Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4, McCurdy’s “Silver Dart,” March 1909 Original Accounts.

A score of attempts unfolded with the Silver Dart at Baddeck Bay in March, ending April, rumours surfacing on Prof. Bell’s preparations, for the British Airship Race. For over a week Bell was informed on the matter, some what agitated, by 1st badgered by friends, acquaintances, government officials, etc. Prof. Alec frustrated, dealing with more pressing matters, stifled the rumours. Press despatch:—British Airship Race. —Bell Says He Is Not Going to Build a Machine to Compete in It. Halifax, N.S. 4th March. (Special) — Doctor Alexander Graham Bell says there is no truth in the statement that an aeroplane modelled somewhat on the lines of the aerodrome “Silver dart” will be built by him and shipped to England to compete in the race for aeroplanes across the English Channel. In reply to a query by The Gazette correspondent, Dr. Bell said: “Despatch you speak about has no foundation. None of us have any intention of competing for the British race you refer to. The Aerial Experimental Association, as its name implies, is only for experimental purposes.”

A series practice flights and landings took place early March, on the 9th  owing “winds were too strong and puffy,” multiple take-offs, short flights and landings over the ice at low elevations not exceeding one mile in length were conducted. The next morning McCurdy made two flights in his aerodrome “Silver Dart,” totalling nineteen miles with a laid out, marked course. Along the iced lake a measured stretch in a straight line of four miles, the route was marked at half-mile intervals by spruce trees planted in the ice, and passed through the harbour at Baddeck. They removed the engine in the afternoon conducted tests, maintenance, resuming experiments with Bell’s tetrahedral aerodrome, “Cygnet Second” 5th aerodrome constructed by Baldwin and Beinn Bhreagh laboratory staff. Ending the month of March, as per agreement by Aerial Experiment Association, dissolution 31st March 1909, much too the regret of all members, especially Mrs M. Bell, “The Mother of us All.”

Prior of being officially dissolved, Aerial Experiment Association assets were sold, while G.H. Curtiss prepared for the next phase in aeronautics, organized the Herring-Curtiss Manufacturing Company.

Press despatch New York March 4th 1909 as fallows:— An airship trust is being organized here. Cortlandt Field Bishop, present of the Aero Club of America, an one of the largest stockholders in the Chemical National Bank, announce that a syndicate of prominent member of the Aero Club has purchased the rights of the aeroplanes of A. M. Herring and Glenn H. Curtiss, two of the leading aviators of the country and that hereafter they will collaborate in the production of the heavier-than-air machines. The syndicate which will be incorporated under the laws of New York has purchased the plant of the Aerial Experiment Association at Hammondsport, New York. It Will be known as the Herring-Curtiss Manufacturing Company.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4, McCurdys Silver Dart carrying Mr. J. A Douglas McCurdy as Aviator, over the ice in the Harbor at Baddeck, Nova Scotia, March 8, 1909.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4, McCurdys Silver Dart carrying Mr. J. A Douglas McCurdy as Aviator, over the ice in the Harbor at Baddeck, Nova Scotia, March 8, 1909.

TESTING BATTERIES, 6th March, 1909:— It was decided at Conference to-day that it would be well to have an endurance test for the Voltaic Batteries employed on the Curtiss No.3 engine. We have found that the automobile radiator cools the engine perfectly so that there can be no doubt that we can rely upon her working for half an hour, which is more than enough time for the Silver-Dart to run the 16 miles required to win the Scientific American Trophy, and it was thought wise to test the endurance of the batteries to be sure that they too would last for more than one-half hour’s continuous use…….To be perfectly sure of the result another experiment was made the buzzer being left on for 4 ½ hours. At the conclusion of this experiment it was found that the buzzer was still working vigorously and that the amperage had only fallen from 19 to 12. There is no reason, therefore to fear that the battery would fail us on a half hour test of the Silver-Dart. A.G.B.

