During the Second World War, there were as many as 7,500 people working at the Pat Bay Airfield — what is today the Victoria International Airport.
In 1939, the Royal Canadian Air Force and their counterparts with the Royal Air Force of the U.K. began construction of an airbase at Pat Bay, in anticipation of combat. By 1941, the base was fully operational.
The role of the Pat Bay Airfield at that time was in training pilots for overseas and domestic operations.
This local history is the theme of this weekend’s open house at the B.C. Aviation Museum in North Saanich.
Museum president John Lewis says 2014 marks the 75th anniversary of the Pay Bay Airfield. The first plane landed there, he said, in 1939 and in two years, it was a hub of aviation activity during the war.
The museum is home to three aircraft on their display floor that have direct ties to the airfield and the commercial aviation industry on the Saanich Peninsula. Lewis said their Bristol Bolingbroke and Avro Anson aircraft were training units during the war. A rebuilt Vickers Viscount was a commercial airliner that made the Victoria to Vancouver run in the early years of the Victoria airport.
“Many people who have visited us and walked on board the Viscount have said that was the first airplane they flew in,” Lewis said.
Those aircraft and other display models will be open to the public Saturday, July 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lewis added other planes and helicopters will be outside on the nearby tarmac, allowing people a full view outside.
Children who attend the open house will have a lot to see and do. Lewis said a new addition this year is a model aircraft carrier. Run by wires, kids he said can practice their steady hand by landing a model airplane onto the carrier.
The museum also plans to open the cockpit of their T-33 Silver Star — a jet aircraft used in training.
A re-enacters group, Lewis said, will set up an encampment at the front of the museum. Throughout the day, people can drop in and watch them play out a scene from wartime at the Pat Bay Airfield.
Lewis added there are plans to have a Sea King Helicopter on site from the 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron nearby. The Victoria Flying Club is offering flights at a reasonable cost, he added, and museum staff and volunteers will keep the barbecue hot.
The museum’s librarian, Doug Rollins, will give two presentations during the day about local aviation history and specifically that of the Pat Bay Airfield. The entire facility will be open to the public, including the museum’s workshop, where volunteers restore and repair vintage aircraft for display purposes. They are currently working on a gleaming
PacAero Tradewind — a much modified Beechcraft 18 and a plane once owned by the B.C. government. It was used often by former highways minister ‘Flying’ Phil Gaglardi.
Admission to Saturday’s open house is by donation — and the museum encourages folks to be generous.
The B.C. Aviation Museum is located at 1910 Norseman Road at the east side of the Victoria airport. For specific directions and more information about the museum, visit www.bcam.net or call 250-655-3300.