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Museum of Ingenuity Charts Bombardier History

Scale model of a Bombardier C Series wind-tunnel test aircraft (Photo | John Flett)

The Bombardier brand is one of the most familiar names in the global aviation industry and has its origins in Quebec, Canada. The Museum of Ingenuity J. Armand Bombardier (Musée de l’ingéniosité J. Armand Bombardier) in Valcourt, Quebec — ninety minutes east of Montréal, Canada’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport — charts the history of Bombardier and its founder Joseph-Armand Bombardier.

What may not be commonly known is Bombardier’s beginnings and its role in the design and manufacture of snowmobiles. Bombardier launched a seven-passenger snowmobile in 1937 and founded his company L’Auto-Neige Bombardier Limitée in 1942.

Following the invention of the Ski-Doo in the late 1950s and its phenomenal success, the company was listed publicly in 1969 and diversified into the railway industry in 1970. In addition to supplying cars for the new Montreal subway system in the 1970s, Bombardier successfully bid for a contract with the New York City Transit Authority in 1982 to provide 825 subway cars.

Bombardier’s foray into aerospace followed in 1986, when the company purchased Canadian aircraft manufacturer Canadair. At the time, Canadair was manufacturing the iconic Challenger widebody business jets and the CL-215 amphibious firefighting aircraft. Bombardier continues to develop and manufacture enhanced Challenger aircraft and has superseded the CL-215 with the Bombardier 415 amphibian.

With its purchase of Canadair, Bombardier began a revolution in regional jet development with the Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) program and subsequent series of aircraft. Further acquisitions in the 1990s included Learjet with its luxury private jets and Boeing’s de Havilland with the iconic Dash 8.

This placed Bombardier as the only manufacturer of both turboprop and jet 50-seat regional aircraft. In recent years the development of the C series of aircraft and the initial partnership and subsequent sale to Airbus resulted in the rebranded A220 regional aircraft.

The layout of the museum has a chronological order with an introduction to J. Armand Bombardier’s first inventions in a reconstructed reproduction of his workshop, a 270-degree short film of the company’s history and an exhibition space of the evolution of the company. Though relatively small, the museum also has an impressive collection (or reserve) of Bombardier snowmobiles that can be accessed with an enhanced ticket.

Aviation buffs may be disappointed by the limited space accorded to the company’s aerospace history and may wish to also include Ottawa’s Canada Aviation and Space Museum on their itinerary. Though within the Museum of Ingenuity J. Armand Bombardier, there is a free flight simulator and an 8.6 percent scale model used for wind tunnel testing of the C Series family of aircraft. One of only twenty used as part of the 4,500 hours of wind tunnel testing undertaken for the development of the aircraft.

For those who wish to enhance their visit to the Museum of Ingenuity J. Armand Bombardier further, you can pre-book a 90-minute guided tour of the Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) factory situated across the road from the museum. BRP manufactures a range of brands including Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea-Doo watercraft and Can-Am Off-Road vehicles.

John Flett


  • John Flett

    John has always had a passion for aviation and through a career with Air New Zealand has gained a strong understanding of aviation operations and the strategic nature of the industry. During his career with the airline, John held multiple leadership roles and was involved in projects such as the introduction of both the 777-200 and -300 type aircraft and the development of the IFE for the 777-300. He was also part of a small team who created and published the internal communications magazines for Air New Zealand’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff balancing a mix of corporate and social content. John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management. John is currently the course director of an undergraduate commercial pilot training programme at a leading London university. In addition he is contracted as an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.

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