$5-million aviation museum proposed

Airplane and air force enthusiasts got a first glimpse at plans for a new aviation museum during the Air Affair at the Red Deer Airport on Saturday.

While Dorian Watson of Edmonton rests on the tire of a Harvard Alex and Win Busshoff of Springbrook look up at the vintage plane at the Red Deer Regional Airport on Saturday. Watson joined his father and uncle at the airport over the weekend as they flew their Harvard’s to Red Deer to participate in the event.

Airplane and air force enthusiasts got a first glimpse at plans for a new aviation museum during the Air Affair at the Red Deer Airport on Saturday.

The Harvard Historical Aviation Society put on the event, which showcased vintage airplanes and classic cars and gave people a chance to climb into a biplane or take a balloon ride.

The Harvard Historical Aviation Society plans to raise $5-million to build a museum that would showcase the aviation history that took place around the Red Deer Airport from the 1930s onward. Red Deer County has already supported the plan, leasing land to the society at a cost of $1 annually.

Jodi Smith, president of the Harvard Historical Aviation Society, said how quickly they get to the building stage will depend on how quickly money comes in.

She said the — as yet unnamed — museum will have an indoor theatre and an air control tower, where they hope to have a live feed from the Red Deer Airport.

“We want it to be a very interactive and fun place to come to,” Smith said.

Even without a museum tourists from other countries regularly return to the site to see where they trained as young men, or their relatives visit because they want to see where their fathers or grandfathers trained.

Among the aircraft the museum will display is an Airspeed Oxford, one of the planes that pilots were trained on at the site during the Second World War. The society also has a Link Trainer, which is a flight simulator used around that time. The collection includes a Harvard, a couple Tiger Moths`and some gliders.

The idea for a museum came about after the Mynarski Memorial Park was dedicated a number of years ago.

Charles Andrew “Andy” Mynarski was an air gunner during the Second World War who received the Victoria Cross after trying to rescue his friend who was trapped in a plane that was going down.

After the dedication of the park, the Harvard Historical Aviation Society started being questioned by other museums about the remaining artifacts from what had once been the Penhold Military base — now the Red Deer Airport.

Society members realized rather than the artifacts going to a museum in Calgary they should stay in the local area and the idea for a museum began.

“There is so much that happened here that I don’t think people realize everything that happened here,” Smith said.

Gary Hillman, vice president of the society and a bit of an aviation historian, said in 1939 the site was used as a Royal Canadian Air Force manning depot. Young men would come and be assessed and assigned for further training in skills and trades.

In 1941, the Royal Air Force took over the facility and it became a training school for Commonwealth pilots.

More than 1,500 pilots from as far away as New Zealand, Rhodesia and South Africa went to the base for sophisticated training until 1944.

In its next incarnation in the 1950s, the base became a training site for NATO country pilots on the Harvard aircraft.

In 1965, the City of Red Deer took over operating the airport and in 1995 the remaining base property was sold to developers. It is still the home of the 7 Penhold Air Cadet Squadron and the summer camp program.

Smith said they hope to start the fundraising campaign for the museum in the fall. Anyone wishing to find out more can go to www.Penholdbase.ca.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com

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