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Aviation

Come fly with me


B-25

Ever dream of riding in an open-cockpit WWII war bird? Then take a five-minute walk from John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport's main terminal to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. Also aptly named Canada's Flying Museum, this is one of the few museums in the world that maintains its entire collection of aircraft in flying condition. So forget about those dusty, cordoned-off museums; here's one place where you can actually see, touch and sit inside a biplane, not to mention go for an unforgettable ride.


Lancaster

See it to believe it

If you don't have time to take in all 40 plus antique aircraft on your first visit, then zero in on these four. North America's only remaining Avro Lancaster became famous during World War II for its nighttime bombing raids on Germany. Its awesome firepower actually helped to end the war. Of the thousands of Avro Lancasters that were manufactured, only two are still able to fly – and this is one.

The very first Fleet Fort off the assembly line is also worth checking out; this is the only WWII aircraft designed and built entirely in Canada. Just down the aisle, you'll discover the country's only flyable North American B-25J Mitchell. Also on display is the Consolidated PBY 5A Canso, a type of flying boat. Back in 1943, more than 800 of these "amphibians" rolled off Canadian assembly lines.

With a little planning, you can save the $10 CAD admission fee and visit the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum at no charge – your boarding pass is your ticket in!

Do it yourself

The aircraft and displays may help you imagine what it must have been like to be a crew member, but there's nothing like the thrill of flying in these relics yourself. So what if they were built for combat, not comfort? This is one of only two museums in North America that gives visitors the rare chance to take off in an open-cockpit biplane. Soar over some of the most picturesque country in Ontario, including the Niagara Escarpment, Grand River and the Lake Ontario shoreline, in a Boeing Stearman PT-27 Cadet or a North American Harvard IV. Your trusted pilot will provide narration, transmitted to you by the two-way radio in your helmet. Serious aviation fans can also arrange to be a crew member for a B-25, PBY Canso or an Avro Lancaster. (For this honor, you have to become a member of the museum.) Call the museum for more information or to make a reservation.


Stearman

9280 Airport Rd., Mount Hope, 905-679-4183

(John Purner is a pilot and the author of five best-selling aviation books. He wrote about aircraft that changed in the world in the April issue of onAir.)

Getting There

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ALL PHOTOS: CANADIAN WARPLANE HERITAGE LIBRARY

July 2006