Susie and Denny caught up with us at the Country Inn RV Park in Gander and the four of us went to the Aviation Museum yesterday.
There are several planes on display outside the building.
Remember when something like this mobile staircase was used to climb up into planes before jet bridges were created? (I remember dragging my carry-on up them, dressed in business clothes and high heels on the way to meet clients – something I’m happy not to do now!) They are still in use at smaller airports.
Inside the museum we saw a model of the Administration Building, built in 1938 at the Gander Airport. In addition to the weather office, control tower and flying boat base, this building included living quarters, dining rooms and a small jailhouse. It also housed the Newfoundland Airport Club and was one of the first places to have a liquor license in Newfoundland.
Pilots learned to fly in this Link Trainer, which was simulated the sensation of flying including all the dives, rolls, pitches and climbs in a real airplane.
Attached to the museum building through an exterior wall is an actual Douglas DC-3 cockpit. It held a flight crew of 3 and up to 36 passengers. The weight of the plane, at 24,000 lbs., was about 4,000 lbs. less than our motorhome, and the length was about 24 feet longer (64 ft.). The DC-3 was first built in 1936 and production ceased in 1948. Over 10,000 were built.
Here’s a De Haviland Tiger Moth, weighing 1,825 lbs. including a 625 lb. load.
The most poignant parts of the museum’s displays are those about the role played by the town of Gander and its residents in the 9/11 tragedy in the U.S. When the Twin Towers were struck by terrorists, all continental North American airspace was closed. Incoming planes had to be diverted to other locations.
Gander, with its population of 10,000 people and 500 hotel rooms, assumed the tasks of landing, housing and providing for 6,600 stranded passengers and 473 crew members on 38 planes. Other planes were diverted to Moncton, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Many of the travelers were concerned about family and friends that might have been directly affected by the attack and were frantic for news, as well as being diverted and delayed in their arrivals at their destinations in the U.S. How wonderful to be welcomed with open arms by these accommodating strangers!
Gander residents not only invited people into their homes, they prepared schools and churches to become shelters, and pharmacists filled prescriptions without charge. Even the pets traveling in crates in the cargo holds of the planes were cared for by residents.
This bulletin board and notebook display the letters (some including money that was used to establish scholarships) from many of the grateful people who were helped.
This event, tragic though it was, caused stronger bonds to be built between the U.S. and Canada. For more information, including a fact-filled yet human interest documentary by Tom Brokaw on “Operation Yellow Ribbon” aired during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, Google “Gander 9/11.” This video gives a whole different perspective from that which most of us in the U.S. had of the event.
Also, this book is recommended for further reading: “The Day the World Came To Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland,” by Jim DeFede.