BERWICK, NOVA SCOTIA
MAY 4, 1938
Aviation in Canada
Aviation in Canada may be said to have commenced with the flight of a dirigible constructed by Charles Page in Montreal with the financial backing of a retired merchant of that city, R. W. Cowan. A trial flight was made from the Shamrock Lacrosse grounds in Westmount, Que., to Ste. Jude, 45 miles away. As no hydrogen was available, city illuminating gas was used and the airship was powered by a gas motor. The crew consisted of the inventor; Professor Grimley, an experienced balloonist; and James Creelman, special representative of the New York Herald.
The science of aviation then appears to have lain dormant in Canada until 1902 when W. R. Turnball built a wind tunnel at Rothesay, N. B., and commenced research work which definitely established him as the Canadian pioneer in this field and he was later to win world renown. His great contribution to the science of aernoautics was the controllable pitch propeller.
In 1900 the Wright brothers began their work at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and brought forth the first power driven heavier-than-air-machine on December 17th, 1903.
For some years Dr. Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, had been carrying on experiments in flying at his private laboratory at his summer home near Baddeck, Cape Breton. In 1907 he formed the "Aerial Experiment Association" of which J. A. D. McCurdy, F. W. Baldwin, Glen Curtiss and Lieutenant Selfridge, of the United States Army, were members. Mrs. Bell, keenly interested in her husbands scientific work, supplied the capital, $35,000, for experimental work. McCurdy, a local boy, played as a child in Dr. Bells laboratory at Baddeck and as he grew older helped the latter in his work. Curtiss was a builder of motor-cycle engines and his experience was valuable in experiments in connection with the power plant.
The outcome of all this was the flight from he surface of Bras dOr Lake on the 6th December, 1907, with Lieutenant Selfridge as a passenger of a large tetrahedral kite known as the "Cygnet" and designed by Dr. Bell, the kite being towed by a steam tug. This was the first recorded flight carrying a passenger of any heavier-than-aircraft in Canada. The kite rose to a height of 170 ft.
During the following winter, experiments were transferred to the Glen Curtiss factory at Hammondsport, New York, and on March 12th, the first aeroplane was completed and was flown by F. W. Baldwin from the ice of Lake Keika, New York, which was the first flight by a British subject. The machine was provided with skis and glided about 100 ft. before rising. On May 18th, an aeroplane designed by Baldwin and named the "Red Wing," with an engine designed by Glen Curtiss was successfully flown.
McCurdy designed a machine, the "Silver Dart," which was completed in the laboratory in Baddeck, and on the 23rd of February, 1909, Dr. Bell sent a cable to the London "Times" which read in part as follows:
"First flight of a flying machine in Canada occurred here today when Mr. Douglas McCurdy, native of Baddeck, Nova Scotia, flew a distance of about one-half mile at an elevation of about thirty feet above the ice on Baddeck Bay in an aerodrome of his own design, named the "Silver Dart."
This was the first successful flight of a power-driven machine within the British Empire. The following day a flight of four and a half miles at a speed of 40 miles an hour was made in a circle around Baddeck Bay. On the 8th of March a distance of eight miles was covered in the fast time of eleven minutes and fifteen seconds. The "Silver Dart" embodied several new and very important features in airplanes up to that time, notably a three wheel undercarriage, tapered wings and the use of aileron control.
The first aeroplane built and flown in Western Canada was a 35-40 hp. Anzani engine biplane constructed in 1910 from their own designs by William Templeton, William McMullen and Winston Templeton of Vancouver. A few successful short flights were made from the racetrack on Lulu Island, B. C.
From this time on aviation in Canada marked time with spasmodic efforts until the war years when it was given a decided impetus and following the war, the work has gone steadily on, culminating in the establishing of the Trans-Canada Air Lines with proposed services across Canada and operated by the Canadian National Railways.