CASM Picture


NAMS Creation


In 1979 a group of senior Canadian aviation industry executives and historians came together to form the National Air Museum Society (NAMS).  They believed that the perilous state of the 1940s vintage wooden hangars in which the outstanding National Aeronautical Collection (then housed at Rockcliffe) placed  Canada’s aviation legacy at significant risk. Their plan was to use the Society as a platform to speak candidly yet forcefully with the Government of Canada about the necessity to properly store, maintain, and exhibit this national treasure.

The original 1940s hangars in which the Museum was originally housed. CASM Archives, CAVM23625
Fire Destroys the San Diego Aerospace Museum and its collection in February 1978. Credit: San Diego Aerospace Museum

The urgency of this task was driven home in 1978 by the  total loss due to fire of a significant aviation collection in San Diego, housed in similarly flammable buildings.

The Society achieved not-for-profit and charitable status. It recruited an energetic Board of known figures in the Canadian aviation world, all of whom shared the same concern and the determination to steward the allocation of sufficient funds to house the collection in modern, safe buildings.

NAMS - Historical Advocacy Successes

Following its establishment, the Board and its allies conducted an effective campaign of speaking to Parliamentarians, Cabinet Ministers and opinion leaders. They also mobilized the aviation community to voice a consistent message of concern. In 1982 the Government of Canada allocated sufficient funds to develop the first of what was planned as a multi-phase project to provide a proper home for the collection. The magnificent delta-shaped building opened in June 1988 at Rockcliffe Airport. The NAMS Board was rightfully pleased at the results its activities had brought about,  but it was also mindful that the approved funds had not solved all of the accommodation issues.  The new building simply was not large enough for several of the largest aircraft.  They had to remain in the open awaiting a further allocation of funds to develop the next of the planned phases.


The Museum's Canadair C-54GM North Star showing the effects of over 40 years in the open air. Copyright Ingenium

With the main task accomplished, and with the apparent commitment of the Government of Canada to proceed with subsequent phases in the not-too-distant future, NAMS became much less active for over ten years. It did, though, continue to engage with the then Canada Aviation Museum, now the Canada Aviation and Space Museum (CASM) and to be briefed on the Museum’s own efforts to bring the next phase on stream.


The museum's replica Nieport N.17 rests in front of the newly completed delta shaped home of the National Aviation Museum in 1988. Copyright: Ingenium

In 1994 the NAMS Board of the day decided to adopt a two-pronged approach to supporting the Museum in the face of severe reductions in federal spending.  This involved branching into a role of financial support for projects the Museum would not otherwise be able to undertake and to provide significant advocacy support. This resulted in a request for financial donations from the NAMS membership.

The membership responded enthusiastically. Sufficient funds were received to enable financial support to be provided a bi-annual basis.


Part of the Museum's outstanding collection of World War I aircraft. Copyright Christopher Terry

By the end of the 1990s however, the state of the aircraft left outside was deteriorating dramatically and the existing building was filled to capacity. The need to revisit the earlier pledge to continue with the phased development of the Museum at Rockcliffe was taken up again.  The NAMS Board, acting in concert with the Museum, again took up an advocacy campaign at the political level.  This was not something the Museum staff could do. And the Board once again mobilized the broad aviation community in Canada to add the weight of their support.  The Government of Canada responded with the approval of funds to construct a new collection storage hangar in 2001. Once opened in 2006, the building enabled the complete collection to be properly housed for the first time.


New 1988 Museum building on the left, and 2006 storage hangar on the right. Copyright Ingenium