National Geographic : 1956 Aug
John A. D. McCurdy Pilots Silver Dart: First Plane Flight in the British Empire In 1907 Dr. Bell and four young disciples, Baldwin, McCurdy, Selfridge, and Glenn H. Curtiss, attacked the problems of powered flight. Banding together as the Aerial Experiment Association, they built four craft in a year and a half, using engines designed by Curtiss, a motorcycle racer and manufacturer. On the morning of February 23, 1909, Dr. Bell and nearly 150 townsmen gathered on frozen Bad deck Bay to witness Canada's first flight. Presently a sleigh towed Silver Dart into position. While four skaters kept pace (right), the plane ran forward on its tricycle landing gear, a surprising forerunner of the modern undercarriage. Taking off from the ice, Silver Dart flew across the wintry landscape for half a mile. While working with Dr. Bell, McCurdy became the sixth man in the United States to pilot a heavier than-air machine. In 1910 he set the biplane speed record (at Belmont Park, New York) and flashed the world's first wireless message from a plane aloft. In the following year he received the first ground to-air message by wireless. Also in 1911 he flew 95 miles from Key West, Florida, to Cuba, but dropped into the sea near Havana when his motor failed. A destroyer picked him up. In 1908, under Dr. Bell's guidance, the Aerial Ex periment Association developed the New World's first hinged, wing-tip ailerons (here shown on Silver Dart, their third plane to use the device). Later the Canadian Aerodrome Company employed similar controls (page 245). © II. M. Benner flock to the Agricultural Experiment Station of the University of New Hampshire, which continued his breeding plan. A new strain improved the flock's fleece and mutton quali ties, but the twinning capacity was retained. Later the experiment ended after transfer of the sheep to another station. In 1896 the scientist was a delighted spec tator at the flight of a large propeller-driven model aircraft invented by his friend, Samuel Pierpont Langley, Secretary of the Smithso nian Institution, whose researches he had helped finance. The success of this demon stration near Quantico, Virginia, fired anew his enthusiasm for aerial experimentation. Inventor Turns to Kites Returning to Baddeck, he pursued a new line of thought. The engines of the 1890's could not support a heavy machine in the air, let alone a man. Perhaps the solution was a strong, stable kite, big enough to carry both a man and an engine safely. A propeller would draw air back against the kite, keeping it aloft and pulling it forward at the same time. Patiently he tested many types of kites circular, polygonal, triangular (page 235). Finally he decided upon the tetrahedral cell, ideal for his purpose. Kites honeycombed 246 with these cells were light but extremely strong. Seamstresses covered thousands of cells with colorful silk, and Beinn Bhreagh's workmen assembled kites of many sizes.* * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "Dr. Bell's Man-Lifting Kite," by Gilbert Grosvenor, Jan uary, 1908.