Summer snow completes bush flying exhibit

Late summer snow is all too common in Edmonton as the past two weeks can attest.

But it took more than the force of nature to produce a few centimetres of the ‘white stuff’ under two iconic bush planes at the Alberta Aviation Museum.

“It’s taken about two years,” says AAM curator Lech Lebiedowski, who designed the story island and display that sets the Stinson SR-9 and the Noorduyn Norseman in a bush-type setting,

“This is a winter scene,” says Lebiedowski. “We have Norseman on skis and it’s also a scene of what the mechanics would be doing in the North working on the aircraft. It was designed specifically with snow in mind.”

Foam blocks were used to form the base of snow mounds under the aircraft.

Finding the ‘right snow’ turned out to be more difficult than anyone thought.

“I did an internet search for fake snow and found a lot of film companies who use it,” says Assistant Curator Ryan Lee, whose job it was to source the material. “Mostly they use biodegradable snow or a type you add water to and it expands. It’s nice and wet and fluffy, and it’s very temporary, so they don’t have to clean it up.”

Another possible solution, Epsom salt, used by some museums in New Zealand, seemed promising, but posed issues about corrosion and moisture retention.

“So I finally found a company in Vancouver called Thomas Effects that is one of the leading suppliers of fake snow to film and display industries.”

The snow is a mixture of three different products.

Curator Lech Lebiedowski using shredded ‘snow’ to create a realistic effect.

“There’s a quilting material on the floor, shredded plastic on top of that which are pretty large flakes. And then chipped plastic flakes on top of that, which are more shiny and reflective so they give that glistening effect of the snow.”

Another benefit of this product, it was extremely easy to work with. It took less than three days to install the snow on the 1,600 square foot island.

There was also a lot of creativity involved in getting the fake snow to look real, particularly making it adhere to vertical surfaces.

“I’ve been using this spray glue in the exhibit for many years. I thought I would give it a try,” says Lebiedowski. “So I would spay it on the surface, wait a minute, then sprinkle on the snow and it sticks. It’s washable with water so we can remove it.”

Lebiedowski says the process was only used on non-archival artifacts like replica crates, drums and out-buildings.

Curator Lech Lebiedowski (l) and Assistant Curator Ryan Lee (r).

The final result is exactly what Lebiedowski had in mind.

“I’m very happy with it. It looks terrific. So real when the light is shining from the right angle. It’s so authentic you really can’t tell it’s not real snow.”

Take a look at the photos and you will agree. But to really see the display in its full glory, you have to drop by the museum and view it in person.

It’s just one more example of how our out standing team at the Alberta Aviation Museum is helping keep our aviation history alive.