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In 2006 Victor Stevenson, a retired Aeronautical Engineer at the Canadian Car & Foundry (Can-Car) in Fort William, brought together a group of aviation enthusiasts to develop plans for an aviation museum.
Vic was concerned that the story of the Canadian Car and Foundry’s contribution to aviation history would be lost with the passage of time. Few people living today know the stories of the 4 000 women, the Rosies of the North, who worked at the plant during the war years. Nor is it well known that the plant’s chief aeronautical engineer during the early war years was, Elsie MacGill (known in wartime propaganda as “The Queen of the Hurricanes”) Canada’s first female to have aeronautical engineer's status. Aircraft development and production began at Can-Car before WW2 and ended well after the guns had gone silent.
Vic Stephenson’s “enthusiasts” were eager to embrace his dream of preserving the Canadian Car story but it quickly became apparent that there was a much bigger story to be told. The civilian as well as military history of aviation in Northwestern Ontario includes tales of heroism, courage, ingenuity, laughter and tragedy. The role of the proposed aviation centre therefore expanded to include as much of this as time, and fading memory will permit. Thus, in 2008, a regional interpretive centre was established with the mission: “To preserve and celebrate the diverse history of aviation in Northwestern Ontario through the collection and preservation of artifacts and stories of the persons and events that made this region unique in aviation history.” The Centre has been incorporated under the name NORTHWESTERN ONTARIO AVIATION HERITAGE CENTRE INC.
Since its creation in 2008, progress has been steady. Interested members of the regional community have taken out memberships and Boards of Directors have been elected annually. A home was found for the Centre and artifacts, photos and objects have been flowing in. The oral history project of the Centre is moving ahead collecting and editing the stories of the pioneers in Northwestern Ontario. Our newsletter, Fly North, is published quarterly. The Centre has a “travelling display” which has been favourably received at many regional events. Members of the public come forward pleased to have the opportunity to share their own aviation experiences.
The Northwestern Ontario Aviation Heritage Centre opened its doors to the public in November 2012, and is located at 905 Victoria Avenue East in Thunder Bay Ontario.
Page updated on 2018/11/01