After visiting the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa last spring, and seeing how much the boys enjoyed it, I decided to make the 10 minute drive over to Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue to see the Montreal Aviation Museum.
Except I brought the wrong kid.
I mean…he was mine, just the wrong one. (More on this at the end)
The museum (formerly The Canadian Aviation Heritage Centre (CAHC)) was founded in 1998 by Godfrey Pasmore and is housed in a previously abandoned stone cow barn on McGill University’s Macdonald Campus. The stone building was cleaned out and refurbished over ten years, and opened as a museum in 2009. The over 100-year old building now houses two workshops, an art gallery, machine shop, offices, conference room, library and an artifact preservation area. And we got to visit it all!
The community-oriented museum is non-profit, completely volunteer run, and receives NO government funding (which boggled my mind). The museum relies on paying visitors and donations to operate and construct and recreate historically significant aircraft. It is the only aviation museum in Quebec.
Among the planes on display is a reproduction of “Le Scarabée”, a Blériot XI which was flown in 1910 by Count Jacques de Lesseps over Montreal, and was the first flight over a Canadian city. (You can see a plaque about the flight outside of the Pointe-Claire Aquatic Centre, and visit the Jacques-De-Lesseps Observatory Park beside Trudeau Airport).
We were able to watch volunteers recreating parts for the impressive replica being built of a Bristol Bolingbroke (which were constructed by women during the second world war) and visited the workshop where skilled volunteers are rebuilding a 1930’s Curtiss-Reid Rambler biplane which will be displayed this summer outside Montreal’s city hall for the city’s 375th anniversary celebrations.
The museum is small, but is just packed with artifacts, replicas, a working flight simulator, posters, uniforms, photographs and models.
Once inside the silo entrance, we paid our entrance fee and were asked if we wanted a guided tour. So happy we said yes as our guide was amazingly knowledgable and talked with us about the paintings and models, and toured us around the workshops and showed us the restorations in progress. I particularly liked the art gallery with its more than sixty gorgeous and highly detailed paintings and model planes. We were able to listen and look while my 4-year old enjoyed strapping himself into the old Air Canada seats. “I’m FLYING!!!!”
Once upstairs he was able to clamour up (with help) into the Fairchild FC-2 Razorback bushplane, complete with folding wings and wooden skis!
The ground floor is stroller-friendly, but to get to the upstairs and the plane replicas requires navigating a slippery set of steel stairs up through the stone silo. We had a baby and stroller with us, and to show just how friendly the volunteers are, one offered to babysit while we visited upstairs.
Though the 4-year old was very well behaved, it was quite long for him, and besides the seat belts of the airline seats (which he LOVED), there wasn’t a whole lot he could interact with or touch. It’s hard to watch wayward hands when you’re trying to read historical documents!
I’d say that the museum is geared towards older children who may be interested in history, planes and aviation, or who are in Scouts or Air Cadets. I’ll have to come back in a couple of years with my older son AND my father who is a retired Air Canada mechanic. He would find it absolutely fascinating AND I bet he’ll come back as a volunteer (hint, hint).
***Note that for the past two years the museum has held a Family Fun Day during the summer with a BBQ, children’s activities, and of course a chance to see the aircraft and speak with the volunteers from the museum. This would be a great opportunity to bring younger kids who might not yet be ready for the whole museum tour.
The museum’s hours, rates, and events can be found on their official website HERE.
The museum is also part of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue’s FREE summer shuttle service which brings you to many of the city’s attractions including The Ecomuseum and the Morgan Arboretum.