Royal Aviation Museum travels to its final destination—with ACU’s help

A stone’s throw from the main terminal of Winnipeg Richardson International Airport you’ll find one of Canada’s hidden gems, where the airplanes are a little more exciting than your typical passenger jet.

The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada is a member of Assiniboine Credit Union. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, its collection of historical planes and aviation equipment is almost unparalleled among museums in the country. With a brand new building near the tarmac, the museum has become a can’t-miss tourist destination—not to mention a field trip destination on the science curricula of many Manitoba schools.

The Royal Aviation Museum

Hidden gem museum finds a high-profile new home

The Royal Aviation Museum was once located in one of the oldest hangars in Manitoba. Built in 1937, the antique hangar dripped with atmosphere but had its limitations as a museum.

Terry Slobodian, Royal Aviation Museum CEO

“People loved the historical aspect of the old building, but in terms of our mission to preserve and promote stories of Western Canadian aviation, it fell short,” says Terry Slobodian, the Royal Aviation Museum’s CEO. “It lacked the functionality to educate, inspire, and entertain. On the other hand, the new building is purpose-built. It’s great.”

The new museum is a dramatic 86,000 square feet. At 100 feet wide and 40 feet high, it has one of the largest hangar doors in North America and, of course, a very impressive collection of planes.

The Royal Aviation Museum

“We showcase 20 or more aircraft at a time, with rotating exhibits and some planes even suspended from the ceiling,” explains Terry. “When it comes to telling stories about aviation, providing dedicated spaces for education and curating learning spaces that integrate with curriculum, the new building is a huge improvement over the old one.”

Focusing on the future of STEM

The Royal Aviation Museum

While the Royal Aviation Museum was originally focused on showcasing interesting aircraft with storied pasts, the mission has changed in recent years. With a new emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education for students and incorporating Indigenous perspectives into its exhibits, the Royal Aviation Museum is already making an impact, especially for people traditionally underrepresented in STEM and aviation.

“Manitoba has some of the highest rates of child poverty in Canada,” Terry says. “There’s also an extreme shortfall in skills needed for the aviation and aerospace industries. Our response is to develop STEM education curriculum, particularly focused on women and Indigenous youth, groups of people who tend to be underrepresented in STEM education and aviation/aerospace careers, so we can help create some opportunities.”

Exhibits at the museum correspond with the provincial science curriculum, and according to Terry, students relish the opportunity to learn about the impressive planes up close. Since the new building’s grand opening in 2022, over 15,000 students have come through its doors and it has won an award for outstanding science education in Manitoba.

Moving has its costs

The move is paying off now, but Terry says getting construction funding wasn’t exactly easy. The price tag for the new building was $48 million, and with funds coming in the form of multi-year pledges from donors, the museum saw itself running into some cash flow issues.

“We knew our donors would make good on their pledges, but they were doing it over a longer period of time, which meant the money was coming in more slowly,” Terry recalls. “To get construction done more quickly, we had to get some help.”

That’s where ACU’s Business Financial Centre (BFC) came in.

ACU sees value in aviation education and entertainment

“Working with ACU meant we could secure a bridge loan of $8 million to help with construction,” Terry says. “We’re almost paid off now, but that money helped us open faster.”

For Terry and his team, working with the BFC was effortless.
“There were no hurdles. ACU was easy to work with right from the start.”

The Royal Aviation Museum

Going above and beyond, ACU also provides sponsorship for a number of events and exhibits that rotate through the museum, including the upcoming restoration of an F-86 Sabre It’s scheduled to be completed this September in collaboration with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Personal service & tailored financial solutions from the Business Financial Centre

The BFC is a one-stop shop for commercial and business financial needs. Made up of a business team that includes directors, account managers, specialists and more, the group offers services to businesses that include lending solutions like lines of credit, mortgages, credit cards and payment solutions.

Hart Garfield, Senior Commercial Account Manager

“Here at the BFC, we help businesses of all sizes,” says Hart Garfield, Senior Commercial Account Manager at ACU. “From people that own one or two rental properties all the way to commercial real estate corporations that own thousands of units, we provide a wide range of services to a wide range of businesses.”

When the Royal Aviation Museum came calling, the BFC was there to help.

“We knew they were looking to construct a new building and we worked with them to provide a solution. We structured the loan to be flexible and make both parties happy.”

Hart says the BFC is open to all businesses, however most of its member base is comprised of commercial real estate financing.

“Similar to what the Royal Aviation Museum was looking for, we can help finance pieces of land for purchase or help fund the construction of large commercial buildings like apartments or retail plazas,” Hart explains. “We have a team of experts that can find viable solutions.”

BFC focuses on supporting local, is easy to work with, flexible and offers expert advice in a timely fashion, as Terry can attest.

“We had a different financial institution in the past, but switching to a more local credit union felt good and offered us better rates than we could have secured anywhere else,” he says. “They were more personable, too, and contributed substantially to our financial campaign.”

For Hart, working to serve local businesses like the Royal Aviation Museum is what the BFC is all about. You may have even seen the museum in an ACU TV commercial.

“It’s been an excellent partnership since our initial financing. They completed their construction quickly and within budget, which is fantastic for them,” Hart says.

“We’ve also been proud to sponsor and donate to the museum. We’ve stayed informed on their initiatives, which has led to some additional support over the years.”

Visit the museum this year—and then visit ACU to see how the BFC can help your business
In addition to the restoration of an F-86 Sabre, from July 16 to 18 you can visit the museum to check out one of the rarest planes in the world: the Avro Lancaster Bomber, a British aircraft made famous during World War II.

And if cartoons are more your speed, we have more good news: the Royal Aviation Museum is showcasing a traveling exhibit curated by the Charles M. Schulz Museum from Santa Fe California featuring Snoopy (of Peanuts fame) and the Red Baron.

As a proud supporter of local businesses, ACU would love to discuss how our Business Financial Centre can help your organization prosper.

Reach out to one of our advisors today.

When it comes to business projects, big or small, we do it all.

About Jacob Marks

Jacob Marks is a writer and communications professional based in Winnipeg, MB. Experienced with diverse clients and across sectors, he specializes in issues management, brand management and telling compelling stories no matter the medium.

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