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Work moving ahead for Kelowna aerospace museum

KF Aerospace executive director Paula Quinn (from right to left), Mayor Colin Basran, founder Barry Lapointe, KF president Tracy Medve and Kelowna airport director Sam Samaddar celebrate the KF Aerospace Centre for Excellence, March 25, 2021.
March 25, 2021 - 2:37 PM

Construction on a new aerospace museum and conference centre in Kelowna is moving ahead, despite the pandemic.

The KF Aerospace Centre for Excellence, an aviation museum and conference centre at the Kelowna International Airport will open next year, according to an official announcement today, March 25.

Founder of KF Aerospace Barry Lapointe said 51 years ago today, he started Kelowna Flightcraft Ltd in a small hangar.

“I can remember… I was 24 years old, I had seven thousand dollars in my jeans and a pickup truck that I had paid for and I walked into that little Capozzi hangar and put up the words Kelowna Flightcraft Limited, we’re open for businesses,” he said.

READ MORE: Kelowna's KF Aerospace Centre For Excellence a go despite struggling airline industry

The purpose of the centre, to be built off of Lapointe Drive, will showcase the development of the airport and record the history of aviation in the Okanagan Valley, he said.

The 60,000 square-foot facility will also feature two hangars for heritage aircraft displays, including a Convair CV-580 and Douglas DC-3, as well as a Hawker Tempest MKII, according to a KF press release.

Complete with an airfield viewing gallery, cafeteria area and an upper storey for conference rooms, the centre will host public tours and educational programs, and provide visitor access from the Kelowna Rail Trail.

Last November, city council approved of the development permit for the building but construction was delayed due to COVID-19.

“Kelowna International Airport has been instrumental in making Kelowna and the Central Okanagan the main hub of air travel in the B.C. Interior,” said Mayor Colin Basran, during the announcement.

KF is the longest privately held aerospace company in Canada, said airport director Sam Samaddar. The Okanagan’s air travel history dates back to the early 1900s when Curtiss planes flew over Gyro Beach during the Kelowna Regatta, he said. There was also an airfield in Rutland in the 30s and 40s and Kelowna’s current airport location was established in 1947.

Airports across the globe have been struggling amid the pandemic. Last week, the province announced a program to support regional airports and Samaddar said the airport doesn’t yet know how much it will receive but added "it’s great to see that kind of support.”

The cost of the centre roughly equals roughly $26 million, said executive director Paula Quinn. The centre will open in the spring of 2022.

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