Manitoba has a variety of museums and archives housing diverse collections. In this blog post Katie Lynch wrote the following describing her time working at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada.
The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada has recently taken ownership of their newly built museum located on Wellington Avenue. The museum is set to open to the public in early 2022, and a lot of prep work is taking place now. While the museum was being constructed, the archives were put into temporary storage in Magellan Aerospace and have recently been moved into the museums off-site storage. Currently, inventory is being conducted by archival studies student, Katie Lynch.
Most recently, inventory of the Randolph Fields fonds has been completed. This fonds garnered much attention from the volunteer restoration team at the museum.
Randolph Fields was born in 1927 and worked as a mechanic for Canadian Pacific Air from 1940 until 1962. During his career Fields took many photographs of bush planes used throughout Manitoba and documented his travels and work with Canadian Pacific Air. Photos of the CF-AWR Bellanca Air cruiser came to aid museum’s aircraft restoration team in the restoration of the aircraft which will be on display at the museum.
CF-AWR was used in the 1930s by Eldorado Gold Mines Ltd., to fly radium from Northern Canada 4,000 miles away to the refinery in Port Hope, Ontario by the Mackenzie Air Service. Only 23 Bellanca air cruisers were ever built, CF-AWR being one of them. The Bellanca was selected by Eldorado Gold Mines because it could land on both water and ice with either wheels or pontoons and could therefore be used all year. It also had an air-cooled engine, and could carry 4,000 lbs at a speed of up to 155 mph. The Bellanca can be easily identified the iconic shape of its wings in a “W” appearance, created by triangular struts from the bottom of the fuselage up to a point outboard on the main wing.
The plane crashed many times, and the Fields fonds has a few photos of the crashes and subsequent repairs. One such photo shows the CF-AWR with its nose under the ice on Windermere Lake on Christmas Day, 1939. Another photo from January 24, 1947, shows the CF-AWR crashed in the bush after it force landed 4 miles northeast of Upturnedroot Lake, Ontario. Several photos show CF-AWR parked in a hangar for repairs in Edmonton. The CF-AWR’s last crash was in 1947 when it ran out of fuel while carrying uranium concentrate in Northern Ontario but was so severely damaged it was abandoned. The wreck was retrieved by the museum in 1973 with the help of a helicopter from the Canadian Forces.
The restoration team has worked to repair CF-AWR, but missing pieces of the landing gear have troubled the team in deciding how to most accurately restore the aircraft. No other resources existed for the restoration of the inner workings of the landing gear but the photos from the Randolph Fields fonds solved the teams’ problem. They used the photos of the landing gear to create blueprints, sent them out for production of the landing gear from an outsourced aircraft engineering company, and will soon be put on the aircraft.
CF-AWR is now in the museum and can be viewed by the public soon.
The CF-AWR with its nose under the ice on Windermere Lake on Christmas Day, 1939.
The CF-AWR crashed in the bush after it force landed 4 miles northeast of Upturnedroot Lake, Ontario. January 24, 1947
The CF-AWR in for repairs in Edmonton. This was the photo used to make the blueprints. Note the landing gear is exposed.
The CF-AWR during operations. Note the landing gear.