Aero Space Museum of Calgary

4629 McCall Way NE
Calgary, AB T2E 8A5

10am - 4pm - 7 days week
The History and Evolution of the Hangar

The building in which the museum calls home had its origins in the founding of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). Built in 1941, it was the drill hall for #37 Secondary Flight Training School.

The BCATP was developed to provide Commonwealth airmen with an opportunity for training. Over 130,000 airmen graduated from the plan, with many seeing action in the skies of Asia, the Pacific and Europe. These airmen trained long and hard at hundreds of sites across Canada, including Calgary.

The drill hall was one of 7,000 buildings built in support of the BCATP. It was used for various activities including drill and sports. One of the airmen who likely walked the floor of the drill hall was Commander Peter Middleton, the grandfather of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. Commander Middleton was stationed in Calgary from 1942 to 1944. Left vacant and unused for a time post war, the building eventually became home to Bullock Helicopters. Bullock Helicopters performed oil exploration, search and rescue, and transport for seismic crews and their equipment. One of the first tasks Evan Bullock and his team undertook was to tear up the original wooden floor and pour a concrete slab in its place. Also, during their tenancy, Bullock Helicopters built the area that currently features the museum gift shop. At the time it was used as their reception area and administrative offices. As an interesting side note, visitors to the museum often commend on the beautiful stone wall that backdrops the gift shop inventory. The Bullock pilots would return from trips up north with unusual stones and fossils they discovered. This collection was eventually assembled into the museum’s showpiece wall.

Other companies also hung their shingles above the door, the last of which was Kenting Helicopters. Upon their departure in 1985 they offered museum founder Bill Watts the use of the hangar for the Aero Space Museum. Fortunately for the fledgling organization, Kenting Helicopters had paid rental on the building for the remainder of the year and granted that money to the museum, allowing them to take occupancy rent free for their first few months of existence. At the end of that year the Calgary Airport Authority generously granted use of the hangar to the Aero Space Museum rent free in perpetuity.

As the museum’s collection grew, the facility had to change to keep up. In 1997, new hangar doors were installed, enlarging the entrance for the aircraft and allowing more of the collection to be housed indoors. This move was the first in a series of major changes to the museum infrastructure over the next few years.

In 1998, the old administrative offices along the east wall of the museum were gutted. Public restrooms were installed and two other rooms were added. One of these, the Memorial Room, was built by volunteers as a tribute to their fallen comrades. This area also doubles as a boardroom for museum executives and visiting organizations. The adjacent Lancaster Room, was built as a meeting space and classroom.

In 2000 the mezzanine around the upper level of the hangar was put into place. This expanded available exhibit and floor space from approximately 17,000 sq/ft to over 21,000 sq/ft. It also gave people an opportunity to take a closer look at the hanging exhibits and to get a new perspective on the display aircraft. In 2007, the tent hangar was installed, providing protection to our Lancaster bomber and other valuable aircraft.