Thursday, May 8, 2014

J.A.D. McCurdy and the Silver Dart

J.A.D. McCurdy test controls during Dart's 1909 flight trials at Hammondsport, NY.  In the U.S., only 5 men flew before McCurdy.  He was Canadian and went on to become the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia.

Alexander Graham Bell's Silver Dart first flew off of of the ice on Bras d'Or Lakes (near Baddeck, Nova Scotia, the home of the Bell Museum) on February 23, 1909.  This was the first airplane flight in Canada, and by a British subject anywhere in the British Empire.  (Bell actually preferred the term "aerodrome" to "aeroplane" but history didn't agree with him on this.  Bell's Aerial Experiment Association, which included Glenn Curtiss, was the first to come up with hinged ailerons, in 1908.)

On the same day in 1959, the feat was repeated using a replica built by the Royal Canadian Air Force, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the flight, and the 35th anniversary of the RCAF.  The account was recorded in the August 1959 issue of The National Geographic Magazine.  McCurdy was present to witness the event.  The replica is now on display at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa.  Another replica was built by Vintage Wings of Canada in Gatineau, Quebec to mark the centennial of the historic flight.

As an aside, contrary to popular misconception, Bell invented the telephone in Brantford, Ontario.  His home, Melville House, is now a national historic site.

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