Manitoba

Aviation museum's flight to new location delayed by funding turbulence

The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada is in a holding pattern, waiting to start building its new home while its current location marks its final day of being open to the public.

Officials hope to break ground as soon as possible and be open 18 months later

An conceptual drawing shows what the new Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada will look like once construction is completed. (Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada)

The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada is in a holding pattern, waiting to start building its new home while its current location marks its final day of being open to the public.

The Winnipeg-based museum, which dates back to 1974, is still awaiting a major piece of government funding. Negotiations for funding from the provincial and federal governments has been ongoing since the NDP was in power in Manitoba and the Conservatives in Ottawa.

Those talks were sidelined when both governments changed in recent years.

"This has been a big effort, working with two different parties, both federally and provincially," said Helen Halliday, the museum's president and CEO.

"We absolutely feel very good that this is going to get done. It's just been in an extended process that has been difficult."

The museum's current location, since 1984, is an original Trans-Canada Air Lines hangar dating from the 1930s. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Finally, in October 2016, the federal government awarded $1.2 million to the museum with the promise of matching a provincial commitment.

That provincial funding of $8.75 million was confirmed in December 2017 with another $1.25 million if private donation targets are met.

All that's missing now is the federal government's matching $8.75 million for construction to take off, said Halliday.

"It's been a monthly process of negotiations," she said. "The federal government is the missing piece."

Halliday hopes to break ground as soon as possible and be open 18 months later.

In the meantime, Tuesday is the final day for public visits. The current location, since 1984, is an original Trans-Canada Air Lines hangar dating from the 1930s.

The lobby area was designed to resemble a departure terminal with the ticket counter serving as the place to buy admission.

But it must be empty by month's end, said Halliday.

The aviation collection — the second largest in Canada — will be scattered around the province with some stored near the new location on the Winnipeg Airports Authority campus, others in St. Andrews, Brandon, Portage la Prairie, and some private hangars.

Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada's collection includes several one-of-a-kind aircraft such as Canada's first helicopter, the CL-84 "Tilt-wing", Avrocar "flying saucer", historic military jets, bush planes, and commercial aircraft. (Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada/Facebook)

That includes several one-of-a-kind aircraft such as Canada's first helicopter, the CL-84 "Tilt-wing", Avrocar "flying saucer", historic military jets, bush planes, and commercial aircraft.

There are also 2,700 boxes of library and archive materials that will be stored at Magellan Aerospace on Berry Street.

It just can't stay in its present space any longer after reaching the end of its lease with the building's owners.

"We want to assure you that EIC [Exchange Income Corporation, which owns the Ferry Road hangar] has been an excellent partner and has allowed the museum to stay 19 months longer than the original timeline," states a message on the museum's website.

"We are most grateful for their flexibility and understanding while being a champion and major donor for the new museum."

The proposed 105,000-square-foot museum will be located on Wellington Road, not far from the airport and feature nine exhibition galleries, a kids centre, library, and workshop, among other facilities.

The new museum will be located on Wellington Avenue, near the Winnipeg airport. (Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada)

With files from Laurie Hoogstraten and Marcy Markusa

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.

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