Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum
The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum is located at the Hamilton airport in Mount Hope, Ontario in Canada
The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum is unique in that they have one of only two airworthy Avro Lancaster bombers in the world. CWHM's Lancaster is flown at air shows throughout the summer and was in the process of having general maintenance performed on its four Rolls Royce Merlin engines while I was visiting in July of 2009. The bomber appears to be fairly complete. The one exception I noticed was the basket and drive for the top gun turret was missing (I'm assuming to make for more room in the fuselage and better access from front to rear). Another difference I found from its wartime configuration was a copilot's seat and flight controls. The docent informed me that the British felt it was not cost effective to invest the time and resources to train two pilots for each bomber aircraft, so no provision for a copilot was designed into the Lancaster. However things are different today and in order to be granted an airworthiness certificate and carry paying passengers the second seat and controls were added. I have to say it didn't distract from the experience at all.
Another unique aspect of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum is that the majority of their airplanes are airworthy and fly at air shows throughout the season (although only the piston engined aircraft are flown). Although there was no air show that day I was fortunate enough to witness a visiting privately owned Spitfire Mk IX fire up its big Rolls Royce Merlin engine, do a run up, and taxi off to the other side of the airport. It was pretty far away and behind the buildings when it took off, but the snarl of that Merlin at full throttle was unmistakable as the Spitfire took to the skies. To prove that these are no hangar queens, here's a link to a CWHM Youtube video showing the Dakota, Lancaster, Lysander and other museum aircraft starting up and taxiing about the airfield.
All of the airworthy airplanes are available for "Member Flights", not just air shows. This is how the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum earns revenue. The museum does get contracted to provide aircraft for various air shows, but the majority of the flights are for revenue passenger flying locally. Prices vary with different aircraft, according to the operating costs.
The indoor portion of the museum is housed in a large, clean, extremely well lit hangar. The lighting was among the best I've seen and colors needed little or no correction in photographs I had taken. Although you are asked not to touch there are no barriers to most of the airplanes and you can get very up close and personal with a number of historic aircraft. In one corner of the hangar is a small balcony and you are able to get a nice view of most of the aircraft from above. I've been to a few museums with balconies that were closed to visitors due to only having one exit so this was a treat. The upper level also leads outside so you can get a nice aerial view of the museum planes on the tarmac.
The outdoor area hosts several more modern jet fighter aircraft including an F-104 Starfighter, an F-5 Freedom Fighter, A Canadair Sabre 6, a Canadair CT-114 Tutor, an F-101 Voodoo Fighter, and a DeHavilland Vampire. One other aircraft along the fence was a well restored DeHavilland S-2 Tracker anti submarine bomber. A museum staff member wrote that although the DeHavilland Vampire could be made airworthy, the museum only flies their piston engined aircraft. The Tutor is missing its engine mounts and cannot be made airworthy. The DeHavilland S-2 Tracker is scheduled to be restored to an airworthy status once the Grumman Avenger's restoration has been completed. Hamilton is an active airport and airport regulations require that you must be accompanied by a properly badged museum guide in order to venture out onto the tarmac.
The aircraft collection inside was just fantastic! Aside from the Avro Lancaster, there were two Spitfire examples, a B-25 Mitchell Bomber in ground attack configuration with eight 50 caliber Browning M2 machine guns in the nose, a DC-3 Dakota, a Westland Lysander, a Hawker Sea Fury (which was privately owned and visiting - it is no longer at the museum), a Beechcraft C-45 Expeditor, a Consolidated PBY Canso, and many other historic aircraft. One of the Spitfires was a privately owned visiting aircraft, and the other is on loan from the Canada Aviation Museum outside of Ottawa. That particular Spitfire is not airworthy as the Canadian Aviation Museum does not fly their aircraft. CAM loaned it to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum after their own Spitfire was lost in a hangar fire in 1993. The Sopwith Pup was also on loan and since my visit has moved on back to its home at the Canada Aviation Museum.
The paint and quality of the restoration work CWHM's staff and volunteers have performed is just outstanding. A very rare RCAF Bristol Bolingbroke twin engined bomber was in the process of being restored in an open area visible to visitors. Seeing what the restoration crew was starting with and what their finished aircraft look like gives you an inkling of how good these guys really are.
The Canadian Canadian Warplane Museum is only about an hour and half from Buffalo for those coming from the US and well worth the drive. The staff were very friendly, talkative, and there were plenty of them. They really went out of their way to make you feel welcome. There is a commissary at the museum. I did get a hamburger and fries there but in all honesty I'd recommend you bring your own and leave it at that. The museum is very handicap accessible with ramped curbs, handicap restrooms, and an elevator to the balcony viewing area. Parking was free and easy to get to and from it from the museum. Check the Canadian Warplane Heritage's Museum's Website for hours and directions.