EIGHT MILES IN THE SILVER-DART, March 8, 1909:— Experiments with Silver-Dart resumed this morning. McCurdy made four short flights to practice landing on the ice, and then flew 8 miles without stopping, going to Stony Island and back passing through Baddeck Harbor. The following accounts of today’s experiments are by McCurdy and Baldwin. A.G.B.

McCurdy’s Account:— We planned for this morning’s (March 8) program a series of short flights so that practice could be obtained in making the landings. We first attached the eight foot diameter, 22° at tip perfect screw propeller and took the machine out on the ice. The wind was south-west by west having a varying velocity from 3 to 7 miles an hour. The Dart was taken off the Laboratory and headed for Black-Island and upon the signal being given to let go she moved forward very slowly and failed to respond to the lifting effect of her front control. It was quite evident after a moments running that she wouldn’t rise and so to give the engine a good run I took a wide circle in the direction of the Baddeck shore and brought the machine back to the starting point. On the supposition that this propeller was too heavy a load we removed it and attached instead the same propeller used in flights of Feb.23 & 24. The tachometer showed after a little tuning of the engine about 1000 rpm. We one more headed the machine in the direction of Black Island and this time made a little jump of about 200 ft. at an elevation of 6 ft. and effected a landing 29 2 without any jar to the machine. She was now headed round directly with the wind and this time a flight of about ½ mile was made and a good landing negotiated. We reasoned that perhaps a little more oil in the crank-case would be a benefit to the engine and so injected six squirt-gun fulls. In the mile flight which followed I hugged the Baddeck shore until off the Log Cabin, then took a wide circle to the left. On approaching the Beinn Bhreagh shore the engine gradually slowed up dropping me gently to the ice. After landing was made in front of the Lodge Wharf we discovered that the gasoline cock had become partially closed from vibration. This was tightened up and the machine wheeled down the Bay till about off Fraser’s Pond. Here as before she was turned round and a flight started up the Bay. I flew close along the Baddeck shore passing Baddeck inside of Kidston’s Island; took a long turn to port around Stony Island coming back over the same route and landing in front of the Dart’s shed covering a distance of about 8 + miles in 11 minutes and 15 seconds as recorded by Mr. Cox. J.A.D.  McC.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4, McCurdy's Silver-Dart carrying Mr. J. A Douglas McCurdy as Aviator,over the ice on Baddeck Bay near Baddeck, Nova Scotia, March 8, 1909. This photograph shows Mr. McCurdy passing the old McCurdy Homestead where he lived as a boy.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4, McCurdy’s Silver-Dart carrying Mr. J. A Douglas McCurdy as Aviator,over the ice on Baddeck Bay near Baddeck, Nova Scotia, March 8, 1909. This photograph shows Mr. McCurdy passing the old McCurdy Homestead where he lived as a boy.


Baldwin’s Account:— Got away to a comparatively early start about 8 o’clock this morning (March 8). Weather and ice perfect. Engine when cold ran badly but warmed up and did better. However it would not drive the 8 ft. propeller with 3:4 gearing more than about 800 rpm. Shifted to old propeller 7‘ 6“ diameter same gearing. This worked much better engine speeded up to about 900. After some tuning got engine speed up to 1000 rpm. With the 8ft. propeller Dart would 30 3 not fly but with smaller one was able to sustain herself. John made a number of short flights practicing landing. Then made long flight of about ¾ of mile. Then decided to try longer flight with turn. John started by Mr. Carruth’s and flew beautifully along Baddeck shore went on through Baddeck Harbor and rounded Stony Island. Came back very steadily landed easily. Time 11 minutes, 15 seconds. Distance about 8 miles. Engine cooled perfectly but judging from propeller speed did not seem to be developing more than 20 H.P. F.W.B.

McCurdy to Post, Baddeck, N.S., March 8, 1909:— Silver-Dart flew eight miles in eleven minutes and fifteen seconds this morning. Made four other flights. (Signed) J.A.D. McCurdy.

