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The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum Takes Flight

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How many museums have you visited that you can fly in a plane at? Well in Hamilton, Ontario tucked beside the Airport is the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and as part of your tour you can fly in one of the vintage warplanes that date back as far as World War II. Over forty planes are on display, in flight, and under restoration at any given time at the Museum. Everything from Bi-Planes like the Fleet Finch to the Avro Lancaster is part of the collection and available to see on display as well as fly in. The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum is possibly the most engaging museum visit I’ve ever experienced and a must visit while you are in Hamilton.

Sitting in a cockpit at the Canadoian Warplane Heritage Museum

It is hard to miss the entrance for the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. Just look for the Canadair CF 104 Starfighter pointing to the sky. This is your clue you are at the right place.

A 2016 Chevy Camaro and Canadair CF-104 Starfighter

The museum is housed in a hangar that has over 108,000 square feet and it is constantly changing. Planes are moved in and out for flying, maintenance, and to prepare for special events that book the hangar space. It is also a massive classroom and on any given visit you are bound to see at least one class of students learning hands on about the planes and what it was like to fly back in the 1940’s.

One of five school classes happen every day at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum

My tour starts with volunteer guide Art McCabe taking me around to where the restoration work takes place. Staffed by volunteers these are planes that have been donated and purchased by the Museum and are lovingly restored to their former glory and flight worthiness.

Restoration projects underway at the Canadian Heritage Warplane Museum

Restoration project underway

It just so happens that next door to the restoration projects is the area where the flight simulators are set up. Would you like to try your hand at learning to fly? You can.

Learn how to fly at this flight simulator

As Art tours me through the planes it is apparent that he has forgotten more about them than I will ever know. He is one of hundreds of volunteers that keep the museum alive and his passion for the planes and the museum’s mission is apparent.

Tour guide Art beside the De Havilland Chipmunk

Starting in June the planes begin to fly with passengers which means that they are all undergoing maintenance so almost every plane we see has a mechanic working on it or near it.

Westland Lysander under maintenance before flying season begins

This is not a static museum that never changes. Every day is a brand new experience here. The crown jewel of the collection is the Avro Lancaster. One of only two in the entire world that still flies, the Lancaster is famous for caring the Damn Buster Bombs.

Avro Lancaster under maintenance at the Warplane Heritage Museum

Wondering if you can fly in the Lancaster? Of course, you can, if you have $3500 and book your flight for 2017. the entire 2016 flying season for the Lancaster is already sold out! People from all over the World come to this museum just to take flight in the Lancaster.

Lancaster engines under maintenance

Where the bombs were held and released from in the Avro Lancaster

There are over 40 planes in the collection at the Museum so there is plenty of variety to see. A tip for you, if the plane is painted yellow that means it was a training plane used to train RCAF and RAF Pilots in Canada before they moved to England to take part in the War.

A look inside the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum

Fleet Finch on display at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum

Art was very nice to me and let me sit inside a few of the cockpits. I’m 5’10 and I barely fit inside them. Back in World War II Pilots were short, I’m guessing 5’4 was the average height.

Inside a cockpit

Close up in the cocktpit

In total, I spent about 2 hours with Art checking out every plane and display in the Museum. Simply amazing. You get a new appreciation for the men and women who fought for our freedom in World War II. Flying these planes was not an easy job 60+ years ago. The cabins weren’t pressurized and they certainly weren’t built for comfort.

Nose art on the Planes

I really need to come back this Summer when the planes are flying so I can get a ride up in the sky in one of these pieces of flying history. You can book your flight online which I highly recommend as they fill up quickly. Prices range from as low as $80 for the Beechcraft Expeditor up to $3500 for the Avro Lancaster. Choose what you can afford, you won’t be disappointed.

If you are in the neighbourhood for Father’s Day I hear they have killer events planned. It’s a perfect day for the entire family and maybe a special treat for Dad if you can book him a flight in a plane.

Sitting in the Cockpit




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Disclosure: General

Transportation was provided by Chevrolet Canada to help support this travel series in Southern Ontario. The views and opinions in this post are 100% my own. Thanks to Ontario Tourism and Tourism Hamilton for their support.

About Author

Marc Smith is a former event planner turned vagabond adventurer. He loves strong Americano's, great wine, cold beer and zip lining over tree tops. Formerly of Vancouver, most of Marc's time when not travelling is in Canada's largest city, Toronto. Follow along on his nomad adventures and discover places to stay, things to do and where to eat & drink as he explores the world one city and region at a time.

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