Wings Special Edition : Page 6

Taking Flight 1909-1918 T o Fly! It is a universal human aspira- tion and although the story of Icarus is best known, every civilization can be credited in some way with contributing to the invention of Flight. But for most of us today, the wonder of aviation means delayed flights and overcrowded airports. We tolerate aircraft as mere pressurized buses with wings, forgetting that they whisk us over oceans and continents and do it safely and economically. It is sobering to think that barely a lifetime has passed since the Silver Dart hopped 1.5 kilometre on Feb. 23, 1909, to Air Canada’s daily non-stop Boeing 777 flights from Van- couver to Sydney, Australia, with 340 passen- gers on board. The FirsT AeriAl TrAvellers The earliest aeronautical observers in Canada must have been the First Nations hunters who saw the aerodynamic designs in birds and crafted their arrows to fly accordingly. European colonists brought to British North America their balloons; the first aerial trav- eller, Louis Anslem Lauriat ascended above Saint John, N.B., in a hot air balloon on Aug. 10, 1840, to float 21 miles. The most imaginative use of balloons occurred in the high Arctic when, in 1850, Royal Navy ships searched for the delayed Franklin expedition. Stuck in the ice pack, the searchers released hydrogen-filled balloons carrying messages in the hope that Franklin would see them. By the late 19th century, balloons (and parachute jumps from them) were star attrac- tions at exhibitions. But although they pro- vided the first aerial views and photographs of Canada, dependent on the wind, balloons were unreliable and (in Canada) never more than a curiosity. With a lightweight gasoline engine to drive a propeller, they could be controlled, as Lincoln Beachey demonstrated on July 13, 1906, with his dirigible (mean- ing steer-able) over Montreal. But ballooning wasn’t really flying and it took a young Mon- trealer, Larry Lesh, in August 1907, to build the first heavier-than-air machine in Canada. Christening it “Montreal 1” he would hang- glide six miles over the St. Lawrence for 24 Air power may either end war or end civilization. – Winston Churchill, 14 March 1933 July 13, 1906 lincoln Beachey dem- onstrates his dirigible over Montreal. 6 • one hundred years minutes. Significantly, his next machine, “Montreal 2,” used elementary ailerons, or “little wings” – a first in North America. BAnD OF BrOThers Then as now aviation was not for the faint- hearted or poor and Alexander Graham Bell was neither. Fortunately for Canadian his- tory, the telephone’s inventor summered in Baddeck, N.S., and at 58 years of age was content to leave practical flight to younger men. In September 1907, he invited his sec- retary’s son John McCurdy and McCurdy’s university friend F.W. “Casey” Baldwin, along with the American motorcycle racer Glenn Curtiss and Lt. Thomas Selfridge, from the U.S. Army, to Baddeck. This band of brothers assembled to in Bell’s words “talk aircraft.” Realizing that she was watching history be- ing made, Mabel Bell suggested to her hus- band that they form a legal association and offered to finance it. The Aerial Experimental Association (AEA) was born in the Bells’ liv- ing room on Oct. 1, 1907, with a simple goal: “to get a man into the air.” In the winter the young men transferred to Curtiss’s workshop at Hammondsport, N.Y., to discuss, design and build a series of aircraft, which were “pushers,” all wing and no body, with the elevators in the front. Selfridge’s Red Wing, Baldwin’s White Wing and Curtiss’s June Bug were evolutionary stages in the search for a stable, controllable aircraft. When Selfridge was ordered home, Baldwin took his Red Wing into the air, becoming on March 12, 1908, the first Canadian to fly. The silver DArT Flies The fourth AEA craft was McCurdy’s Silver Dart, so called because its rubberized win- sook fabric was dyed silver to stand out in photographs for patent protection. Incorpo- rating the lessons of the previous aircraft, its tail section had been shortened to help with turning, it was powered by Curtiss’s latest eight-cylinder, water-cooled, 50-horsepower engine but, most significantly (and safely), lateral control was finally possible through ailerons. Aug. 1907 larry lesh flies the first heavier-than- air machine in Canada. But by the end of 1908 the AEA was break- ing up. Curtiss’s fame had grown with every record flight, Baldwin, now married, was lecturing in Toronto, and Selfridge had been killed in a Wright biplane in September – aviation’s first fatality. Worried they were slip- ping away over Christmas, Bell summoned Curtiss and McCurdy to Baddeck with the Silver Dart. The ice on Bras d’Or Lake was sufficiently firm by Feb. 23 for a flight and the Bells and a crowd of locals, whom McCurdy would recall, “…consisted largely of very doubtful Scotsmen – they didn’t say much, just came to wait and see,” assembled to watch. At about 1 p.m., the craft was wheeled out of the Kite House and McCurdy seated. Confounding his skeptics, the 22-year-old made history, flying for half a mile at 60 feet at about 40 miles per hour, the first such flight in the British Empire. But by spring the Association had ended. McCurdy and Bald- win then formed the Canadian Aerodrome Company, Canada’s first aviation company, in June 1909, to build Baddeck No. 1. To interest the military, the pair took it with the Silver Dart to Ottawa. The flight tri- als were held at the Petawawa Army camp Mar. 12, 1908 F.W.”Casey” Baldwin becomes the first Canadian to fly. Feb. 23, 1909 The silver Dart flies off the ice of Baddeck Bay, n.s.