Bell to Mrs. Bell, Baddeck, N.S., 8th March, 1909:— Douglas flew eight miles today in eleven minutes and fifteen seconds. He dromed to Stony Island and back, passing over Baddeck Harbor both ways. (Signed) Alec.

Press Despatch: Sent to Chas. S. Thompson, Associated Press, New York, Fred Cooke Correspondent of London Times Ottawa, Ont., W.R. McCurdy Halifax Herald, Halifax Chronicle, Milton Browne, Sydney Post. Baddeck, N.S., March 8, 1909:— The Aerial Experiment Association resumed experiments here this morning with Drome No. 4 McCurdy’s Silver-Dart. Mr. Douglas McCurdy made five flights with the special object of practicing landing on the ice. After four short flights he attempted a longer excursion, and flew a distance of eight miles in eleven minutes and fifteen seconds. Starting from Dr. Graham Bell’s Laboratory he dromed to Stony Island and back passing over Baddeck harbor both going and coming. The flight was witnessed by practically all of 36 the people of Baddeck, who were brought to their windows by the buzzing of the engine. (Signed) Graham Bell.

Aerial Experiment Association McCurdy's Silver Dart making his 8 mile flight in the Silver-Dart March 8, 1909.

Aerial Experiment Association McCurdy’s Silver Dart making his 8 mile flight in the Silver-Dart March 8, 1909.


SILVER-DART EXPERIMENTS CONTINUED, 9th March, 1909:— The Silver-Dart was taken out on the ice this afternoon there having been too much wind in the forenoon for experiments. The afternoon wind was from the NW about 10 miles per hour and dying down but puffy. It was decided to be inadvisable to attempt a long flight on this account and because the engine was skipping and evidently not giving its full power.

Going against the wind a flight of about one-half mile was made at an elevation of about three feet. (McCurdy aviator). Traveling with the wind the machine did not rise. The machine appeared to be “logey” and the engine was not working satisfactorily. While the machine was held stationary upon the ice during an engine test I noticed that two of the struts in the front of the machine on either side of where McCurdy was sitting were thrown into sympathetic vibration by the shaking of the engine. It might be a matter of precaution to dampen their vibrations by guy wires in the middle or tune them by loading so as not to respond to transmitted vibrations, from the engine. A.G.B.

TWO LONG FLIGHTS, 10th March, 1909:— Mr. McCurdy and Mr. Baldwin report two long flights of the Silver-Dart this morning. Each exceeding eight miles, probably at least nine miles. Yesterday (March 9) two spruce bushes were imbedded in the ice at a measured distance of four miles from one another. One of these is in the middle of Baddeck Bay. The other is in St. Patrick’s Channel about a mile beyond Stony Island. Starting in Baddeck Bay McCurdy flew to-day in the Silver-Dart past Baddeck into St. Patrick’s Channel and started a turn after passing the spruce bush there. Making a wide turn he returned through Baddeck Harbor back to his starting point in Baddeck Bay. He had intended to make this course twice without stopping as it would constitute a flight equivalent to that required to win the Scientific American Trophy (25 kilometers, about 16 miles). The engine, however, did not seem to be working satisfactorily and he touched the ice two or three times in returning. After tuning up the engine another flight around the course was made without touching. The following are the reports submitted by McCurdy and Baldwin:—

McCurdy’s Account:— Experiments resumed with Silver-Dart this morning. Beautiful day; wind recorded by anemometer 2 ½ miles per hour, about SW by W. Course chosen was along the Baddeck shore through Baddeck Harbor past Stony Island and around a bush placed on the ice about a mile above Stony Island, the direct distance from this bush to the starting bush off Matheson’s forge being four miles. In coming back the power gave out and the machine touched the ice just off Bert Hart’s. I realized that the engine was heating so slowed her down under retarded spark till I reached the Western end of Kidston’s Island. Here I advanced the spark and the machine rose and flew through Baddeck harbor and down to Sam Campbell’s. Here she fell again, and from there home it was a series of jumps. Time 20 minutes. It was discovered that the stop-cock in the water-pipe had jarred round so that most of the water had escaped. This defect was remedied and the radiator filled again. The time the same course was covered in full flight. Time 13 minutes. The full distance including the turn and start was about 9–9 ½ miles. “Remember Chicago” put an end to the experiments. J.A.D. McC.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4 McCurdy's Silver Dart at circling Baddeck Bay, March 8, 1909.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4 McCurdy’s Silver Dart at circling Baddeck Bay, March 8, 1909.


