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Munro eager to make museum dream a reality

July 9, 2014, Saskatoon - Tim Munro surfs in Hawaii. He rappels off cliffs in the Maritimes. What he likes to do best is fly. Even when his feet are on the ground, his mind is in the air.


July 9, 2014
By The Star Phoenix

"Every time I see an airplane fly by, when I watch a
slow, bank turn, when I hear a Merlin engine open up, I think, 'jeez
that's nice,' " said Munro.

 

Saskatoon International Airport is
outside the window of his office desk at TC Aviation on Hangar Road.
Coming soon to the airport is the Saskatchewan Aviation Museum. The big
building with vintage aircraft, historic displays and classic pictures
is a place where the public can celebrate yesteryear and look forward to
tomorrow. Munro is helping make it happen.

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At 61, a retired SGI
adjuster and emergency medical technician, he works full-time as a
volunteer with the Saskatchewan Aviation Historical Society (SAHS). He
researches. He writes. He finds out things about planes that even the
old pros don't know. By autumn 2015, Munro hopes the museum is ready to
fly.

 

"This isn't work," he said.

 

"This is a big boy's dream.

 

"I want to see the twinkle in people's eyes when they come through. I want to hear their aviation stories."

Youth
in Saskatchewan can already find a boatload of plane pictures on the
Internet. They can play Aircraft Combat on Android. But that is hollow.
Going to a museum is different. They'll see a real Tiger Moth and touch
an actual Harvard. They might meet a pilot who flew one of these birds
60 years ago. What an experience.

 

Munro is not a pilot, but he
feels it and hears it and knows it. Flying is in his blood. "I'm a
hangar rat," said Tim, who built his first plane when he was six, a
plastic model of a blue Commander.

 

Munro's dad Jim was a bush
pilot in Saskatchewan for more than 40 years. Jim Munro was based with
McPhail Air Services in North Battleford at the start, then served with
Athabasca Airways in Prince Albert. He was a helicopter instructor. He
hauled sand bags by air to Lumsden to control flooding. When water
bombers and smoke jumpers were called in to fight forest fires in the
north every year, Jim led the wave.

 

Tim Munro flew along in the summers of his youth.

 

"In
a three-seater Bell helicopter he'd be in the pilot seat, I'd be in
another seat and in the third seat was a big roll of toilet paper,"
Munro said, remembering forest fire trips.

 

"'Open the door,' he'd say. I'd throw out the roll. It marked the run, showing the water bombers where to start.

 

"When people ask what's the first job I ever did I tell them I threw toilet paper."

 

Although
Munro parked his plans to become a pilot while still in his teens, his
eye in the sky endures. As a husband, father and grandfather, he sees
the Saskatchewan air museum becoming a place where every generation can
learn and enjoy. "Come on out," he said. "Share. Maybe you'll discover
something about your own family you didn't know.

 

"Look
at the planes. I almost attach a personality to them; the things
they've seen, the places they've been, the things they've done. God,
it's like talking about a person."

 

Munro goes to air shows.

 

He
meets people. He hears their stories. He remembers seeing a man in a
B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, at a ground exhibit in Prince Albert last
summer.

 

"He said his father was a navigator in the Second World
War," said Munro. "'This is where my dad sat,' he said with tears in his
eyes.

 

"These things mean so much to individuals. Let's hear the
stories. Let's share some history. If this information isn't preserved,
it's lost." Munro has been in an American P-51 Mustang. He has flown in
bush planes and helicopters in northern Saskatchewan. He flew in a B-25
bomber, sitting in the plane's glass nose and taking pictures as it flew
in the middle of a formation with Canada's Snowbird jets.

 

"Four
Snowbirds are on the left side and four on the right, but all I see on
each side is one," he said. The Snowbirds flew that close to each other.

 

"The flight of a lifetime," he said.

 

Until
the museum is built, the TC Aviation Centre owned by Tom Coates is home
for the Saskatchewan Aviation Historical Society, which has about 25
members. There are shelves of books about planes in the office. There
are planes ready for display. Many planes have been fully restored by
society members. Coates,

Fraser Sutherland and Paul Greening are prime engines in the society.

 

"I sweep floors," said Munro. "I wash planes and answer phones. I appreciate the opportunity to be part of the overall purpose."

 

Munro
and the society have received email from people in Ireland and England.
They appreciate the history he finds. The SAHS website – www.skahs.com –
notes how some of the society's planes of today flew in the United
Kingdom half a century ago.

 

Parked in the concrete lot outside TC
Aviation's hangar is a CS2F Tracker. The wings on the white-and-green
twopropellor plane are folded. Retired from the Royal Canadian Navy, the
Tracker was used in Saskatchewan in fighting forest fires since the
1970s, but were retired from provincial service last fall. The
Saskatchewan government donated this one to the Aviation Historical
Society. The initials of the plane's last pilots, GT & EE, are on
the hatch covering the nose wheel.

 

Munro knows Trackers,
especially its noisy twin engines. His family had a cabin in La Ronge
for years. He remembers when a Tracker buzzed over the lake, black
spruce almost ducked for cover.

 

"Rattled the windows of the cabin," Munro said, laughing. "That was our wake-up call every day."