Monday, October 29, 2018

The Former CDN Air and Space Museum Avro Arrow Replica is Still Sitting in a Parking Lot at Pearson Airport

          By Chuck Black

There are very few organizations with worse luck than the ill-fated Canadian Air and Space Museum, a Downsview ON based charity now known as the Toronto International Aerospace Museum because of a spat it got into with the Ottawa ON based Canadian Aviation and Space Museum (CASM), an organization with a very similar sounding name, but better funding.

Summer 2018 photo of the replica CF-105 Avro Arrow owned by the museum. Portions of the plastic covering protecting the model have fallen off to expose the model to the elements. Photo c/o Sameer Haqqi.

It operated out of the historic de Havilland Canada aircraft manufacturing building from 1999 until 2011, when the museum was evicted by the landlord, the Federal Crown Corporation known as Park Downview Park (PDP) for a variety of reasons which, even today, seem contradictory and confusing. 

Since then, the organization has been struggling to find a new home for the museum exhibits, which were originally stored in twenty-one rented trailers at the Toronto ON based Pearson International Airport and at several other locations around the city.

Recent events, including the relocation of the rented trailers to a "secure facility" in Caledon ON, along with an August 21st, 2018 #GoFundMe campaign under the headline "Preserving CF-105 Arrow replica" organized by "volunteers and members of now-defunct Toronto Air and Space Museum/ Canadian Air and Space Museum" suggest that the string of bad luck has continued.

As outlined on their GoFundMe page, the campaign has managed to raise just under $3000 of the $10,000 necessary to fulfill the requirements of the campaign, and provide a second coating of the heavy duty shrink-wrap needed to preserve a full sized replica of Canada's famed CF-105 Avro Arrow, which has been mostly sitting in a parking lot at Pearson since the spring of 2016.

The campaign, although not formally affiliated with the museum, did ask permission from the museum's CEO, a local entrepreneur named Ian McDougall, who gave permission for the campaign "to raise funds to shrink wrap this replica again to protect it from elements in the open air environment" for the #GoFundMeCampaign.

However, at least according to Brian Keaveney, the "volunteer curator" for the museum who spoke with this blog on Monday, the museum isn't defunct and a new partner should be coming aboard soon to help cover costs and assist with the opening of either a new facility or new facilities, where artifacts can again be displayed.

Of course, it's not as if Keaveney is able to release the name of the potential partner publicly or any time frame for a formal announcement. In fact, he insisted during the interview that he hasn't been involved in any of the negotiations with the potential partner and doesn't know the name of the individual/ organization involved.

Undated Brian Keaveney photo c/o @Phunsecks123.
So we need to be patient.

But Keaveney insisted that there is a contract on the table with a legitimate partner just awaiting the working out of a few details. An announcement could be released sometime in the future, but Keaveney wouldn't say when.

Keaveney also said that the museum artifacts are stored appropriately at their new location in Caledon, although he hasn't visited the area.

As well, Keaveney doesn't think that there is any damage to the stored museum artifacts, although that statement is demonstrably false when it comes to the only artifact we can independently verify, the Avro Arrow replica currently sitting in a parking lot at Pearson.

Keaveney said that it was not possible to set up a trip to Caledon to view the artifacts and confirm their condition.

But Keaveney did say that the new partner/prospect is in no way, shape or form related to the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), the organization which manages Pearson Airport, where most of the artifacts were once stored. At one time, the expectation was that the museum artifacts would eventually end-up on display at Pearson.

Of course, none of the information provided by Keaveney is currently available on the museum website and he admits that even his listed e-mail address on the website simply doesn't work.

"We were hacked a couple months back," said Keaveney, "I haven't had time to fix it." The website seems to have been last updated in March 2018.

And the person who would be most likely to have some actual knowledge of the situation, museum CEO McDougall has (so far at least) not responded to requests for an interview.

As outlined in the July 24th, 2018 Toronto Sun post, "Toronto Lancaster headed west," at least one museum display, a World War II Lancaster Bomber, has been shipped off to another museum. According to Keaveney, the Lancaster bomber was owned by the City of Toronto and they could do with it as they wished. Graphic c/o Toronto Sun.

There is no doubt to knowledgeable observers that the museum has seen better days, although Keaveney is also right when he said that at least the current museum board under McDougall has managed to keep most of the collection together.

But the current situation is getting so difficult for museum members that some have begun suggesting that, since there is no consensus on how to move forward, a vote must be taken to dissolve the museum. Only then will the board be able to donate the slowly (possibly) deteriorating museum artifacts to other not-for-profit organizations or museums, where they can be restored and protected.

Whether or not this is a fair resolution for the 170+ volunteers that spent eight and a half years building the Avro Arrow replica is another question entirely.

Two years ago, the July 11th, 2016 post, "Whatever Happened to the Canadian Air & Space Museum?" this blog reported on a $250K CDN "non-receipted" contribution from an unnamed donor, which essentially cleared off all debts associated with storing the artifacts and suggested that there was at least a possibility of reopening the museum at a new location at or around Pearson Airport.

But that money seems to have been spent and the situation doesn't seem to have gotten any better.

Here's wishing the museum better luck next time. 
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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