At first glance, a post about a trip to an air force museum might not seem to be completely in keeping with the day after Thanksgiving. However, for me it is; as it encompasses several things I am very grateful for: airplanes, military history, and WWII subjects.
The National Air Force Museum’s interior was very impressive, and the exterior only added to my sense of awe. Although they were just sitting outside on the lawn, the aircraft were beautiful and amazing; and all amongst them were pathways lined with memorial stones. These stones commemorated the service and sacrifices of various units and squadrons, which was touching and appropriate.
A view of the museum’s “aircraft park”. In all, it features around twenty aircraft
A lot of the aircraft were without engines, and many were peeling and rusting. Consequently, the aircraft park had a rather sombre feel to it, and to me it whispered of long-lost glory and forgotten triumphs. That reminded me of World War II in general- since I often feel that the contributions made by both certain countries and individuals are overlooked and forgotten, especially by members of my generation. Still, I’d rather see aging aircraft at a museum like this one than lined up in rows in the Arizona desert. At least this way, they are being honoured.
A Grumman Tracker in obvious disrepair
Twin Huey operated by the United Nations. To many, the Huey is a symbol of the Vietnam War
The National Air Force Museum was interesting because it really chronicled the RCAF’s history. In years past, the RCAF operated numerous fighter aircraft at one given time; unlike today, when the fighter fleet is comprised solely of the CF-18 Hornet. At this museum, I was able to see what the RCAF’s line-up used to be like- full of specialized aircraft such as the T-33 Silver Star, F-101 Voodoo, and Canadair CL-90 Starfighter.
The Canadair T-33 Silver Star (a licensed variant of the Shooting Star) was a jet trainer known for its reliability and dependability in the hands of even inexperienced pilots
One of the greatest anti-submarine/maritime patrol aircraft of the late ’50s, the CP-107 Argus served the RCAF until 1981
The F-101 Voodoo- a distinctive-looking jet fighter- was part of the RCAF’s Cold War air arsenal, and was nuclear-capable thanks to the AIR-2 Genie rocket
Nearby the supersonic Voodoo was a subsonic (yet impressive!) Hawker Hunter. I have a soft spot for British post-war jet aircraft like the Supermarine Swift and Scimitar and the Hawker Hunter, perhaps because if I ever had the money and the time, a relatively simple jet-powered aircraft like one of these would be on my wishlist!
This Hunter was used by the Swiss Air Force. Hunters have been out of service in Switzerland for twenty years now
A peek down the Hunter’s intake revealed that the engine is still in place!
In addition to unusual sights like the Hunter, the National Air Force Museum also had the usual RCAF museum staples: a Bell JetRanger, a C-130 Hercules, and a CF-18. The latter two remain workhorses for the modern RCAF; the Hercules drops troops and supplies as well as transporting things to every corner of the globe, and the CF-18 Hornet is the RCAF’s only remaining fighter jet.
A Bell JetRanger. I’ve seen one of these helicopters at every Canadian Forces base I’ve been to!
A C-130 Hercules; a common sight at Trenton
The Hercules is a beast- it’s a huge aircraft and can haul a payload roughly equal to its own weight!
The Hornet is elegant in the air, yet on the ground I think it looks ungainly and rather ill-proportioned due to its long nose
The WWII-era was represented by a Douglas C-47 Skytrain and full-scale replicas of a Spitfire and Hurricane. I was glad that only reproduction, and not original, WWII fighters had been left outside to brave the Canadian elements unprotected!
The C-47 will always make me think of Medal of Honor: Airborne!
The Spitfire is an exquisite-looking machine, whether original or not
Among all these wonderful airplanes of differing nationalities and eras, I was enjoying myself so much that I lingered perhaps too long; and before I was through the aircraft park my camera batteries died. I was disconsolate, since I hadn’t yet reached the resident MiG-21! I’m so interested in Soviet history and aircraft that I had been planning to look at the MiG last, which turned out to be a folly idea.
Thankfully, I didn’t allow my despondency to deter me, and I simply swapped the positions of my existing batteries. I don’t know if it was a quirk of my camera or a rather handy feature of all batteries, but anyway my camera then turned on long enough to let me take a half-dozen pictures of the MiG!
The MiG-21 was a versatile and widely-produced fighter
The MiG-21 is easily recognizable due to its nose cone, long and thin fuselage, and delta-wing configuration
It was really something to see a MiG-21! Called the “Fishbed” by NATO, this supersonic interceptor has a more vivid moniker thanks to its Soviet pilots- they called it the “balalaika” because its distinctive shape resembled the Russian folk instrument. The MiG-21 was used extensively during the Vietnam War and various African conflicts, and it is still used by over a dozen air forces; including those of several eastern European countries.
The MiG-21 was not without its problems- a notable one was its short range- but it was a simple and robust design. This made it successful and thus desirable as an interceptor; and its high rate of climb, good speed, and low gross weight were among its finest attributes. As well, it’s a beautiful plane! I think it has grace despite the aggressive look of its delta-wing and sharp profile, and it lacks the brutish and rather unrefined appearance of its main Vietnam opponents, the F-4 Phantom II and F-104 Thunderchief.
The MiG-21 could carry a complement of missiles or bombs
This particular MiG-21 served with the East German Air Force
Seeing the MiG-21 (and managing to get some pictures of it!) put me in a good, if wistful, mood for the rest of the day. For me, that MiG-21 was definitely the highlight of the aircraft park! But another noteworthy fixture was present, and it solidified what I believe to be the spirit of all military museums.
Winston Churchill’s famous quote, praising the efforts and bravery of the pilots of the RAF during the Battle of Britain
The dedication on the memorial
A quote now from Shakespeare; speaking of the brotherhood and sacrifice which become so apparent in times of war
For me, military museums exist to educate and to remind new generations of the lessons, trials, and especially achievements, of days past. And the importance of this can’t be underestimated; because without the past, we can’t prepare for the future. But also, we must remember the sacrifices of those who sacrificed for us. Remembering is the least we can do for those who gave so much to ensure our future freedom and well-being, and museums help us to remember.
The National Air Force Museum of Canada was wonderful, and achieved all that I think a military museum should. Thanks to my visit, I learned things I hadn’t known before; I had an exciting time and experienced the thrills and joy of aviation; and I also felt the well-merited reverence and thankfulness for the feats of legendary aircraft and the courageous pilots who fly them.