Photos by Peter Iden
I try to set myself specific goals when writing. Yesterday it was to write about airplanes. This morning I woke up at 7:47 a.m. Any day which starts with the designation of the Queen of the Skies, the Boeing 747, is a good omen day for writing about airplanes.
More specifically, I want to tell the story of many airplanes which can be viewed right in our Southern Georgian Bay area, at a magnificent place where they are all gathered to be visited at leisure. On certain time schedules, of course!
The place is the Edenvale Aerodrome, just 15km south of Wasaga Beach on Highway 26. It is privately owned by Milan Kroupa, a Czechoslovakian immigrant who, in 1977, started a successful cleaning service company in Toronto.
Milan had a lifetime interest in aviation, and discovered Edenvale during a weekend flight in his private plane in 2003. He bought the property and began restoring, first the airfield and accompanying buildings. You can’t keep airplanes in garages unless they are partially disassembled, so by the summer of 2004 he built three more hangars which he rents out, storage facilities, a refueling station and a new restaurant. A flight school was also in operation. 40 additional hangar spaces were added in 2006. In 2008, a new 4000-foot landing strip expanded the small airport’s capacity for larger airplanes. The airport now has three runways and is home to two aviation heritage groups.
My personal acquaintance with Edenvale Aerodrome dates back to two visits in 2018 and 2019, first during their Annual Open House on August 19th, 2018, then as volunteer photographer for the Canadian National Skydiving Championships at Wasaga Beach in late August 2019. The sky jumpers boarded their airplanes at Edenvale before landing at the Sport Centre on Klondike Park Road.
The Open House saw all of the airplanes pulled out of their hangars, with their owners sitting or standing beside them and explaining their histories. At the same time there was also a display of numerous vintage automobiles spread all over the Aerodrome site.
My own favourite aircraft at Edenvale simply has to be the Avro Arrow, a full-sized reproduction of the original airplane. The Arrow has a great history. It made its maiden flight on my birthday, March 25th, 1954, while my Parents and I were arriving in our new home country of choice at Montreal, on board of a tiny freighter called the “Colonia”, together with their legal limit of 17 other Immigrants.
The Avro Arrow Project, the building of the most advanced fighter airplane in the world, met an unfortunate death of February 20, 1959, at the hands of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, who had no sense of its importance to the Canadian Aviation history and, under political pressure by the Americans, who wanted no competition (by Canada or the British company AVRoe) for their own Jet Fighters, displayed what some Experts have called “one of the most colossal blunders made by a prime minister in the history of Canada” and “criminal stupidity” by ordering the total destruction and elimination of anything even remotely associated with the Avro Arrow Fighter Plane.
The only existing full-scale re-creation of the Avro Arrow languished for some time at the Canadian Aviation & Space Museum at Downsview Airport, where I visited it several times. It was then shifted to Pearson Airport for several years, where it deteriorated considerably before being transported to Edenvale to become part of the Edenvale Aviation Heritage Foundation, (EAHF). The work to put it back into its original shape was undertaken by a group of dedicated volunteer Aviationists. The Conservancy also includes historic archival material and exhibits reflecting major developments in Canada’s aviation history, most of which took place in the Ontario region.
To those readers who have an interest in vintage aircraft or who are Air Force Veterans, the planes at Edenvale include the de Haviland DH82C Tiger Moth and CS-2F Tracker, the Canadair CT-114 Tutor and CT-133, the Beechcraft CT-134 Musketeer, the Bell CH-136 Kiowa Helicopter and several self-built airplanes.
Of special interest to me is the UFM Ultralight flown by “Father Goose” Bill Lishman who first trained 12 Canada Geese in 1988 to follow his Ultralight plane, then trained and guided 36 Canada Geese in 1993 to follow him south from Lake Scugog to Virginia.
This method of teaching endangered bird species to migrate, such as trumpeter swans, sandhill and whooping cranes, was successfully used several times after this. “Operation Migration” in 2001 from Florida was one such successful venture. So were five separate German operations with Corinna Esterer, guiding bald-faced ibises (Waldrapp) south across the Alps to Tuscany in Italy (link below to video which is in German but quite illustrative).