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Lots of Learning at Calgary's Hangar Flight Museum

By Cassandra Cummings, Collections Manager, and Lauren Maillet, Guest Services & Marketing Manager at Hangar Flight Museum

March 2020 - The Hangar Flight Museum in Calgary, Alberta, is located in a Second World War drill hall near the airport, at the intersection of McCall Way and McKnight Boulevard. The museum is a community place and historical resource, focused on telling the story of aviation in Western Canada, and Calgary in particular.


Crowded collection in our busy hangar.

At the museum, we share the history of Calgary’s development as a vibrant, international city, inspire visitors, and expand their knowledge of the stories surrounding aviation’s role in immigration, oil and gas exploration, war, and civilian pleasure travel. Many roadways in Calgary are named after renowned aviators such as McKnight, McCall, Barlow, and Palmer, who, after serving their country in wartime, went on to develop civilian passenger and transport aviation.

The museum is also a civic partner of the City of Calgary and a large part of our collection of aircraft and engines is owned by the city. We are honoured to be entrusted by the city, and others who have donated artifacts, with the stewardship of our collection for the benefit of Calgarians and visitors from around the world.

The collection consists of a variety of aircraft, including a Lancaster bomber, Sopwith Triplane, Bell 47 helicopter, and Hawker Hurricane. There are also engines, uniforms, and smaller artifacts, including a balloon basket, airline china, and model of a space shuttle signed by astronaut Chris Hadfield, among many other artifacts.


Newly restored Hawker Hurricane …


... and the display case.

Hawker Hurricane 5389 has recently returned to the museum after undergoing restoration by Historic Aviation Services Inc., with the support of the Calgary Mosquito Society and City of Calgary. Hurricane 5389 was built in 1941 at CanCar. It was flown to No. 4 Training Command at Calgary, then transferred to No. 133 Squadron in Lethbridge, Alberta, to familiarize pilots with the Hurricane, and then to Boundary Bay, British Columbia, to be used for aerial reconnaissance and coastal drills.

In late 1944, 5389 was transferred to No. 135 Squadron to locate and retrieve Japanese Fugo balloons. After the war, the plane was considered surplus, and was sold to a farmer in Saskatchewan. It eventually made its way to Calgary. Restoration began in 2012.

Over the years, more than 60 people have dedicated more than 25,000 hours to restoring this historic aircraft. We are very excited to have the Hurricane at the museum, and its associated exhibit, which details more about its history, including Elsie MacGill and Japanese Fugo balloons. To complement the permanent exhibit, we will be displaying parts of one of the balloons, on loan from Glenbow Museum, for the first half of 2020.

We have also recently acquired an Allouette II helicopter and associated logs from our neighbours, Eagle Copters — the first that founder Mel O’Reilly acquired!


Allouette II helicopter being moved.

In the coming years we are excited for the return of the CF-100 Canuck after restoration, which has only been possible with the great support from our community members and the City of Calgary. We also anticipate the homecoming of the Mosquito bomber, which is currently being restored by the Calgary Mosquito Society at Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta. Our dedicated museum volunteers are also working on restoring a Cessna Crane here at the museum.

While we await the restoration of these aircraft, we are always busy with programming and new exhibits! Our education and sleepover programs are well attended, as they connect with curriculum and allow kids to learn in a more experiential setting, with the opportunity to get into selected aircraft. We have just celebrated a very successful National Aviation Day, in partnership with the Calgary Airport Authority, and are preparing for our annual Wings and Wheels Father’s Day weekend event featuring our historic aircraft alongside vintage vehicles, craft activities, and helicopter rides.


Wings and Wheels event.

In the summer months, we also have several of our planes open for visitors, including the Lancaster and DC-3. In our main building, you can sit inside the Bell helicopter and find an Oculus Rift Virtual Reality platform, where you can immerse yourself in aviation history, featuring BBC’s Berlin Blitz, Home — A VR Spacewalk, and Rapid Fire: A Brief History of Flight.


Museum interpreter explains to children what they are seeing.

We also reach beyond our walls, sharing resources and information with partner museums in Calgary and beyond, including the Yukon Queen, one of three remaining Barkley-Grow aircraft, which is on loan to the Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton. We also love connecting with other local organizations, including the Calgary Public Library. You can find our Allouette III helicopter at Seton Library, where it is a centerpiece for children’s learning and fun!

We’re happy to participate in events like Seton’s anniversary and the Historic Calgary Week heritage fair, where our programming staff help children and families make and test gliders. Be on the lookout for new temporary exhibits as we continue to share new stories and artifacts. Later this year we will be hosting Ace Academy: Flight Experience From Ingenium, an immersive environment using motion-sensing technology to pilot a First World War biplane.

The museum is currently working on a new strategy and master plan for a building expansion, and we are looking forward to announcing this exciting project in the coming year.

The Hangar Flight Museum is always moving onwards and upwards!

For more exciting news and updates, follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and sign up for our newsletter.

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