The Comox Air Force Museum (CAFM) celebrated its 30-year anniversary with an official ceremony on Sept. 12.
Over 100 retired and serving members of 19 Wing Comox and other guests packed into the museum’s amphitheatre to listen to speeches, cut a ribbon and eat some cake to mark the milestone. Many of those in attendance have been involved with the museum since before it was officially accredited, on Sept. 12, 1987.
Program manager and volunteer coordinator of the CAFM Jon Ambler — who recently wrote a book documenting the museum’s history — said the role of the facility has changed since its unveiling 30 years ago.
“When it first opened, its mandate was to tell the story of the squadrons and units of Base Comox,” he said.
“As time has moved on, that mission has expanded. We now tell the story of military aviation on Canada’s west coast.”
The CAFM is located right next to the main gates of 19 Wing. The museum includes exhibits, an aviation reference library and an aviation air park, where a dozen aircrafts are on display.
(The air park is located 500 metres from the museum).
Ambler’s book, titled Comox Air Force Museum, Our First 30 Years, was written with the help of volunteers Allison Hetman, Val Wilson and Carol Popkin.
“It’s the story of the museum and how we got here,” he said. “I thought it was important to do it at the 30-year mark, so that we could still talk to the people who built it. As time goes on, history gets harder to capture.”
The Sept. 12 ceremony also included the unveiling of a new hallway display.
“That entire space had to be created. Before, it was just a storage hallway,” said Ambler.
One notable undertaking of the museum was its nine-year restoration project for Spitfire Mk IX TE294, a war plane that went down in Normandy in 1944. The project was turned over to Vintage Wings of Canada, who completed it. The plane flew again for the first time in June, 2017.
Ambler says the CAFM is an important part of 19 Wing that recognizes British Columbia’s aviation and Air Force history.
“Since 1943, Canada’s sons and daughters serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Forces have used the application of air power to defend this country and defend our way of life. Great bravery, skill and courage. And too often, great sacrifice. We honour that story,” said Ambler.
The museum serves roughly 11,000 visitors per year.