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Happy Centennial of Flight, Canada!

Silver Dart

February 23, 2009 — It was a cold, clear day with a chilling wind at Bras d'Or Lake, in Baddeck on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. One hundred meters from the shoreline, hundreds of people were all bundled up awaiting any sign of activity at the temporary enclosure that housed the replica of the Silver Dart.

Sunday, February 22, 2009, was one day shy of the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight in Canada by J.A. Douglas McCurdy. Monday's weather forecast called for snow, rain, freezing drizzle, and stiff winds, and one thing our aviation industry has learned over the past century is that such conditions are not conductive to first flights. So the historical re-enactment of the first flight was advanced by one day.

At 9:30 a.m. Sunday, the Silver Dart was on the ice. From our distance we saw someone hand-propping the engine, and suddenly the propeller shows constant, albeit slow, self-rotation. As the engine was running, our news media was all around the aircraft.

The aircraft taxied to takeoff position and we heard unmistakable sound of the engine as pilot and former Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason, advanced the throttle. The take-off run commenced and everyone focused on capturing it all on an array of 21st century digital gadgetry. As the aircraft reached the end of its cleared runway path and decelerated, the question on everyone's mind was: "Did it actually lift off?" The answer: a resounding "Yes!"

Anti-climatic? Not at all! This is just how the initial trial runs leading up to the actual flight must have been like. Effort, development, evolution, determination, and finally, success!

The day continued to give us fair weather, and subsequent flights resulted in similar performances. Adjustments to control surfaces (canard) were made and the crew continued to demonstrated flight, and flight control to the onlookers, with one go reaching a significant altitude estimated at 20 feet AIL (above ice level).

And now, 100 years later, aviation has affected every field of humankind's universe - technology, commerce, military advancement, politics, travel, research, space, medicine, and recreation!

Happy 100th 'aviation birthday' Canada!

- Jack Dueck, Editor
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