By John Crook, EAA 1203173, Salmon Arm, British Columbia.
British Columbia has a long history of innovative aviation going back to 1910 when a visiting Curtiss pusher biplane flew off Lulu Island near Vancouver on March 25. This was followed in September of that year by a 200-foot flight by William Wallace Gibson of Victoria. He flew an unorthodox experimental aircraft of his own design. It had several wings, both fore and aft, and was powered by an aero engine he designed and built.
In commemoration of British Columbia’s rich aviation history, three excellent aviation museums were established at existing airport hangars and facilities at the Comox Air Force Museum on Vancouver Island, the British Columbia Aviation Museum in Sidney near Victoria International Airport, and the Canadian Museum of Flight at Langley Airport just east of Vancouver.
Coastal British Columbia and the lower mainland have been served by float planes and flying boats for more than a century, while aircraft of Canadian, American, and British design and production made a key contribution to the war effort during the Second World War. Supporting this effort was the massive British Commonwealth Air Training Plan which trained Commonwealth, Free French, Norwegian, and some American pilots, engineers, navigators, and gunners at airports scattered around the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, and across Canada. Today British Columbia has several international airports, while smaller community airports serve general aviation, medevacs, and forest firefighting. Bush flying is still alive and well.
Until August 2022, when the modern, purpose-built KF (Kelowna Flightcraft) Centre for Excellence: Okanagan Aerospace and Aviation Museum (The Centre) opened, there were no aviation museums commemorating the rich flying history in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia’s southern interior. The earliest notable flight occurred on August 7, 1919, when Captain Ernest Charles Hoy undertook the first…