Silver Dart
     A recent issue of Flight Horizons, published by Trans-Canda Air Lines, printed the accompanying picture of Early Bird John A. McCurdy and the Flying Dart along with information taken from Frank Ellis' book "Canada's Flying Heritage," covering the first Canadian flight. The item in Flight Horizons ran as follows:
     Back in 1909 the flight of this aircraft made Canadian history when John A. McCurdy flew it for over half a mile above the frozen surface of Bras d'Or Lake at Baddeck Bay, N.S.
     Recognized as the first flight by a British subject at any point in the British Commonwealth, and the first airplane to fly in Canada, the Silver Dart, was built by a group known as the Aerial Experiment Association.
     Frank Ellis in his book, "Canada's Flying Heritage" (published by the University of Toronto Press) reveals that the Association consisted of three people--Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, John McCurdy and Frederick (Casey) Baldwin; the expenses of the trio were underwritten by Mrs. Bell.
     It was a famous group, for Dr. Bell had invented the telephone, and Baldwin was the first British subject ever to fly (a flight he made in the U.S.A.). McCurdy later became lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia.
     Autographed copies of Ellis' book, "Canada's Flying Heritage" can be obtained through the EB treasurer's office.
Photo and text from the Early Birds of Aviation CHIRP, March, 1957, Number 56

Aerial Experiment Association
       An early flight enthusiast, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell (center) formed an experimental group in 1907 to "build a practical aeroplane that will carry a man." Shown with Bell at his Nova Scotia home are (left to right) Glenn H. Curtiss, John McCurdy, F.W. Baldwin, and Lieutenant Thomas E. Selfridge.
The Story of the Early Birds
by Henry Serrano Villard

     Glenn Curtiss and Alexander Graham Bell had first met in New York in 1905, at which time Bell invited Curtiss to visit him at his summer home, Beinn Bhreagh (Gaelic for "Lovely Mountain"), near Baddeck on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. In that cool, remote retreat among the rocks and pines, Bell had been conducting a series of experiments with tetrahedral kites---four-sided, lightweight aluminum frames covered with silk---one of which, a large and relatively strong model, possessed great inherent stability. Bell was anxious to attach one of the Curtiss motors to it as part of his studies in aerodynamic lift, propulsion, and control, for he had set his sights on the contstruction of a machine that would fly even before the Wrights had taken off at Kitty hawk. In January 1903, for example, Bell was quoted by the Boston Transcript as hypothesizing that "an aeroplane kite could carry the weight of a motor and a man." Realization of this exploit would be only one step short of the goal of free flight.
     Bell had gathered around him at Baddeck a group of bright young men, including two recent graduates in mechanical engineering of the University of Toronto: Frederick Walker ("Casey") Baldwin (no relation to the balloonist) and John A. D. McCurdy, son of an inventor, who was to mature into one of America's foremost aviators

John A.D. McCurdy in the Silver Dart
Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution
     The last of the Aerial Experiment Association's pioneer aeroplanes was the shimmering Silver Dart, designed by McCurdy, which made its debut on December 12, 1908. The Silver Dart did not spend the winter at Hammondsport but was transported to Baddeck, where on February 23, 1909, it was flown for a distance of 3/4 mile by McCurdy---the first flight of a heavier-than-air machine in Canada. In some 200 subsequent flights this craft was estimated to have covered a total of 1000 miles.
     With the achievements of the Silver Dart, the activities of the Aerial Experiment Association came to an end. Its point proven, the society was dissolved. Bell went back to his kites and died in 1922; his simple grave, marked by a boulder with a plaque atop the hill overlooking his summer home and the lakes he loved so well, fittingly commemorates the twenty-five years of his life that he consecrated to the development of flying. McCurdy and Baldwin became the fathers of Canadian aviation, helping to found the first Canadian aircraft manufacturer---the short-lived Canadian Aerodrome Company. One of the five machines it produced was tested for the Canadian army at Petawawa, Ontario, in the summer of 1909. With McCurdy at the controls it landed in a rough field---quite in contrast to the smooth ice at Baddeck--- and disintegrated. McCurdy escaped with a broken nose (the only injury he ever received in his flying career), while the army took the accident as proof that the aeroplane had no practical use in warfare.
     Curtiss went on to develop the compact pusher biplane that was to set many records in the years to come. And when Canadians failed to summon enthusiasm over the prospects of powered flight, Baldwin returned to the United States for new experiments with a Curtiss-designed hydroaeroplane, while McCurdy became the chief pilot for Curtiss---the first to take a "flying boat" into the air and the first (in August 1910 at Sheepshead Bay, N.Y.) to transmit a wireless message from a plane.
The Story of the Early Birds
by Henry Serrano Villard

Daily Journal and Tribune,
Knoxville, Tennessee: June 30, 1910,
Transcribed by Bob Davis - 9-4-03
      Lakeside, July 1. - "The McCurdy brothers in attempting a trial flight at the international aviation meet, early today, wrecked their machine. In charge of John McCurdy, it was flying about fifty feet above the ground. The machine dropped into a field near the park. Mr. McCurdy escaped uninjured."
Bob Davis

McCurdy Wreck

from the original Post Card
Courtesy of Jean-Pierre Lauwers

Photographed by Albert H. Reiners
     Albert H. Reiners, (1889-1973), was an avid photographer and aviation enthusiast and took advantage the opportunity to take many pictures in the early 1900's. He attended the Sheepshead Bay Aviation Meet in August, 1910, where he took photos of James Mars, John A. D. McCurdy and Eugene Ely.This is an example of many which were offered from his collection by his grandaughter, MaryAlice Borer, for our enjoyment. You can see several other pictures selected from of his collection of 27 photographs by clicking on:

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