The Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, the only bushplane museum in the world, celebrates an iconic piece of Canadian history. It was here that the idea of fighting forest fires using bushplanes was born.
In 1944, an Ontario Provincial Air Service (OPAS) pilot began experimenting with dropping water on forest fires. In the 1950s, OPAS perfected the technology, and by 1960 all 35 Beavers and 8 Otter of the Provincial Air Service had been fitted with water tanks that were controlled via a lever in the cockpit.
Housed in the original home of the air service, the museum exhibits trace the history of bushplanes in Canada and the role they played in the both the development of the North, and in forest fire protection.
Among the many fascinating exhibits on display at the museum is the collection of de Havilland bushplanes. The company made several models, such as the Moth, but none attained the legendary status of the Beaver. The centre’s Beaver CF-OBS was the first Beaver off the production line, and it became the first one to go into service with the Ontario Provincial Air Service on April 26, 1948.
The de Havilland company often named their planes after Canadian animals, and the Beaver lived up to its name as a hard worker. It flew with floats, wheels, or skis and was used for forest patrol, waterbombing, parachute drops, aerial photography, aerial fish stocking, transportation, and cargo delivery.
The Women in Aviation exhibit is also not to be missed. It traces the history of female aviators from the early days through to Canadian astronauts Dr. Roberta Bondar and Julie Payette. The careers and accomplishments of other women highlighted in the exhibit include Harriet Quimby, the first licensed female pilot in the U.S.; Eileen Vollick, the first Canadian woman pilot; a special section on the women pilots and engineers of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources; and the famous American flyer, Amelia Earhart.
The museum houses a replica of the plane Amelia Earhart flew over the Atlantic as a passenger in 1928, making her the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. The Fokker F.VIIb-3m Trimotor “Friendship” is the same replica plane that can be seen in the 2009 movie Amelia. The original aircraft was built by the Dutch aircraft manufacturer Fokker in 1927/1928.
The museum captures the spirit of adventure and exploration. It’s also a 100% interactive, hands-on museum. Visitors can interact with the planes and the exhibits, enter four of the planes, experience a flight simulator, and climb a fire tower to learn about fire detection, among many other activities.
Know Before You Go
Open seven days a week, except holidays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in winter (October to May) and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer (June to September). Admission is $13.50 for adults and $3.00 for children.