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Air Ontario tragedy exhibit on display at Dryden museum

March 3, 2024  By Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source

DRYDEN – Thirty-five years after the crash of Air Ontario Flight 1363 near Dryden’s airport, the historic event is the subject of a new exhibit at a local museum.

The Dryden and District Museum kicks off a weeks-long exhibit on the incident this Friday. It’s set to run until May 10.

The exhibit is about “a key piece of local history, but also it touches on a national story as well,” said Michelle Walter, Dryden’s museum and heritage coordinator.

“The crash itself impacted aviation nationally and internationally in a way,” she said.


“So we’re looking at the science behind the incident and the response efforts to recognize those in town who responded.”

Walter, as the exhibit’s curator, began research for the exhibit about two years ago.

She consulted the local airport manager and an airplane mechanic for accuracy, she said.

They found just one item that needed correction – “which made me feel pretty good about my research efforts,” she said with a laugh.

The exhibit is designed for a wide age range. Older visitors will learn more about the local event that made national news, while children will be invited to conduct small experiments to understand how a little extra weight can affect a paper plane’s flight-worthiness.

Air Ontario Flight 1363 crashed soon after takeoff from Dryden Regional Airport on March 10, 1989, due to ice and snow on the Fokker plane’s wings.

The crash killed 21 passengers and three crew members, including both pilots.

Flight 1363’s legacy includes changes to air safety regulations with respect to refuelling and de-icing.

The exhibit’s four-member organizing committee included Garth Twitchell, a southwestern Ontario resident who donated $10,000 to the museum and advocated for an upgraded memorial monument for the tragedy.

Twichell succumbed to cancer on Feb. 13 — his obituary says family “will continue to work with the city to bring the Air Ontario Memorial Monument project and Garth’s vision to fruition.”

Former Dryden mayor Greg Wilson donated the same amount and also served on the exhibit’s organizing committee.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the exhibit. It should be very interesting,” Mayor Jack Harrison said Thursday.

“They spent quite a bit of time talking to survivors and getting some records and comments,” he added.

“There were some significant changes in the air regulations as a result of the crash and investigation, so we’ll learn about that as well.”

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2023


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