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Flight of replica Silver Dart cancelled amid bad weather in Cape Breton

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Flight of replica Silver Dart cancelled amid bad weather in Cape Breton
A tricky crosswind and a fresh dumping of snow over the Maritimes forced the cancellation Monday of the recreation of the first flight in Canada of the Silver Dart.


February 23, 2009
By Administrator
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Silver Dart replica

Feb 23 2009, Source: CP, Baddeck, N.S. – A tricky crosswind and a fresh dumping of snow over the Maritimes forced the cancellation Monday of the recreation of the first flight in Canada of the Silver Dart, an historic event that took place 100 years ago to the day on a frozen lake in Cape Breton.

Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean was supposed to be on hand when the replica biplane took to the air near Baddeck, but the bad weather also kept her on the ground in Ottawa.

"The Silver Dart is the irrefutable proof that nothing is impossible and that sometimes a dream is all it takes to give history an unexpected, unforeseen and wonderful turn,'' Jean said in a statement.

Doug Jermyn, the head of a group of aviation enthusiasts from southern Ontario that built the replica, said snow had covered the icy runway on the lake.

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"We had a real rippin' storm go through here last night – high winds and everything,'' Jermyn said in an interview. "It looks like a fair accumulation of snow over the night and that probably will…prevent us from flying.''

Then the wind picked up later in the day.

"It's just a like a big kite in a crosswind and it would be hard to hold it over the runway,'' he said, referring to the replica.

But Jermyn was quick to note that the group had a banner day on Sunday when hundreds of people watched as former Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason coaxed the spindly aircraft into the air five times.

"We're pretty pleased with that,'' he said. "People were pretty amazed … Canadians as a rule don't celebrate their history. We felt it was important.''

Even though the main event was canceled Monday, the official ceremonies went ahead with musical performances and the unveiling of a commemorative coin, stamp and plaque.

Plans are in the works to take the replica across Canada during the summer to mark the centennial of first flight.

The long-term plan is to bring the aircraft back to Baddeck and put it on display at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic. But that won't happen until a new wing of the museum is built, a project that will probably take two or three years to complete.

It was Bell and his wife, Mabel, who brought together a group of four young men in the fall of 1907 to create the Aerial Experiment Association.

The group built four successful aircraft – including the Silver Dart – in Hammondsport, N.Y., before returning to Bell's estate at Baddeck in early 1909.

John Alexander Douglas McCurdy, a 22-year-old mechanical engineer from Baddeck, had designed and built the Silver Dart.

His first flight in Baddeck, on Feb. 23, 1909, earned him distinction as the first man in Canada – and the British Empire – to pilot a powered, heavier-than-air machine in controlled flight.

The kite-like craft, powered by a 35-horsepower, V-8 engine, flew just under a kilometre that day.

But the airplane made scores of flights after that, usually with McCurdy at the controls.

The Silver Dart was destroyed in a crash on Aug. 2, 1909 as McCurdy was making the last of five demonstration flights for the Canadian military at a base near Petawawa, Ont.