The Big Day
Tomorrow, February 23, 2009, is the 100th year anniversary of the first flight of the Silver Dart, the first powered aircraft flight in Canada.
As I wrote about earlier, in October, 1907, Alexander Graham Bell invited three men (one British subject, one Canadian and one American) to his estate in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, to begin working on a dream that would take flight 18 months later. Joined by an official observer from the United States, US Army Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, the five men formed the Aerial Experiment Association .
Five aircraft were created, including the June Bug (which introduced a tricycle landing gear system to the world -I assume of the type that Lex has been going on about lately) but the piece de resistance was the Silver Dart which was their first controlled-power aircraft. And which flew for the first time on February 23, 1909.
The replica of that first flight is set to occur today in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. A day earlier than planned as apparently they are concerned about weather conditions (we be execting another storm day around here tomorrow) and a repeat performance of what occurred fifty years ago when the pilot who lifted off from frozen Bras d’Or Lake in a similar replica belly-flopped back down to the ice soon after.
A couple of days before the 23rd in 1959, they flew it on the ice and it was all right,” Mr. Jermyn told The Chronicle Herald Saturday.
“But on the 23rd, it was a very windy day and the pilot took it out and nobody thought he would fly it, but he did. He turned it into the wind and off he went, and he just got hit by a gust of wind. He got it up and over, but it stalled and it fluttered down and smashed the wing tip.”
Organizers expect about 20,000 visitors to watch the re-creation of the flight in a replica attempted to be a true as possible to the original Silver Dart. The aircraft is about nine metres long and three metres high with a 15-metre wingspan and weighs about 545 kilograms. As in the original, motorbike parts play a key role in the plane’s motor and fasteners.
If the weather cooperates, they will also try to carry out the official flight again on Monday (we be calling for another storm day around here), along with a flypast by the Hawk One, a refurbished RCAF F-86 Sabre 5 and performances by the Snowbirds and SkyHawks.
Retired Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason will be in the pilot’s seat and Roberta Bondar is expected to be on hand, along with descendants of the original inventors and the modern-day crew.
On a wing and prayer. One hundred years later.
Updated (At Virgil’s request): Apparently perfect conditions for five, count them, five flights on Sunday. Well, perfect, if you don’t count the nose wheel collapse on the first try.
At any rate, I am still waiting to see Lex do this:
“The Silver Dart flew steadily at about 65 kilometres per hour for about 400 metres, no more than nine metres above the frozen lake.
McCurdy then turned in a wide, shimmering arc across the blue sky and returned to where he had taken off, making a perfect landing after almost a kilometre in the air.”
Former astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason goes aloft Sunday in a replica
of the Silver Dart after taking off from the ice of the Bras d’Or Lake
in Baddeck. Today is the 100th anniversary of J.A.D. McCurdy’s historic
flight in the Silver Dart,which was the first powered flight in Canada.
McCurdy and Alexander Graham Bell helped design the original plane.
(VAUGHAN MERCHANT / CP)