Saturday, February 28, 2009

On A Wing And A Prayer ... 100 Years Later

Been a little quiet around here lately, no?

I thought I best at least make an effort to do something about that. And since technically I have posted on the The Flight Deck since I've posted here, I thought might just cheat a little bit. Copy. Paste. Edit.

We won't tell anyone, okay?

February 23, 2009, was 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 was set to on Sunday, February 22m 2009, in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. A day earlier than planned as apparently they are concerned about weather conditions (we were execting another storm day around here for the Monday) 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 expected 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.

The plan was, if the weather cooperated, they would also try to carry out the official flight again on Monday, 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 was in the pilot’s seat and Roberta Bondar was expected to be on hand, along with descendants of the original inventors and the modern-day crew.

Turns out that there were 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.

Unfortunately, not so much on Monday, which was the actual anniversary. What can I say, welcome to winter in Nova Scotia.

On a wing and prayer. One hundred years later.

Former astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason goes aloft Sunday in a
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)

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