An Afternoon at Trenton: Part One

While camping near Kingston earlier this month, my family and I planned a trip to the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton. Trenton is a small, ordinary city on the Bay of Quinte; but one thing that makes this community exciting is the presence of CFB Trenton. CFB Trenton is home to 8 Wing, which operates several large aircraft types such as the C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III. The Museum is also located on the base (or right beside it), and my anticipation grew as we drove into Trenton. Enormous hangars lined the road, airmen were walking around outside, and past the hangars several aircraft could be seen on the tarmac.

Trenton Chainlink

A view to the tarmac

424 SQN Trenton

A hangar for 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron- this squadron flies the C-130 and C-146 Griffon helicopter

I even caught sight of a Globemaster behind one of the hangars- just a glimpse of its tail, though, which was pretty unsatisfying! Once we reached the museum my disappointment dissipated, however. There were so many wonderful and unique aircraft and exhibits at the museum that I was distracted quite quickly!

The National Air Force Museum occupies one building which houses a few aircraft and all other displays, while the bulk of the planes are outside in a sort of memorial park. The showpiece of the museum, a Halifax bomber which actually went down during a mission in Norway, dominates the main room of the museum building; while elevated walkways offer superb views of all the interior aircraft.

Halifax Trenton

This Halifax bomber spent 50 years at the bottom of a Norwegian lake…

Halifax Trenton Above

…but thanks to extensive restoration, she is now a beautiful monument to her crew

Often compared to the Avro Lancaster, the Handley Page Halifax was one of the RAF’s primary heavy bombers of WWII. Halifaxes flew over 80,000 sorties for RAF Bomber Command, and were also used by Canada, Australia, the Free French, and Poland before the war was finished.

Halifax Prop

Unlike the Lancaster, the Halifax utilized four Bristol Hercules radial engines

Halifax Roundel Trenton

The distinctive RAF roundel

Halifax Tail Trenton

The tail gunner’s position, as on all heavy bombers, was exposed and isolated

Beside the Halifax were a few extremely old (like pre-WWI) aircraft, and an odd-looking modern drone. The museum also had a large collection of aircraft engines from notable aircraft.

Old Airplane Trenton

I wonder how it would feel to fly as flimsy a plane as this

SAGEM Sperwer Trenton

This is a SAGEM Sperwer; a UAV now retired from the Canadian Forces

Engine Gears Trenton

The gears on this engine were fascinating, and strangely beautiful

Merlin Trenton

The illustrious Rolls-Royce Merlin- the engine that powered Britain to victory in the skies

Upstairs, there were a few more aircraft; including one of my personal favourites, the Harvard. I’m used to seeing the Harvard in formation in the sky, and it was really interesting to see one up close here instead.

Harvard Trenton

I just think the Harvard is the nicest plane… sturdy, distinctively yellow (usually!), and dependable

Harvard Wing Trenton

The Harvard is actually surprisingly big- it has a wingspan of 42 feet and is almost 30 feet long

RCAF Roundel Trenton

The RCAF, like other air forces, used this aircraft as a trainer

One exciting and unique element of the National Air Force Museum was the inclusion of several hands-on exhibits. One of these was a miniscule but complete Cessna 152, which was open for visitors to climb into! All the primary controls were still connected, as well- so my brother and I got in and had a great time pretending we were flying. I must have forgotten that I’m 20, because I was acting like a delighted little child!

Cessna 152 Trenton

The 152 is absolutely tiny- think a few feet narrower than the average sedan

It was just awesome to be in the cockpit, as if I were truly flying. Plus, it was nice that the controls were connected- that meant, for example, when I pulled back on the yoke I could look out the rear window and see the elevator tilting behind me. It reminded me of when I took a flight in a larger Cessna 172 a few years ago, and got to actually take the controls myself.

152 Tail

The Cessna 152 is so small- it weighs 1,000 pounds empty- that all it requires is a 110-horsepower engine!

Another cool display was the cockpit of a CT-114 Tutor jet, which was also open to visitors. It was also fun to sit in it and examine all the controls. Needless to say, the Tutor cockpit was much more complicated than the Cessna’s!

Tutor Cockpit Trenton

Tutors were used as jet trainers by the Canadian Forces

Tutor Seats Trenton

Student and instructor sit side by side, unlike in some trainers 

Jet trainers are interesting, and I really liked sitting in the CT-114, but the undisputed pinnacle of the interior displays was a full C-130 Hercules cockpit. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but inside it was stunning. The walls were covered in dials, circuit-breakers, and switches, and I wanted to look at them all!

Herc Seats Trenton

I wish this picture wasn’t so blurry, but at least it gives a sense of the cockpit’s scale

Herc Dials Trenton

Flight instruments between the two pilots’ seats

I rushed into the cockpit and took the captain’s seat, and I could have easily spent an hour or more in there! Immediately, I set about locating all the most important instruments and pretending I was preparing for take-off. It might sound a bit daft that I was so enthralled, but flying just has such an intrigue for me. If I were not a writer, I think I would probably join the RCAF and be a pilot.

Herc Engine Kill Trenton

The very conspicuous controls used to kill the engines in case of fire

Herc Yoke Trenton

The captain’s yoke and clipboard

On the Hercules flight deck, there are three seats- two at the front for the pilots, and one set behind and between those seats for the flight engineer. And you’d certainly need three people in the cockpit, because there are just so many things to be aware of!

Herc Throttle Trenton


The throttle is the lever at the bottom right. It’s basically four levers, one for each engine, which can be moved separately or all at once

Herc Left Panel Trenton

Yet more lights and dials above the captain’s seat

Herc Right Panel Trenton

The view to the flight engineer’s right

My favourite part of the cockpit was probably the throttle, just because it was fun to use. Another fascinating thing was a checklist on my left, telling the captain what to do before an emergency landing. The co-pilot had a similar one on his right. Eventually, of course, I had to leave the Hercules flight deck… and I was very sad to do so! It was such a wonderful experience, and I really felt like I’d gotten a glimpse of what it would be like to fly this noteworthy aircraft.

I’ve been to museums in the past that have had cockpits open to visitors, but they’re usually from something like a CT-114 and not a massive, complex plane like the Hercules. So this feature really made the National Air Force Museum stand out. It also made me remember how badly I want to get my pilot’s license, so for the rest of the day I felt quite wistful! Fortunately, as this series’ next post will demonstrate, the museum had plenty more fabulous aircraft for me to marvel at; and that only added to the brilliance of the day!



6 thoughts on “An Afternoon at Trenton: Part One

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