Taking Flight

Peter Pigott

To Fly! It is a universal human aspiration and although the story of Icarus is best known, every civilization can be credited in some way with contributing to the invention of Flight. But for most of us today, the wonder of aviation means delayed flights and overcrowded airports. We tolerate aircraft as mere pressurized buses with wings, forgetting that they whisk us over oceans and continents and do it safely and economically.It is sobering to think that barely a lifetime has passed since the Silver Dart hopped 1.5 kilometre on Feb. 23, 1909, to Air Canada’s daily non-stop Boeing 777 flights from Vancouver to Sydney, Australia, with 340 passengers on board.<br /> <br /> The first aerial travellers<br /> <br /> The earliest aeronautical observers in Canada must have been the First Nations hunters who saw the aerodynamic designs in birds and crafted their arrows to fly accordingly.European colonists brought to British North America their balloons; the first aerial traveller, Louis Anslem Lauriat ascended above Saint John, N.B., in a hot air balloon on Aug. 10, 1840, to float 21 miles. The most imaginative use of balloons occurred in the high Arctic when, in 1850, Royal Navy ships searched for the delayed Franklin expedition.Stuck in the ice pack, the searchers released hydrogen-filled balloons carrying messages in the hope that Franklin would see them.<br /> <br /> By the late 19th century, balloons (and parachute jumps from them) were star attractions at exhibitions. But although they provided the first aerial views and photographs of Canada, dependent on the wind, balloons were unreliable and (in Canada) never more than a curiosity. With a lightweight gasoline engine to drive a propeller, they could be controlled, as Lincoln Beachey demonstrated on July 13, 1906, with his dirigible (meaning steer-able) over Montreal. But ballooning wasn’t really flying and it took a young Montrealer, Larry Lesh, in August 1907, to build the first heavier-than-air machine in Canada.<br /> <br /> Christening it “Montreal 1” he would hangglide six miles over the St. Lawrence for 24 minutes. Significantly, his next machine, “Montreal 2,” used elementary ailerons, or “little wings” – a first in North America.<br /> <br /> Band of Brothers<br /> <br /> Then as now aviation was not for the fainthearted or poor and Alexander Graham Bell was neither. Fortunately for Canadian history, the telephone’s inventor summered in Baddeck, N.S., and at 58 years of age was content to leave practical flight to younger men. In September 1907, he invited his secretary’s son John McCurdy and McCurdy’s university friend F.W. “Casey” Baldwin, along with the American motorcycle racer Glenn Curtiss and Lt. Thomas Selfridge, from theU. S. Army, to Baddeck. This band of brothers assembled to in Bell’s words “talk aircraft.”<br /> <br /> Realizing that she was watching history being made, Mabel Bell suggested to her husband that they form a legal association and offered to finance it. The Aerial Experimental Association (AEA) was born in the Bells’ living room on Oct. 1, 1907, with a simple goal: “to get a man into the air.” In the winter the young men transferred to Curtiss’s workshop at Hammondsport, N.Y., to discuss, design and build a series of aircraft, which were “pushers,” all wing and no body, with the elevators in the front. Selfridge’s Red Wing, Baldwin’s White Wing and Curtiss’s June Bug were evolutionary stages in the search for a stable, controllable aircraft. When Selfridge was ordered home, Baldwin took his Red Wing into the air, becoming on March 12, 1908, the first Canadian to fly.<br /> <br /> The Silver Dart flies<br /> <br /> The fourth AEA craft was McCurdy’s Silver Dart, so called because its rubberized winsook fabric was dyed silver to stand out in photographs for patent protection. Incorporating the lessons of the previous aircraft, its tail section had been shortened to help with turning, it was powered by Curtiss’s latest eight-cylinder, water-cooled, 50-horsepower engine but, most significantly (and safely), lateral control was finally possible through ailerons.<br /> <br /> But by the end of 1908 the AEA was breaking up. Curtiss’s fame had grown with every record flight, Baldwin, now married, was lecturing in Toronto, and Selfridge had been killed in a Wright biplane in September – aviation’s first fatality. Worried they were slipping away over Christmas, Bell summoned Curtiss and McCurdy to Baddeck with the Silver Dart. The ice on Bras d’Or Lake was sufficiently firm by Feb. 23 for a flight and the Bells and a crowd of locals, whom McCurdy would recall, “…consisted largely of very doubtful Scotsmen – they didn’t say much, just came to wait and see,” assembled to watch. At about 1 p.m., the craft was wheeled out of the Kite House and McCurdy seated.<br /> <br /> Confounding his skeptics, the 22-year-old made history, flying for half a mile at 60 feet at about 40 miles per hour, the first such flight in the British Empire. But by spring the Association had ended. McCurdy and Baldwin then formed the Canadian Aerodrome Company, Canada’s first aviation company, in June 1909, to build Baddeck No. 1.