Then he hears of the Wright's flights of 1903 and starts in on models, powered by the spring in a shade roller. They fly, and early-rising neighbors wonder about the strange birds flying off the roof of the Gibson general store which he wons by this time, 1904.
The Gibson starts on an engine, a 4 cylinder 4 cycle affair of his own design, preparation to a plane, but the railroad boom is on in 1905 and Gibson contracts to build 42 miles of right-of-way. He loses his shirt, most of his pants, and moves to Victoria, taking with him the partially finished engine for a new start in life.
In 1908 a prospector offers him an interest, Gibson accepts. They do find gold and sell the mine. The first engine is then completed but is not satisfactory. Yet, with his entire capital from the mine project Gibson is going all out and he produces a new 6 cylinder, air-cooled, 2 cycle engine which flies his plane with a tractor screw at one end of the crankshaft and a 1:2 geared lower-pitch puslher propeller running counterwise at the other end. And he gets 40 or more horses out of the 210 pounds---the first aircraft engine made in Canada.
The plane is a tandem, gull-wing monoplane with the engine midway between the fore and aft tapered wings, which span 20 feet for a chord of 8 feet maximum. Ten gallon stream-line fuel tanks are fitted either side of the engine. The ribs have turnbuckles for maintaining tautness. There is a forward elevator operated by a lever and two rudders work by a shoulder yoke. No ailerons.
Then comes the big day, September 8, 1910. A short flight and the 4-wheel landing gear need repairs. Again on September 24 the novice takes his seat and leaves terra firma for 201 feet. He takes off in a side wind and has to shut off power. There are ....an oak tree, resulting in considerable plane damage.
Reading Maxim's book alters the Gibson design program and a new machine appears in 1911, a multi-plane, so-called. Some of the parts of the earlier machine are used but the new work costs money and the indefatigable Gibson sells his home to finance the new ship.
This one has ailerons, operated by turning the wheel. Fore and aft operation works the elevator, a foot bar for the rudder. The forward screw of the previous machine is omitted and the drive is by one pusher prop.
Six weeks are spent the spring of 1911 testing and adjusting the machine but the weather is execrable and he moves to another location. Here, at Calgary, further tests and changes are made due to the altitude and otherwise but a number of satisfactory flights are made.
Mrs. Gibson has become alarmed at the risk and forces a promise not to fly while she is absent on a visit and Gibson arranges with a friend to be "test Pilot." But bad luck catches up with test pilot Alex. Japp. On August 12, 1911, Japp attempts to land in a rough spot and the wheels are torn off in the badger holes after a mile flight.
The machine is a total wreck, the season is late, funds are low and Mr. Gibson is inclined to get back to making a living.
In 1942 he publishes a narrative poem The Bird Men which poetically tells of his early endeavors. His concluding lines contain a plea to those who live in the present not to forget the past.
courtesy of Steve Remington - CollectAir
Island ‘ Tale’ Winds April 2003 -The Official Newsletter of EAA Chapter 679 -Vancouver
If time permits, you may want to start at the beginning and read the entire newsletter. I think you will find it to be very interesting and will give you a glimpse into another field of interest, expecially one devoted to Canadian aviation.
If you have any more information on this Early Bird,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper