Canada Marks 100 Years Of Powered Flight


There’s some irony that the re-enactment of the 100th anniversary of the flight of the first powered heavier-than-air vehicle in Canada was scrubbed by cold, snow and wind. As organizers planned the re-enactment, the overriding fear was that Baddeck Bay on a lake on windswept Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia wouldn’t be frozen over as it was on Feb. 23, 1909 when J.A. Douglas McCurdy lifted off smoothly from the ice in the bamboo-and-wire Silver Dart. The bay hasn’t frozen in the last six years. But Cape Breton has been pummeled by an old fashioned Canadian winter this year and, quite literally in the calm before the storm, flying conditions were perfect Sunday for a number of “test flights” in which Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason flew the replica aircraft in front of about 1,000 people.

McCurdy, a 22-year-old mechanical engineer who was bankrolled by Alexander Graham Bell’s wife Mabel to design and build the aircraft. It was built and first flew in Hammondsport, N.Y. and that community’s most famous son Glenn Curtiss took part and built the engine. The current replica was built by a group of volunteers that included McCurdy’s grandson in Welland, Ont. An earlier one was built by the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1959 to mark the 50th anniversary and it now hangs in the Canada Aviation Museum. The modern replica will be housed in an addition to the Bell Museum in Baddeck, where the inventor of the telephone, and keen aviation buff, spent his summers.