If there's one thing I learned quickly about the Aviation Museum it's that none of it runs without Volunteer power. These are the folks who come from all over to give their time and energy in an effort to help the Museum maintain what it is and strive towards what it wants to be. Volunteering means you donate your time without monetary compensation. It means you might put in an 8 hour day, go home tired and your payment for this is the feeling of a job well done and the satisfaction that you've helped make a difference.
I keep the Volunteers in mind with everything I attempt to do for the Museum because they deserve that level of effort along with a good measure of thanks for the work they do and that's why I decided to write about them here.
With my local Aviation Museum (The Canadian Museum of Flight), the Volunteers are absolutely essential, without them the doors won't open and the Museum would simply cease to exist. It doesn't have a financial backer with deep pockets and like most, it has bills to pay. They can raise money by doing things like renting out the hangar for events a number of times a year which is a terrific way to generate extra revenue but it won't happen if the Volunteers don't come in on one afternoon, haul the planes outside, tie them all down, setup tables and chairs in the hangar and then come back the next morning to put them all away and bring the planes back in....and hey, don't forget to mop the hangar floor by the way!
The Volunteers I spend most of my time with come from all walks of life. Some were in the Armed Forces, some the Commercial Aviation industry (some from both). A number of them have been involved with General Aviation and others hadn't been near an airplane at all until they first came to the Museum. They come in the door with some sort of skill to offer, time to give and a desire to help. Welcome!
I watch the Volunteers work outside in the rain because there's no hangar space for them to use and all the static aircraft have to be kept outdoors. They put in a hard days work trying to fix or improve something that's exposed to the Pacific Northwest elements all year round and hope it's not all for nothing come the springtime. I watch them try to restore an airplane in a space barely big enough to fit your Honda Civic and I hear drops of water hit the hangar floor around them because the roof is in dire need of repairs the Museum simply can't afford to make. That doesn't mean they don't spend days on the roof on the hottest days of the year trying to patch it though because they did! They did it because they wanted to and they believe in it. They're a team and maybe for some this is something they haven't felt for a good number of years. A sense of real belonging and camaraderie. We can give them that.
The aircraft are flown to various events and perform for a chance to gain some publicity for the Museum but unlike most others, they are not paid above the fuel and oil they use for the performances and still, every year those aircraft have to be annualled while hoping there's nothing needed that can't be afforded. Queue the Volunteers again, they'll get it done! The pilots go from flight suits to coveralls and back again several times a year. The air show and appearance schedule dictates what kind of summer they (and the crew) are going to have with their families. Please don't think they don't enjoy it though, they do. They're proud to fly our aircraft and do an incredible job showing off our little flying Museum.
The Volunteers are why I want a new Museum hangar and they're why I want a better land lease for that new hangar. They're the reason I want to do what needs to be done to get more people in the doors so the work they do can be seen and better appreciated. They've more than earned it. The Museum deserves to grow because of the Volunteers who've been putting in their time all these years trying to make it happen. For as much as they give (and they give a lot) they need a reason to believe like they do.
The most important thing in all of this is that these people are my friends and I'm beyond grateful and honored to know them all....
These are just some of the many incredible volunteers
Peter, Gordon, Cyril and Alfie - The Wing Men
John Juan way up on the DC-3 (does that look safe?)
Jim Beswick - Master hand propper and walking, talking airplane encyclopedia
Pilot (and more) Vic Bentley
Pilots (and more) Bill Findlay, Dave Beales and Flight Ops Manager Bob Fowles
Please visit these links for more information on the Canadian Museum of Flight and our good friends at
Heritage Flight Museum and Historic Flight Foundation.
All of them benefit greatly from Volunteers so if you're in the area, stop in and say hello :)