Baldwin’s Account:— During first long flight McCurdy was away 20 minutes. Came back along the ice. Time for last ½ mile over ice 30 seconds. Second long flight lasted 13 minutes. Wind before flight on three readings 5-7-6 miles per hour. Time for last ½ mile 47 seconds (45 Bedwin’s watch. Wind at time 2.5 miles per hour quartering. This gives speed of 38.3 miles per hour, neglecting wind which seems to be slow, however method of getting time may have given rise to a certain amount of error. Even allowing for last time in first flight while machine was on ice there seems to be a wide variation in speed. Engine uncertain throughout. F.W.B.

Mr. Baldwin’s Account:— After making several unsuccessful attempts to fly Silver-Dart we took advantage of the opportunity offered by shifting motor into No.5 to put the brake on her. The engine was running very badly, leaky valves and cylinders probably being partly responsible. There was almost 35 2 continual back-firing through the intake pipe and a satisfactory mixture for all cylinders could not be obtained. However several readings were obtained during all of which the cylinders were firing……….These readings of course do not give any idea of what power the motor is capable of producing, but indicate that the power we are getting from it is absurdly low. F.W.B.

The Flights of the Silver-Dart, March 11, 1909:— On March 8 and again on March 10 McCurdy made flights in the Silver-Dart of more than 8 miles each. This demonstrates that the Aerial Experiment Association has pushed its investigations relating to the Hammondsport type of machine beyond the experimental stage. I do not however feel full confidence in the engine and I think that under the best circumstances we are not obtaining her full power. On March 9 we could not raise the Silver-Dart into the air when going in the same direction with the wind; and even when going against the wind she flew in a very “logey” manner. It is obvious that we have no surplus power and a very little wind robs the Silver-Dart of its support. The engine is nominally 50 H.P., but I don’t think under the best circumstances we get half that amount. Brake tests have been ordered before any other experiments are made to let us see exactly what power we are getting. I have so little confidence in the engine that I feel our only chance of winning the Scientific American Trophy lies in the weather, unless at least Mr. Curtiss should be able to be present. He has only to look at the engine to get it to run well! Without his presence the result will be very problematical. A.G.B.

AVIATION. EXPERIMENTS BY CANADIANS. (Extract from Hanzard, March 11, 1909). Canadian Parliament: Mr. Sam. Hughes (Victoria and Haliburton). I notice from the newspapers that very successful experiments have been made by certain Canadians in aerial navigation and especially at Baddeck, in N.S., in the case of the invention of Mr. Alexander Bell, the eminent Canadian. I wish to know whether the government has taken any steps to recognize the advance of this science in Canada, and if not, is it their intention to take measures to encourage the science as in the case of the Marconi wireless telegraph system, Hon. W.S. Fielding (Minister of Finance). We have the highest appreciation of the work that has been accomplished by Mr. Douglas McCurdy and also Mr. Baldwin of Toronto, who is associated with him in the work with Dr. Graham Bell. We have not, shall I say fortunately or unfortunately, any branch of our public service in which we could conveniently utilize the discoveries of these scientific gentlemen. Nevertheless we felt that we should take some notice of their achievements and for the present we have taken steps to draw the attention of the imperial government to them in the hope that the officials of the War Office and the Admiralty, who are now directing their attention to aerial navigation, may be able to avail of the services of these young Canadians and thus retain them for the benefit of the empire. Mr. Hughes. Hear, hear.

