The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, located in Mount Hope, Ontario, is home to some of the most valuable vintage aircraft in the world. Founded in 1972 with a single British Royal Navy WWII "Firefly" anti-submarine plane, the museum now includes more than 40 military aircraft, representing Canadian aircraft from World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and recent years.

More than a static display, many of the aircraft are airworthy and frequently seen at air shows.

The museum's World War II Avro Lancaster bomber is one of only two flying examples in the world. Other collection aircraft include a Supermarine Spitfire fighter, a PBY Canso (also known as a Catalina) flying boat, and in restoration, a Bristol Bolingbroke bomber. The museum is a beehive of activity as volunteers maintain and restore aircraft. Aircraft under restoration are not hidden away in some other hangar, unseen until ready for display. On the contrary, these aircraft are among the most popular attractions. Guests can see the aircraft laid out in their skeletal components and visit with the volunteers meticulously restoring the planes to flying condition.

Interior view of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.

Creating Ideal Environment For Preservation

Heat, cold, and humidity not only make visitors uncomfortable, they are also enemies to the preservation of historic aircraft. Much of the collection was very nearly lost in a catastrophic hangar fire in 1993. Faced with rebuilding, the museum worked with Brian Chamberlain, founder of Chamberlain Architect Services Limited of Burlington, Ontario. Chamberlain is himself a former Royal Canadian Air Force pilot. Chamberlain Architect Services provided full architectural services for the project and built the museum under a construction management contract.

The 108,000-square-foot museum, completed in 1996, includes an aviation art gallery, gift shop, and restaurant. Cooling and heating the delta-shaped building is not an easy task. The cooling and heating system includes a Trane 70-ton Series Râ„¢ air-cooled chiller plus Trane Modular Climate Changerâ„¢ air handlers and Trane blower coils, fans, cabinet heaters, and unit heaters.

Robbie Singh headed the mechanical department at C.C. Parker Consultants, the engineering firm that designed the mechanical systems for the project. (The Stanley Technology Group has since acquired C.C. Parker.)

Singh said, "The challenge to heating and cooling this project was the shape of the building and the design of the roof, and the concern for operating costs. Because of the shape, we could not put any equipment on the roof. The architect did not want to see the equipment on the unique roof and there would be no way to service the equipment - especially in the winter on a slippery, smooth curved roof with no handrails!"

Aerial view of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.

Building Aesthetics A Critical Consideration

Singh also said that the front of the building was not a suitable place for equipment because it is the main entrance, yet the air conditioned areas are in the front. The building's back side provides airport runway access and had to be kept clear. As a result, only the sides of the building were considered for HVAC equipment location.

"The first idea was to put rooftop units on the side and route ducts through the walls. Rooftop units located at grade with end discharge would have reduced the initial cost of the units; however, the ductwork would have been large and highly visible. The design was changed to install blower-coil units in the spaces so that the ducts are local and achieve the necessary zone control," said Singh.

Fresh, conditioned air is supplied via three outside air-handling units served by glycol coils. The air-cooled chiller was located outside and charged with glycol for freeze protection. Heating in the hangar is by infrared radiant heaters for efficiency and comfort reasons. With the large hangar doors, hot air heating can result in stratification and high heating costs, and would have required excessively large units to quickly provide comfortable temperatures for visitors and workers after opening and closing the hangar doors in the winter.

Other areas of the building use hot water heat from high-efficiency condensing gas boilers. A hot water to glycol heat exchanger supplies the heating for the three outside air-handling units. The outdoor units are zoned to serve the front entrance of the building, the main hangar, and the north area, including the restaurant. Round ducts are used in visible locations for aesthetic reasons and to get them through the spaces, following the exposed trusses. The ducts are painted to make them "disappear." Registers were carefully selected to distribute air downward with minimal noise. Workshop areas are heated by conventional unit heaters and wall fins tied to the heating-water loop.

Since opening in 1996, the museum has hosted hundreds of thousands of visitors and attracted numerous individual and corporate contributors and sponsors. To learn more about the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, visit

Publication date: 06/07/2004