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New Permanent Exhibit at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport Commemorates Centennial of Royal Canadian Air Force and Airport’s Connection to Aviation History in Canada


Toronto (April 24, 2024) – Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, in collaboration with the Royal Canadian Military Institute (RCMI) and RCAF Foundation (RCAF), today unveiled a new, permanent exhibit in the airport’s mainland pavilion in commemoration of the RCAF centennial and 85th anniversary of the airport.

(Left to right) Ryan Goldsworthy, Exhibition Curator, RJ Steenstra, President and CEO, PortsToronto, Lieutenant-General Eric Kenny, RCAF Commander, MP Kevin Vuong, Chief Warrant Officer, RCAF Chief Warrant Officer W.J. Hall, Neil Pakey, President and CEO, Nieuport Aviation. 

The exhibit features an original First World War-era Curtiss JN-4 Canuck biplane propeller and a collection of nine original pilot’s wings badges, representing the evolution of badges worn by Canadian aviators from 1912-present and including the rare Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) wings of the First World War.

The “Canuck”, manufactured by Canadian Aeroplanes Ltd. of Toronto was the Canadian variant of the Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny”, an American/British design. The Canuck was widely used in training by Canadian pilots during the First World War.

Part of the collection of the RCMI museum, these artifacts are now on permanent display at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, next to the airport’s cast bronze statues of First World War flying aces and Victoria Cross recipients William Barker and William Avery “Billy” Bishop – the airport’s namesake.

Established in 1939, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport has operated on the Toronto waterfront for 85 years and has strong ties to Canadian military and aviation history. In its early years, from 1939 to 1943, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport served as a training ground for both the Royal Canadian and Royal Norwegian Air Forces, with neighbouring Little Norway Park named in honour of the Norwegian community that settled around the airport in 1940.

To learn more about the history of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, please view a video of the airport’s journey over the past 85 years, or visit to view a timeline featuring archival photos from the PortsToronto collection dating back to the 1920s and 1930s. Follow along as we celebrate our 85th anniversary this year, and connect with us on social media at @BBishopAirport or with the hashtag #YTZ85.


“Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport’s iconic location on the Toronto waterfront was selected in the 1920s by a City-appointed committee led by First World War flying ace, Victoria Cross recipient, and our namesake, William Avery “Billy” Bishop. The airport went on to play an important role in the war effort serving as a training base for Royal Canadian and Royal Norwegian Air Force pilots.”

“Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport’s connection to military and aviation history in Canada runs deep, and we are honoured that the Royal Canadian Military Institute recognized this in selecting our airport to host these superb, original First World War-era pieces from their collection. The exhibition unveiled today is a fitting tribute to the Royal Canadian Air Force’s century of aviation excellence in Canada, and underscores Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport’s important role in the past, present and future of aviation in this country.”

  • RJ Steenstra, President and CEO, PortsToronto, owner and operator of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport


“The story of the Royal Canadian Air Force is one of courage and sacrifice that has shaped our nation’s military history and heritage. As we celebrate 100 years of the Royal Canadian Air Force, it is an honour to be able to unveil this exhibit to commemorate the historical connection the Royal Canadian Air Force has with the Greater Toronto Area which encompasses the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. Together, we celebrate our centennial, honour our veterans, and recognize today’s air force personnel, whose dedication and professionalism keep our skies safe.”

  • Lieutenant-General Eric Kenny, Commander, Royal Canadian Air Force


“As the exhibition’s curator, I am proud to help commemorate the RCAF’s centennial with PortsToronto through this striking new permanent gallery. The carefully curated and original artifacts within have captured the power and character of Canada’s storied military aviation history. This important exhibit will endure as a testament to the many Canadian air force personnel who have served, and continue to serve, with great courage and distinction – their history and impact will continue to matter.”

  • Ryan Goldsworthy, Museums Manager, City of Toronto (Former Museum Director & Curator of RCMI)


“Today’s unveiling serves both as a testament to how the long histories of the Royal Canadian Air Force and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport are intertwined, and as a reminder that as we move into the future, the past should continue to inform our path forward. The history of the airport, the RCAF, and Toronto is all around us if we take the time to look—from Little Norway Park near the airport and the Daniels Building, formerly Spadina Military Hospital, to ‘Shrapnel Corners’ at Yonge and College, or the early air shows at the CNE where Amelia Earhart developed her love of aviation.

“I encourage everyone to take today’s unveiling as not only an opportunity to learn about the Curtiss JN-4 and its role in Canada’s military history, but also as a jumping off point to learn more about the rich history of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, and Toronto.”

  • Neil Pakey, President and CEO, Nieuport Aviation, owner and operator of the passenger terminal at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport


“The RCAF Foundation’s mission is to take a past, present, and future look at the Royal Canadian Air Force, aviation, and aerospace in Canada. We aim to share stories of the 100 years of the RCAF, while supporting the next generation of Canadians who plan to enter the sector, and make an important impact in their community and around the world. The exhibit unveiled today at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is a perfect example of the RCAF’s legacy in Canadian aerospace and we were proud to see it shared with the airport’s passengers and community.”

  • Jeremy Diamond, CEO, RCAF Foundation


About Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ)

Offering service to more than 20 cities in Canada and the U.S., with connection opportunities to more than 100 international destinations via our airlines’ networks, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is an important international gateway that will offer US Preclearance in 2025. The airport is a key driver to Toronto’s economy, generating more than $2.1 billion in total economic output and supporting 4,450 jobs, including 2,080 directly associated with the airport’s operations. Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport has served its community for 85 years from its iconic location on the Toronto waterfront, where it facilitates healthcare for Ontarians by providing a base for medevac services connected to local hospitals. Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is committed to achieving its vision of cleaner, greener and quieter operations, and is renowned for its unique travel experience, efficiency, and customer service, having won a host of passenger-driven and environmental achievement awards. Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is owned and operated by PortsToronto.


About the Royal Canadian Military Institute

The Royal Canadian Military Institute (RCMI) of Toronto is an independent member-supported organization which, promotes the study and discussion of military history, defence, security and international affairs, along with the operation of its museum, library and archives, for the benefit of its members and the interested public, through the provision of exceptional services within a unique collegial environment. The RCMI maintains one of the finest and largest military history collections in Canada.


About the Royal Canadian Air Force

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is a part of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. It defends and protects Canadian and North American airspace in partnership with the United States. The RCAF also contributes to international peace and security.


About the RCAF Foundation

The RCAF Foundation works closely with like-minded organizations to help them further their goals in support of the important Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) legacy, promote Canadian aviation and aerospace as a potential area of study/career path, and develop innovative ways to engage youth to learn about the RCAF. In 2021, the RCAF Foundation embarked on a 10-year horizon to build an enduring platform to fulfil our perpetual mission and to preserve, promote and celebrate the RCAF through community engagement, education programs and commemorative activities. We have been using the 2024 RCAF Centennial as the marquee event to create the ground floor substance for our mission, the momentum for our ongoing community support, and the leadership to sustain our efforts.

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Jessica Pellerin
Senior Manager, Communications
Cell: (647) 298-0585