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45 ° 42′ North: Fond farewell

The Ottawa suburb of Rockliffe is the home of the Canada Aviation Museum, one of the finest in the world with an internationally renowned aeronautical collection. Until the end of March 2010, it was under the stewardship of Anthony (Tony) Smyth.


May 13, 2010
By Peter Pigott

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The Ottawa suburb of Rockliffe is the home of the Canada Aviation Museum, one of the finest in the world with an internationally renowned aeronautical collection. Until the end of March 2010, it was under the stewardship of Anthony (Tony) Smyth.

tony  
Tony enjoyed immensely the opportunity to work with
a dedicated staff and enthusiastic colleagues.


 

A lifelong aviation enthusiast, Tony was born in England and attended his first air show at Farnborough in 1953. Immigrating to Canada, he was recruited by the Canadian Foreign Service in 1966, and was posted to Kenya and New Zealand. He joined the office of the Governor General of Canada in 1984 as Deputy Secretary, a position he held for 17 years.

In January 2002, Tony was given the opportunity to combine his enthusiasm for aviation with his management experience by accepting the position of Director General of the Canada Aviation Museum. His first challenge was to complete major projects already under way – especially the design and building of a massive storage hangar to provide 8,200 square metres  (87,000 square feet) of additional space to preserve key aircraft like Junkers J.1, Canadair C-54GM North Star, wing tips of an Avro Arrow, a de Havilland D.H.98 Mosquito and North American P-51D Mustang IV.

The ground-breaking ceremony for the Storage Wing took place on November 7, 2002, and when completed on April 14, 2005, for the first time in 39 years, all of the aircraft in the collection were protected from the elements.

When opened with new administration, library and archives facilities, the Storage Wing was a striking addition to the existing Museum building creating a physical symbol representing the power and grace of flight.

In anticipation of the centennial of powered flight in Canada on February 23, 2009, Tony was involved in the publishing of Canadian Wings: A Remarkable Century of Flight. The book and the expansion of exhibition space were made available because of the storage hangar that led to the Canadian Wings exhibition, the Museum’s centennial project that was opened by the Governor General on the centenary of the first flight.

The centennial year was celebrated in the Museum with a progression of high-profile events, from the Genies awards ceremony and the hosting of the Mutual Concerns of Air and Space Museums, through to a successful career day on National Aviation Day on February 23, 2010. Even as this took place, Tony led the team working on the Museum’s next expansion project, to add an auditorium, classrooms and striking new entrance lobby the project due for completion by February, 2011.

Through his years at the Museum, several important aircraft were acquired. One was the Borel Morane monoplane, the oldest existing aircraft known to have flown in Canada. Then, Bombardier donated the oldest airworthy Canadair Challenger, which landed at the Museum in February, 2006. Tony negotiated to acquire an airworthy World War 1 Bristol F2.B Fighter, which arrived at the Museum in the autumn of 2006. Today, the collection comprises more than 130 aircraft and countless other artifacts such as engines, propellers, and important works of aviation art, as well as library and archival resources.

One of the jewels in the crown of the Museum is the Library and Archives which houses several corporate and private archival collections from Air Canada, Canadair and Avro Canada as well as log books from aviators in the First and Second World War; the papers of bush pilot Stuart Graham; and those of Kenneth M. Molson, another Canadian devoted to aviation research and the first curator of the Canada Aviation Museum.

Ever the aviation enthusiast, to his delight, Tony’s position afforded him the chance to ride in vintage civil and military aircraft from a 1928 Waco to a Harvard, Lancaster, B-17, B-25 and Labrador helicopter. Throughout his tenure at the Museum, Tony enjoyed immensely the opportunity to work with a dedicated staff and enthusiastic colleagues, both at home and abroad. In retirement he intends to remain active through writing and – what else – volunteering at the Museum. Stephen Quick, Tony’s successor at the Canada Aviation Museum had this to say: “Anthony Smyth brought a great deal of experience and an undying passion for aviation to his position as Director General. He worked tirelessly to enhance the reputation and visibility of the Museum and to ensure that the collection was both relevant and accessible. There is no greater proof of his passion for the Museum than the fact that he signed up as a volunteer on his last day as DG.”


Peter Pigott is a Wings writer and columnist.