Barnstorming began over 90 years ago when a pilot would land at a local farm and negotiate a place from which they could “buzz” the village and attract attention to the marvels of aviation. After all these years a few pilots, mechanics and enthusiasts are still doing just that from a barn in Canada’s aerospace capital. In 1998 Godfrey Pasmore founded the Canadian Aviation Heritage Center and negotiated space in the historical “Old Stone Barn” on the Macdonald Campus of McGill University in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue.
Why such a small space? The Greater Montréal region has the second-largest density of aerospace jobs in the world. One in 189 Québecers work in the aerospace industry. In Montréal, one person in 96 works in a job related to the aerospace sector yet this small facility, this modest collection is the only one of its kind in the entire province.
The Québec aerospace industry is made up of world-class manufacturers, prestigious educational institutions and prominent research centres. It is also home to the headquarters of international organizations such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The Canada Space Agency is in nearby St. Hubert.
Almost out of the way, at the western tip on the island of Montreal, this tiny yet impressive collection of aircraft, artifacts and memorabilia has the full support of cultural and educational organizations including the Canada Aviation & Space Museum as well as McGill University but not the industry nor the cities that surround it. While a scan of their ‘friends and partners’ webpage does include the city of Pointe-Claire and Scouts Canada, missing are names like Montreal, St. Hubert, St. Laurent or Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney, Rolls Royce, CAE and any other of the 215 aerospace companies that call the region home.
With 98% of Québec’s aerospace activity concentrated in Greater Montréal, I have often wondered why the city has yet to find a way to build a space to properly honour its rich aviation history. While there is some support from Aero Montreal, Quebec’s aerospace cluster, their working groups are dedicated to supply chain development, branding, promotion, innovation, human resources, defence, national security, commercialization and market development. Perhaps they could form another on heritage?
The CAHC has a vision to become the pre-eminent aviation museum and aircraft restoration center in the Province of Quebec. They have undertaken studies to examine expanding their facilities, perhaps a hangar at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport or a building in the core of Montreal will one day house a world class facility but for now that buzz seeks lift from an Old Stone Barn.
Take a video tour with me and see this small but important collection of aircraft, the machine shop and The Godfrey Stewart Pasmore Art Gallery.
Vist their website to find out more information and how you can help.
The Fairchild FC-2 “Razorback” (1927). Canadian Vickers of Montreal built twelve of these aircraft under license. Piloted by the famous Quebec aviator Romeo Vachon, involved in some of the first airmail deliveries and used extensively as a photo survey aircraft.
The Bristol Bolingbroke Mk IV (1942) one of over 600 built under license by Fairchild Aircraft Ltd. of Longueuil, Quebec.
The Fleet Canuck 80 (1947) built by J.O. Noury who went on to become an important designer at Noorduyn Aircraft Ltd of Montreal the company that designed and built the famous Norseman bush plane.
The museum has built and plans to fly a replica of the Bleriot XI that flew over Montreal as part of Canada’s first air show in 1909 and will be an important part of the city’s 375 anniversary celebrations.
The newest project is a replica Curtiss-Reid “Rambler”. For more than 80 years the Webster Memorial Trophy Competition determines the top amateur pilot in Canada. July 1931, while flying his Curtiss-Reid Rambler, John Webster represented Canada in the King’s Cup Air Race held in England. The competition was established a few months later in John’s memory after he was killed while practising at St. Hubert in an aerobatic flying competition known as the Trans-Canada Air Pageant.