So long Downsview hangars

The now demolished hangars on the occasion of Toronto's first post-WW2 airshow in 1946. (Larry Milberry)

Back in about 1943 these hangars (seen on February 20, 2010) were built at Downsview airport in North Toronto. Their original purpose was to accommodate flight test and delivery of Mosquito bombers being built here by de Havilland Canada for the war effort.

Aerial view of hangars when they hosted Toronto's first postwar air show in 1946.

After the war this facility, located at the northeast corner of Downsview airport, was taken over by the RCAF and for some years was home to the Harvards, Vampires, Sabres and Expeditors of 400 and 411 auxiliary squadrons; and the RCN Harvards, Expeditors and Avengers of VC920 reserve squadron.

My first time here was during 117 Squadron air cadet days in 1956-7 — one Saturday morning we were bussed up for a familiarization flight in a Dakota (most of us little guys ended getting air sick that day).

On March 5 "Hangar 1" disappeared. This was the scene next day. Last view of "Hangar 2"! (Canadian Air and Space Museum)

While still school boys, we’d hang out on the perimeter here, watching the action and hoping to get a few distant photos.With sidekicks Merlin Reddy and John Kerr, I’d sometimes hop a fence to shoot the aircraft on the taxiway that came up from the left — there were a few bushes that we could use for cover. A real highlight came one day in 1959 when Nick Wolochatiuk and I were allowed onto the ramp to shoot the Avengers as they returned from an exercise. Another day about a decade later we photographed a former Biafran airlift Super Constellation sitting in long term storage in the snow drifts.

After the air reserves moved across the field in Otter and Kiowa days, this corner of Downsview fell silent and the hangars’ only use was for Department of National Defence storage. Meanwhile, history buffs kept eyeing the hangars — they wanted them preserved as part of Toronto’s historic architectural fabric. Their demolition was on-again, off-again until March 5, 2010. The DND suddenly decided to resolve the matter of “hangars in limbo” and released the heavy equipment to tear down these famous old landmarks. Au revoir … Larry

One response to “So long Downsview hangars

  1. Pingback: Reel Toronto: The Kennedys | news | Torontoist

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