The Canadian Aviation Museum calls Windsor, Ontario home, but they aim to showcase the entire nation’s flying history through aircrafts, memorabilia, flight, and stories that deserved to be passed down from generation to generation.
Regardless of the province, anytime we come across a museum with a national scope, it’s a place that we prioritize visiting. To add to that, my grandfather served in WWII in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and so I’ve always had an intense fascination with Canada’s aviation history.
In fact, before shipping out to Halifax from Kingston, he actually trained on the Harvard, and thanks to this museum, I had the remarkable opportunity to head up into the skies in one of those high performance trainers. I’ll speak in more depth about that later, but I wanted to note that the flight I took is one of the most meaningful, memorable things that I’ve ever been a part of when it comes to Canadian tourism. It’s also an experience that anyone can take part in, and not enough people know that!
Before we get too deep into the nitty gritty, I want to back up and talk a little bit about the museum at large, and the important work they’re doing.
How Can You Best Experience the Canadian Aviation Museum in Windsor, Ontario?
For those who don’t know, Windsor’s Canadian Aviation Museum was formerly called the Canadian Historical Aircraft Association. They’re a non-profit organization that’s deeply committed to showcasing the aircrafts, the people, and the stories that make Canadian aviation history what it is.
I also want to note that I was moved by how many volunteers make this place tick. There are a lot of people who are giving their time and energy into ensuring that this museum becomes one that more people add to their travel bucket-list.
You can check their site to see if anything has changed, but at this time admission is $11 for adults, $9 for students, and $27 for the family. Entrance is free for Members, Veterans, and children under 6.
They’re open all year round, but 10am-4pm during the spring and summer (July & August), and 10am-3pm during the rest of the year.
Appreciate the Array of Canadian Aircrafts
Before I list the aircrafts that they have at the Canadian Aviation Museum, I should note that you’re welcome to explore them on your own, but they do offers tours for those interested.
- Avro Lancaster: A four-engine heavy bomber that became the main heavy bomber used by the RAF and RCAF. It’s currently being restored by the museum and that’s a good thing because “The Lanc,” is arguably the most famous and successful WWII night bomber ever.
- De Havilland DH.98 Mosquito: A multi-role combat aircraft with a two man crew. The real thing to know here is that this fella was constructed almost entirely out of wood, earning it the nickname “The Wooden Wonder.”
- De Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk: This was the standard primary trainer for the Royal Canadian Air Force after the World Wars were over. It’s noted historically for being the first significant post war aviation project from De Havilland Canada.
- Stearman: The Model 75 “Kaydet” was the primary trainer for the US military during WWII. The wooden propeller is something else!
- T-33 Silver Star: The Canadair CT-133 Silver Star looks like something out of a science fiction novel, and that’s what makes it one of the most popular aircraft in their collection.
- Harvard: My gosh this plane can fly. This was the most advanced trainer for US and the British Commonwealth during WWII, and over 15,000 of these beauties were constructed. “The CAM’s Harvard Mark IV, C-FVIJ, purchased in the fall of 2014 from a private owner, was built in 1952 at Canadian Car and Foundry in Fort William, ON, one of 270 built for the RCAF. The aircraft was taken on strength by the RCAF with serial number 20382 and is still painted in its original air force colours and markings.”
- Fairchild 24R Argus: A neat looking 4 seat, single-engine monoplane that was a successful civil and military utility vehicle. This plane served at RCAF Station Rockcliffe (just outside Ottawa) from November 1940 to October 1945.
Check out the Wes Bridgen Archives
You’ll find the Wes Bridgen Archives in the old parachute packing room of the #7 E.F.T.S. hangar. It’s basically an incredible collection of wartime memorabilia that they have on-site. There’s plenty of old uniforms, medals, and documents from the war.
I’m currently going through my grandfather’s war letters, so I know the power of archives like these to allow us to truly empathize with the human side of war. It’s easy to have this image of these incredible heroes off to do heroic things. But, in reality, it was regular people, trying their best to stay alive in the most difficult and extraordinary circumstances.
And that, at least to me, makes those people even more heroic.
As the museum notes, “from soldiers separating from their loved ones, to operations and flight missions that escaped bleak odds, to iconic military equipment, come and hear the stories these artifacts were a part of. If you are a history buff, then this is the place for you. Every item here has a story to tell.”
Book a Flight Experience
I’m not exaggerating when I say that being a part of this flight experience was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, anywhere. I went up in what they call the Harvard and I can vividly remember every second of that flight.
Not only were the views of Windsor and Detroit something else, but to begin to understand how my grandfather would have trained meant everything to me. Also, my pilot, David Carrick, was an absolute professional and made me feel comfortable the whole time.
We even did about 5 minutes of acrobatics that included barrel rolls and the whole works, and I loved it with my whole being. He saw how comfortable I was, so even let me do a little steering myself. This experience has made me consider whether I want to get my pilot’s license.
There are three different aircrafts you can fly in (the Chipmunk, Stearman, and the Harvard), and 4 different time segments you can book for (6-8 minutes, 15-20 minutes, 35-40 minutes, and the full hour). You can check pricing here but for what it’s worth, it’s something I would do again and again because I felt it was worth every penny.
That flight changed the way that I appreciate flight in general, and the way that I understand what people in the RCAF were asked to do to fight for our nation.
If you want to see what we got up to in the sky in video, you can see my Instagram post from that day!
Membership, Upcoming Events & More
The Canadian Aviation Museum is always looking for new members to work on restoration projects, help fundraise, assist in running the day to today operations and more. This is a place that relies on its membership and volunteers, so click here if you want to find about more about becoming a member. I know it’s a little tight in the museum and they’re looking to possible expand, so all support is welcomed.
They also host regular events such as “Burger Burn Saturdays.” Keep track of all events on their Events Page. You can also book an event for yourself and utilize that 18,000 square foot space, which they note is ideal for receptions and special gatherings.
As you can gather, there’s really no shortage of ways that you can appreciate this museum. There’s no right way either, because everyone in this nation will have a different relationship to Canadian’s aviation history, and that’s totally fine. What matters is that these stories, aircrafts and experiences are being kept alive for future visitors and generations, as a reminder of what this nation is capable of when we put our minds and hearts to the task.
We want to humbly thank Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island for hosting us as media. All opinions are completely our own.
Christopher Mitchell is a Co-founder of We Explore Canada. He’s visited over 80 countries and has lived on 4 continents, but now has his eyes set squarely on exploring this incredible country and helping others do the same.