THE OUTLOOK ON AVIATION: By E.G. Stairs. The Outlook on Aviation in Canada is indeed bright! History has been made in the last week, for Canada, as a nation; has in a more or less official manner taken note of the Science and art of aviation within the Dominion. Col. Sam Hughes, M.P., Canada’s keenest military critic and himself closely in touch with the Minister of Militia and military council, asked the Laurier administration on Thursday March 11, questions which were answered by Hon. W.S. Fielding Minister of Finance. The questions and answers are published elsewhere in this issue of the Bulletin. We note an article on “Aviation in Canada” — “A National Organization proposed, and discussion invited” written for Motoring, of Toronto, by Dr. Mark G. McPhinney of Toronto for March (09) issue. It contains an interesting proposal concerning National Organization and concludes — “A fuller public discussion might lead to an ultimate solution”. The present writer of this brief note will, if permitted present his views on the matter raised by Dr. McPhinney in the next issue of the Bulletin. Possibly as one knowing the men of Canada from Coast to Coast and somewhat and somewhat closely in touch with general public opinion I may be so permitted. (Signed) Edw. Geoff. Stairs, “The Outlooker”.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4 McCurdy's Silver Dart at Baddeck Bay, March, 10, 1909.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4 McCurdy’s Silver Dart at Baddeck Bay, March, 10, 1909.


Prof. A.G. Bell, 12th March, 1909:— Great consternation prevailed here yesterday (March 11) over the results of our brake tests which indicated that we were only getting 8 horse-power from our 50 horse-power engine. Our hopes of capturing the Trophy for the second time seemed to be suddenly dashed to the ground. To add to our mortification we expect delegates from the Aero Club to arrive here very soon to witness the flight and we have no other engine available for the Silver-Dart. Mr. Curtiss too notified us he will probably be unable to be present to help us with his expert advise. Under these circumstances we all of us felt very blue last night; and we kept the telegraph wires hot with appeals to Curtiss for suggestions, and with telegrams to the principal makers of Automobile engines in Canada and the United States to find out whether reliable commercial motors could be obtained at once that would be suitable for our use. At present we are entirely dependent upon an engine which has several times given trouble, even in the hands of Mr. Curtiss himself, while, in our hands, it occasionally balks and loses its power. We look back upon last night, Thursday March 11, as upon a nightmare, “Black Thursday” we may all call it, the darkest day in the history of the Association. It is always darkest however just before dawn, and this morning (March 12) the cause of the trouble with the engine was discovered. In the forenoon seven of the eight cylinders were working well yielding about 26 B.H.P.; and this afternoon 12 the eighth cylinder began to behave and the engine gave us 31 B.H.P. We now have much more confidence in the engine; but feel that it might be wise to secure a good reliable automobile engine to be used as a substitute in the event of another break down of power. A.G.B.

New York press despatch 14th March:—Representative of Aero Club to View Flights:—A representative of the Aero Club, of America, started today for Baddeck, N.S., to view the flight of the aeroplane Silver Dart, net week for the Science America Cup. The new rules for the contest were adopted. The first trail for the up was made 4th July last, when Glenn H. Curtiss, with the June Bug, won the trophy, making a flight of 5, 090 feet, which at the time, was regarded as a notable performance. The Minimum distance allowed by the rules then was one kilometer. The rules are more severe now. The minimum distance is twenty-five kilometers, a trifle less than sixteen miles, but the Silver Dart this should be easy, as the machine flew last week a distance of twenty miles. The old conditions have been altered so as to permit any aviator to try for the trophy at any time, provided he gives satisfactory notice, but each new challenger must exceed the distance flown by his successful predecessor. If the same competitors wins the cup three years he will become permanent owner of the cup.”

