could hope for when a Royal designation was granted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The name of the museum was promptly changed to the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada. This honour recognizes the hard work of hundreds of museum volunteers and staff, as well as the incredible support of private companies, benefactors, donors and governments along the way.
In 2005, after a 30-year search, the remains of an aircraft that had become known as “The Ghost of Charron Lake” were spotted at the bottom of the northeastern Manitoba lake on a sonar scan. The complete skeleton was intact, it was still upright on the wooden skis (which were perfectly preserved), the engine still turned over, and the prop looked like new. The discovery received global media attention. In 2010 the “Ghost” was retrieved and delivered to the museum.
In 2003, the 30-year, 40,000 hour restoration of the prototype Fairchild Super 71, CF-AUJ, was completed. AUJ had crashed at Lost Lake, near Sioux Lookout, Ontario in 1940, and was recovered by museum volunteers in 1978.
In 2002, an authentic, flyable replica of the Vickers Vedette was completed after 21 years of work (see page 37). Three separate Vedettes, combined with the memories of volunteers who had worked on the Vedette in their aviation careers, were used to generate blueprints for the museum’s replica.
In 1998, Fokker Super Universal CF-AAM, which had been rebuilt to flying condition, took a six-year, criss-cross tour of North American air shows before coming home to its final resting stop at the museum’s hangar doors. AAM is the only flying Fokker Super Universal aircraft left in the world.
A Permanent Home – On October 7, 1984, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the brand-new museum. A number of other honours and milestones were received and achieved in the ensuing years:
- The Mayor’s Volunteer Service Award was received in 1992.
- Our Skyways children’s interactive play area opened in 1994.
- In 1995, the museum hosted the International Civil Aviation Organization award ceremony, which named James A. Richardson as the person most influential in developing Canada’s aviation industry, which was attended by representatives from all levels of government.
In 1983, the museum moved into one of the hangars closest to the airport runways and rented out the other three buildings (a consistent revenue source that helped the museum get a solid financial footing with limited government support.)
In 1982, George T. Richardson, of James A. Richardson & Sons Limited, helped purchase a huge, three-engine, Junkers airplane from a museum in Florida. It was retrofitted by Bristol Aerospace Ltd. into the original single-engine configuration of historic CF-ARM, the flagship aircraft of Canadian Airways Limited, known as “The Flying Boxcar.”
In 1981, Canadian Aviation Electronics (CAE) was interested in selling its Winnipeg facilities–hangars, office space and shops– at the Winnipeg International Airport (now the James A. Richardson International Airport), on land owned by Transport Canada. The board members set to work raising the capital required to purchase the complex, even if it meant personally guaranteeing a second mortgage. CAE took back the second mortgage instead, on a gentleman’s agreement!
Momentum Builds – In 1979, the museum received its first real home, a 7,500-sq. ft. facility at 11 Lily Street–an old police signals garage and support building. Volunteers and board members put up the sweat equity to bring the vision to life. At last, the museum could display the Froebe Helicopter (donated by the Froebe family in 1976), a Tiger Moth, some aircraft engines and a host of other aviation memorabilia. The garage space provided a half-decent restoration shop to work on the Fairchild 24–the first restoration project for the volunteers with fabric and wood working skills, skills which had long since given way in the aviation industry to new materials and methods.
The Early Years – The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada came from humble beginnings, in the basements of its five founding members. Back in 1974, motivated by a shared desire to preserve Canada’s rich aviation heritage, the founding members retrieved a rare Bellanca Aircruiser, which lay wrecked and abandoned in the northwestern Ontario bush. But, other historically significant aircraft were still being sold as scrap, trucked out of the country, or left to rot around the country. The Western Canada Aviation Museum, as it was originally called, was incorporated to preserve these artifacts on January 7, 1974 with a Board of Directors, a formal newsletter (Aviation Review) and 200 members.