VIDEO: New digs in the offing for Langley’s flight museum

A plan is in the works for a new, much larger facility to accommodate old planes and paraphernalia.

After 20 years in the current facilities, there’s enough planes and aviation paraphernalia and information to fill double that space.

Then, bring in a crowd of about 150, like the group that showed up for Saturday afternoon’s Big Chill social and fundraiser, and it speaks clearly to the need for a larger space for the Canadian Museum of Flight.

While existing fundraisers like the Big Chill, and the upcoming Pups for Pups (event next month), generate money to help keep the facilities open, manager Dave Arnold spoke to plans of building a new, much larger museum at the Langley Regional Airport in the next few years.

The team of volunteers haven’t put a big push on the project yet, but will be soon. They’re currently developing a business plan, he said, in hopes of having a new museum up and operational at the south end of the airport by about 2021.

At present, they occupy a hangar close to the tower that is about 8,000 square-feet.

The Township of Langley has identified a site for the new museum. It’s roughly 70,000-square-foot running alongside Fraser Highway.

“It’s just speculation at this point,” Arnold said, but it’s hoped it will facilitate a 25,000-square-foot building, plus much more outdoor space.

There’s already a sign marking the location, and two of the museum’s larger planes – a Douglas DC-3 and the Conair Firecat – are occupying the site.

“Would love to have double that,” Arnold said, sure the volunteer-driven association could easily fill it.

“It’s never big enough. We turn down planes all the time,” Arnold said.

“Planes tend to take up a lot of space,” and in addition to the 25-plus aircraft currently housed in static display and for flying at the existing museum, they have at least four others in the wings.

They have a Norseman and Cornell in their collection that are slated for restoration at a future date, but there’s not room to currently store them on site.

As well, there’s a Lockheed Lodestar that needs to be restored and will eventually come to the museum.

And, they have the nose section of a Bristol 149 Bolingbroke on display, but the rest of the aircraft is in storage due to space and cost constraints.

It’s more than just size that is motivating the move, Arnold elaborated.

Location is important too.

“We’re just lost here, so the big thing will be visibility,” Arnold said, convinced the highway exposure will prompt a significant boost to tourists randomly stopping in.

The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and sees about 500 tourists walk through the door in a given month, including about 100 to 150 a month who come in as part of school or special interest group tours.

Fundraising begins soon

The new museum is expected to cost about $4 million, possibly $5 million if they go with a green facility – an idea which is currently being tossed around, that could see geothermal heating and other sustainable designs.

“Those are all on my wishlist,” Arnold admitted. “Whether it’s going to be possible is another questions.”

The job at hand right now, Arnold said, is finalizing the business plan and starting to secure financing for the project.

“We’re going to go out in the world for much of the funds,” he said.

He’ll be seeking money from various levels of government, but said a lot will be required from the general public and most likely corporate donations.

“That will likely be a road that we have to go down,” he said of company sponsorships.

While existing social events like Saturday’s Big Chill help offset some of the day-to-day operating costs, the museum is going to have to be thinking much bigger to come up with the coin needed to construct the new museum.

“I think it will be three or four years before we’re there,” Arnold said.

The Canadian Museum of Flight has been around since 1977, first operated out of a barn in Crescent Beach before being moved to the Langley airport in 1996.

• Video to come