EXPERIMENTS WITH SILVER-DART, March 15, 1909:— After the experiments with the Cygnet II this morning the engine was transferred to the Silver-Dart, and her own propeller (7 ½ feet diameter I think) was attached. This afternoon the Silver-Dart was taken out on the ice and tried. The engine was skipping a good deal as in the morning experiments, and the Silver-Dart failed to rise. Several unsuccessful trials were made suggesting to my mind the possibility that the failure of the Cygnet II to rise might also have been due to the engine as much as to the head resistance of the structure itself. The engine was then given a thorough overhauling, and I left for the Point as I had been up all night and needed sleep. The wind began to rise; and by the time all was ready for another test there was a breeze of from 10 to 14 miles per hour. Undeterred by this McCurdy attempted a flight and the machine rose from the ice. He dromed the greater part of the way to Baddeck the machine pitching on the invisible billows of the air like a boat on the surface of the sea, giving him great experience in the handling of his controls. As I did not see this flight myself, I give below the accounts of McCurdy and Baldwin:— A.G.B.

Aerial Experiment Association AEA's Drome No. 4 McCurdy's Silver Dart, circling Baddeck Bay, March, 10, 1909.

Aerial Experiment Association AEA’s Drome No. 4 McCurdy’s Silver Dart, circling Baddeck Bay, March, 10, 1909.


McCurdy’s Account:— About 2 o’clock (March 15) the Dart was taken out but difficulties with the motor prevented our trying a flight till about an hour had elapsed. By this time the wind had come up and the anemometer showed a velocity of 8–14 miles per hour. It was very puffy but it was thought that the experience in flying in such weather would be of good advantage, so finally after a few failures to rise, the engine was tuned so as to turn over1000 rpm. This time the machine flew well and after arriving at Baddeck, I slowed down the engine landing on the ice and effected the turn. Advancing the spark resulted in the machine taking the air and away we flew, down the Bay with the wind till just off Carruth’s when we stopped the engine. By this time the puffs were stronger and after a short flight of about ¼ of a mile against the wind the machine was safely landed 15 7 and wheeled back to her shed. It was thought advisable not to try again. I may say that the controls all showed their ability to maintain the machine on an even keel, and the flight down from Town with the wind was the most exciting one I ever negotiated:— J.A.D. McC.

Baldwin‘s Account:— After lunch took out Dart and after an hour’s engine trouble John made short flight ½ mile or so. Radiator boiled from previous running. Wind was blowing very puffily at average of 10.5 miles per hour. Took several observations, 7 second ones. 8, 8.5, 10 and 13.5 miles per hour being some of the readings. The aerodrome was very uneasy in wind making quick little dives and recoveries which made her look like small boat bobbing up and down in choppy sea. Wind got worse. Experiments given up for day:— F.W.B.

