Some days when we’re out exploring we’ll simply pick a random road to see what curious and interesting things we’ll find. Some times we’ll see nothing and on other days we’ll hit the jackpot, discovering something that is just so incredibly cool. This day was the latter and near the town of Cayley Alberta we stumble across a group of derelict planes, World War 2 era Avro Ansons, sitting in a field.
Initially we just assumed they are a random jumble of planes, perhaps a junk storage site for a collector or museum. On researching them we are amazed to find that they are a work of art, arranged not in random order, but rather laid out in a large circle in the form of a clock. While not obvious from the ground, if seen from the air, the arrangement becomes very clear. They’ve even landscaped the field in such a way to complete the outline of each aircraft – the circle was gravelled with grass allowed to grow inside the silhouetted area in the shape of the plane.
While it may seem like a frivolous use of what could be some possible fodder for an aircraft museum – perhaps they could be combined, into one making one or close to one complete plane? But that’s not the case here and these carcasses have been picked fairly clean and would otherwise be scrap metal or of little to no use
Named Gravitas, this work was completed in 2009 by artist Keith Harder on behalf of the Bomber Command Museum in nearby Nanton Alberta. They supplied the planes after stripping them of useful parts.
The exhibit is on private land and there is no public access. To see it in its full glory one would have to be lucky enough to fly over it. Otherwise you’ll have to see it from the fence near the road, which while good in itself, it does not allow one to get the full meaning of the piece.
Developed by the Avro company in England, the Anson was designed as a multi-role plane just prior to World War Two. Serving as light transport and in other roles, it really found its calling as a trainer. In that respect they were used to teach pilots to fly multi-engine aircraft, but also served as a learning platform for navigators, wireless operators and bomb-aimers. Nicknamed “Faithful Annie”, it was an easy aircraft to fly and very forgiving.
Over 11000 were made with almost 3000 being Canadian built, coming from Federal Aircraft in Montreal. Much of the plane was built with plywood which helped free up metal supplies so they could be used elsewhere.
After the war some of the planes were declared surplus and sold off, often for much less than what they were worth. Other were simply destroyed.
A common sight in the skies of Alberta during the war, these aircraft operated out of numerous fields operated by the British Commonwealth Air Training Program, including one we’ve visited, the Vulcan Aerodrome, not terribly far away. Not far as the plane flies that is.
These training schools, most of them in Southern Alberta, operated during the war and were responsible for training huge numbers of students from all over the Commonwealth. The area was ideal for that purpose, the main one is being it was far from any action.
Most bases closed right after the war but some were later reopened privately, being used as public airports, or for other purposes. For example the hangers made great storage buildings and others became factory buildings. In spite the war ending almost seventy years ago, very obvious remains of each base can still be found. We hope to visit every one over time.
Very near the exhibit is a funky geodesic dome home and while not connected to this story, it was too cool to not include here. It does seem to have an air of neglect about it, like its been abandoned, but I am only guessing. It’s possible someone lives there.
We really enjoyed this find and while it is by no means an unknown place, it was for us and so became a pleasant surprise. Sometimes finding a place you knew nothing of is like unearthing a treasure, it becomes a wonderful experience of discovery that you’ll remember for a long time. And this proves that even if you know your local area, thinking there is nothing new to see, something like comes along to smash that theory to bits. We are so glad we picked that road.
seriousness, solemnity, or importance.
The Bomber Command Museum in Nanton is a recommended visit and you can check out their site by click here…
To see the article on the Gravitas Exhibit, go here…
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date: March, 2013.
Location: Near Cayley, AB.