The Modern Era (1970 - )
From 1970 onward, as the economy grew, civilian and recreational aviation became more popular. Aerospace industries in British Columbia developed new and innovative products. Victoria-based Viking Air (now part of De Havilland Canada) has become known world-wide for its fixed winged aircraft manufacturing and repair services. Abbotsford, BC-based Conair Group has built an outstanding reputation in aerial firefighting. In addition, flying schools, flying clubs and even home built aircraft organizations were gaining in popularity. On display at the BC Aviation Museum are a Conair Convair 580 aerial tanker, and one of the only two flyable Trigull amphibious aircraft produced in Victoria by the Trident Company. In addition, there are several examples of homebuilt aircraft.
Convair CV580 T55 spent more than 20 years as an air tanker fighting fires in British Columbia and abroad. The aircraft was built in 1956 as a Convair 440 ‘Metropolitan’- a twin piston-engine, 34 passenger, all-metal airliner with pressurized cabin. In 1956 it entered service with Sabena Air of Belgium, where it operated for 12 years before being sold in 1968 to Frontier Airlines of Denver, Colorado, and modernized to a turboprop airliner designated the Convair 580. Frontier operated the airliner for 17 years until sold to Sierra Pacific Airlines of Tucson, Arizona, with whom it remained for a further 15 years. Exported to Canada, it was then converted to an air tanker configuration and in the year 2000 entered operations with Conair of Abbotsford, British Columbia. At the end of the 2022 fire season and following 22 years as an air tanker, the Convair 580 T55 was donated to the BC Aviation Museum by Conair Group Inc.
Like many enthusiasts, Burt Rutan draws strange-looking aircraft; but he builds them and they work – well. The “Quickie” was designed in 1977 by Rutan, T. Jewett and G. Sheehan. It has a foam core covered in glass fibre and weighs only 250 lbs. The innovative “canard” layout (tail first) makes it stall-proof. The engine is a 25 hp Onan built to power lawnmowers. Our example was built in Victoria in 1978 by Fran Benton, and was donated to the Museum in 1995.
Schreder “Airmate” HP 11-A
Richard Schreder of Bryan, Ohio designed this single-seat high performance sailplane in the early 1960s. The prototype flew in 1962 in time for the US Nationals in which Mr. Schreder placed third and made the longest flight. A total of 42 were subsequently built. with many variations and modifications.
Our example was completed in 1969 and was flown competitively by Horst Dahlem of Saskatoon. It was donated to the BCAM by Mr. Dahlem in August 2008 after a distinguished period of competitive gliding. With its 52 ft. span, this sailplane is dramatically displayed against the south wall of the Henderson Hangar.
In the early 1970’s a programme was launched at Patricia Bay to build an updated design for an amphibious sport plane. Ultimately the company “went under”. Viking Aviation has provided us with one of the prototypes of this locally significant aircraft.