I found a gem of an aviation museum while on a Hapaq-Lloyd German Cruise Lines voyage of the Great Lakes.
Sault Ste. Marie is actually two cities separating the
The bush planes are all in the original 1948 era hangar, and I have the chance to stop and visit with the renovation crew and mechanics clanging away on steel and aluminum. They perform superb jobs to bring new life back into the rare and often still serviceable and flyable relics.
The Canadian built deHavilland DHC-2 Beaver is a classic plane first constructed in 1948 and it is the second Beaver to ever be built, and the first of 44 purchased by the Air Service, and the oldest Beaver still flying, located near the Fire Camp, a replical of a typical 1940s fire crew camp, complete with tent, radio, and gear.
The deHavilland Mk III Turbo Beaver, when compared to the standard Beaver, has a turbine powered engine that carries additional passengers, climbs and cruises faster, and has a higher service ceiling. The turbo’s snout is more tapered than the blunt nosed Beaver, and the engine is hundreds of pounds lighter, thus needing a bigger tail, according to one of the bush plane engineers. Engines are still to this day ground tested after overhauling and before bolted back into use on the planes within the hangar.
Many of the planes were used to deliver medicine and supplies, air ferry fishermen and hunters into the hinterlands, or to spot forest fires.
The story of the Beaver unveils in the theater through Pilot Ron and his canine co-pilot Charlie's adventures, a story that is brought to life through objects and artifacts right in the theatre, and with the use of special lighting and environmental effects that make for an unforgettable flight.
The old bush base was formed into a nonprofit corporation and the plane ollection continues to grow with each new donation. The museum takes in no government funds to renovate these historic and often antique planes. Most of the funding comes from ticket and gift store sales and memberships of those interested in bush planes. You can even join in the fun and get the Centre's newsletter.
The Noordayn Norseman was designed in 1935, and is one of the first planes built for Canadian bush flying. The Centre’s example, serial #17, was built in late 1938 and is now the oldest operational Norseman in the world.
The deHavilland DHC-3 Otter was introduced in 1953, and it carried on with the tradition of the Beaver; the Centre’s version was damaged in a forced landing north of Moosonee in 1986.
The Centre’s version of the Fairchild Husky is one of the rarest examples of this plane, and it is nearing completion of a total overhaul . The Husky was designed in 1946, an early competitor of the Beaver, but even with the advantage of superior cargo handling, the Husky was underpowered and only 12 were ever built.
Canadair CL215 was designed in 1978, and was the first purpose-built water bomber. It is capable of picking up over 5,000 liters of water at a time for fire drops.
The Centre’s Great Lakes Trainer was once a privately owned plane from the 1930s, built from scratch by long time pilot and air engineer, Guy Laroque.
The Centre even has a few helicopters on display; the most notable is the
The Grumman Tracker is an ex-U.S. Navy carrier based anti-submarine aircraft that was declared surplus by the military and later converted to a chemical fire bomber. The plane is painted in the colors of its donors, Conair of Abbostford, British Columbia.
The Republic Seabee is a postwar amphibious aircraft designed for commercial use but is more popular as a recreational plane.
The above mentioned bush planes are but a small highlight of what awaits you at the msueum. The Centre also houses a
I am fueled up so it is now time to choke back the throttle for another thrilling Beaver bush plane flight into the great Canadian North.
By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine. Photos courtesy of the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre.