Aircraft museum hit by storms makes repairs after 'some sleepless nights'

COVID-19 restrictions have brought big challenges for museums around Calgary. But as Gil Tucker shows us, one facility is using the shutdown time to bounce back from some big blows.

A repair crew using a hoist was high in the air alongside a tent structure Wednesday at the Hangar Flight Museum in northeast Calgary.

“They are working on the largest, most difficult panel, which is 80 feet wide,” the museum’s operations manager Herb Grieder said. “God knows how heavy it is.”

The tent hanger under repair is used as a display space for aircraft.

Much of the roof was torn apart during storms during the winter of 2020-21.

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“Extreme weather — snowfall followed by some wind storms,” the museum’s executive director Brian Desjardins said, adding that it’s caused “some sleepless nights, but we’re smiling in ‘perma-grin’ these days.”

Museum staff are also happy about the major repair work about to begin inside the facility’s historic main building.

Used as a training centre during the Second World War, the structure’s 80-year-old wooden roof supports are now showing their age.

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“The trusses have been built out of old-growth Douglas fir,” Grieder said. “And over the years, in our nice Calgary climate, the trusses have been drying out and splitting.”

With the six-week repair job set to start April 12, the museum is financing part of the cost with a 50/50 raffle.

The fundraising campaign is called “Treat the Trusses,” with more information available online.

The museum is using the long months of shutdown during COVID-19 restrictions to carry out the repairs, while hoping it will soon be safe to open the doors again.

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‘The visitors are greatly missed here,” Grieder said. “The comments like, ‘Wow, look at all this neat stuff!'”

Despite the wild weather that damaged the tent hangar, the crowd favourites stored there are still in good shape.

“Yeah, the aircraft — no damages,” Desjardins said.

Museum officials are hoping to eventually replace the tent hangar with a more solid structure.

In the meantime, Grieder said with a laugh that they’re keeping their fingers crossed they won’t get hit by any more storms.

“We don’t say the ‘wind’ word.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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