<br /> <br /> To interest the military, the pair took it with the Silver Dart to Ottawa. The flight trials were held at the Petawawa Army campAnd in the first instance of Ottawa’s expenditure on aviation, $5 was approved for tar paper in the assembly of the two aircraft.<br /> <br /> Before the dignitaries on Aug. 2, 1909, Mc- Curdy demonstrated the Silver Dart, taking Baldwin up as an observer – the first time in Canada that an aircraft had carried a passenger.<br /> <br /> On the fourth flight he hit a grassy knoll and the Silver Dart was written off. Ten days later, he took Baddeck No.1 into the air – the first flight of an aircraft completely designed and built in Canada – but when it too stalled and crashed, the government lost all interest and the two aviators returned home, penniless.<br /> <br /> They would build a Baddeck No. 2 out of spares for one of Mabel Bell’s wealthy relatives – the first aircraft to be sold in Canada and to be exported. But for the Canadian Aerodrome Company it was too late – the technology had passed them by.<br /> <br /> The Silver Dart’s flight, coming with Louis Blériot’s crossing of the English Channel, spurred Canadians from British Columbia to the Maritimes to build and fly their own aircraft.Soon Minoru Park (Vancouver), Hanlan’s Point (Toronto), and Bois Franc polo grounds (Montreal) became the country’sFirst airports. From June 25 to July 5, 1910, the first aviation meet in Canada was held at Lakeside, Montreal, featuring Blériot monoplanes, Wright biplanes, dirigibles and balloons.<br /> <br /> McCurdy would enter Baddeck No.2, but it crashed several times, the day belonging to the Blériots with Jacques de Lesseps circling over Montreal in one, a first for a Canadian city. The Blériot monoplane design had made the Wright and Baddeck biplanes obsolete. High wing, tractor driven, with fully enclosed fuselage and cockpit, stable undercarriage and empennage (tail) to counterbalance the wing and its ailerons, the Blériot would be the dominant model for aircraft to the present day.<br /> <br /> AIRCRAFT AT WAR <br /> <br /> Four years later with the declaration of war, Minister for Defence Col. Sam Hughes formed the Canadian Aviation Corps, buying an American-made Burgess-Dunne, and sending both off to England, where they disappeared. Working for Curtiss, McCurdy returned to Canada to set up the Curtiss Aeroplane Company in Toronto with flying schools at Hanlan’s Point and Long Branch and an aircraft plant to mass produce JN-3s.If starting an indigenous industry weren’t enough, he also built the Curtiss Canada, the first twin-engined aircraft designed, built and flown in Canada.<br /> <br /> The First World War spurred the development of aviation at an incomprehensible speed. If in 1914 aircraft could barely sustain flight, by 1915 they were far-ranging scouts, and a year later fighters with synchronized machine guns. In 1917, German bombers were dropping 1,000-kilogram bombs on London and in the last year of the war the all-metal, cantilever Junker monoplanes appeared – too late to affect the outcome. On the Western Front the struggle for air superiority raged back and forth, each side developing aircraft with more efficient engines, higher speeds, longer range and better manoeuvrability.<br /> <br /> Canadians who wanted to fight for the Empire would join the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), which grew from five aircraft and 22 men in 1914, to 290,000 men and 22,000 aircraft by the war’s end. A third of its pilots were Canadians, some destined to become air aces, achieving celebrity status. The home front took pride in hearing that Flt. Lt. Arthur Strachan Ince was the first Canadian credited with a “kill,” while Flight Lt. N.A. Magor would sink a U-boat and Flight Lt. Robert Leckie would shoot down a zeppelin.<br /> <br /> That Capt. W.A. Bishop single-handedly on June 2, 1917, attacked a German airfield, destroying three enemy aircraft proved that Canadian pilots were among the very best. They had to be: combat losses averaged one airman killed for every 92 flight hours, one plane for every 100 sorties. Given the wooden airframes, unprotected cockpits and fuel tanks, absence of parachutes and superiority of the German Fokkers, it is a wonder that any of the RFC pilots survived at all. But through dogged heroism, the “kills” of Canadian aces totalled: Lt.-Col.W.A. Bishop (72), Lt.-Col. R. Collishaw (60), Maj. W.G. Barker (53).<br /> <br /> But the meat grinder that was the airspace over the Front was consuming pilots faster than they could be trained and in 1917 the British and Canadian governments inaugurated a large-scale pilot training program at Camp Borden using locally built JN-4 “Canucks.” By the war’s end, the aviation scene in Canada had changed beyond imagining.<br /> <br /> The first airmail was flown from Montreal to Toronto on June 24, 1918, McCurdy’s former plant was building giant flying boats for export and the Royal Canadian Naval Air Service, and soon after, the Canadian Air Force, was established.<br />

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