Prof. A.G. Bell., 17 March, 1909:— Douglas McCurdy started out this morning with the intention of making a sixteen mile flight to show that he could do the distance required as a minimum to win the Scientific American Trophy. The morning seemed to be ideal but the engine was not. He never had a more aggravating day. He put in several good flights but every time, after flying a few miles, the engine lost power and we have come to the conclusion that it is rather a fortunate thing that we had decided not to try for the Trophy under the new conditions imposed by the Aero Club. While we believe that the machine itself is capable of flying an indefinite distance for an indefinite time or so long as the engine and fuel will hold out it is very problematical what the result would be with the present engine we have. If Curtiss could only be here I have no doubt that he could easily arrange the engine so that it should run for the required time to make the required distance but in our hands, unassisted by Curtiss, it is a mere toss-up whether we could get the engine to do it. I was not present on the ice to-day to witness the experiments but I watched the machine from the Point through a pair of field glasses, rounding the four mile mark about a mile beyond Stony Island in St. Patrick’s Channel and kept her in sight until she disappeared behind Kidston’s Island. On this occasion she did not reappear at the other end of the island and I could no longer hear the whirl of the propeller from which it became obvious to my mind that something had happened. I then saw through my glasses spectators coming down on to the ice and proceeding in the direction of Baddeck evidently going towards the machine. I imagined a crowd collecting and examined the actions of the people on the ice to see whether I could obtain any indications of excitement to show whether an accident had occurred. All the people seemed to be walking leisurely along without any trace of excitement so I presumed that there had been no accident but that the power had given out and that McCurdy had landed in Baddeck Harbor. To make sure I telephoned to McKay’s to find out what had happened and they simply reported that McCurdy had made a fine landing near one of the wharves. They evidently did not know that he was obliged to land. Later he proceeded down Baddeck Bay on the ice but I did not see him. I hear afterwards that he had been in the Doctor’s hands and that the Doctor had taken him to his office as he had been quite overcome by the cold. McCurdy himself was quite reticent as to what had happened and I could find out nothing from the Laboratory staff excepting that when McCurdy returned to a point near the Laboratory he got out of the machine and went at once to Dr. McDonald’s sleigh, got in and immediately dropped asleep. This McCurdy indignantly denied, but I could not get any information out of him as to what had really happened and so I asked Mr. Stairs to give me an account. A.G.B.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4, McCurdy's Silver-Dart start Mar., 12, 1909. Shows the start of a flight, two men on either side in front hold the machine stationary while an other man starts the engine by turning the propeller behind. Bedwin and this man then take their places on either hand behind the whirling propeller. Bedwin is on the left (starboard side of the aerodrome). All await a signal from Bedwin to let go. Bedwin raises his hand: The men in front let go and duck down allowing the machine to pass over them. The photographer also caught the signal and exposed his plate with the result here shown.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4, McCurdy’s Silver-Dart start Mar., 12, 1909. Shows the start of a flight, two men on either side in front hold the machine stationary while an other man starts the engine by turning the propeller behind. Bedwin and this man then take their places on either hand behind the whirling propeller. Bedwin is on the left (starboard side of the aerodrome). All await a signal from Bedwin to let go. Bedwin raises his hand: The men in front let go and duck down allowing the machine to pass over them. The photographer also caught the signal and exposed his plate with the result here shown.


McCurdy’s Account:— This morning ( March 17 ) we anticipated that a flight of 16 miles (measured) would be made with the Dart. A beautiful day with no wind to speak of. T Started at usual place and flew well till off Baddeck when the power died dropping the machine to the ice. I however kept on and after a few seconds run on the ice she picked up and brought me to the end of the four mile course. Here she landed again while the turn was negotiated. Soon however she flew again and brought me to Baddeck, and from there home it was a series of jumps. Examination showed that one carbureter had become frozen and it was replaced by another one. This time practically the same thing happened, but the engine stopped entirely stranding me at Baddeck on the return flight. It was found that the buzz was weak and upon testing the batteries only 9 amperes were registered. We intend trying a new set of batteries this afternoon and have them packed in cotton waste to keep off the intense cold. This afternoon (March 17) with the new set of batteries packed in cotton waste we felt almost sure that the long flight so much desired would be accomplished. The engine worked well in the shed but upon attempting a start on the ice the usual unsatisfactory working of the engine took place. After about an hour had been lost in tuning the engine she was released, but quite a strong puffy wind from the NW had sprung up which made the management of the Dart rather difficult. Just off the old church the engine stopped. I looked things over but could find no cause for this, and so, with Mr. Benner’s single help, got the machine started again. However, when off Dr. McDonald’s, one side of engine refused to run and so Dart landed. By this time the crew on the power ice-boat arrived on the scene, and we decided that the carbureters had better be looked over carefully in case some dirt had become lodged in the valves. This was done and some dirt removed. After a little tuning the machine was for the third time started and flew up the shore for about two miles, when after making the turn, overheating brought the machine to the ice again. Help soon came and after waiting sufficient time for cooling to take place the home stretch was negotiated in a very rotten way touching the ice at close intervals. It was decided to suspend experiments for the afternoon and wait for the engine to get well. J.A.D. McC.

Baldwin‘s Account:— John made two flights this morning (March 17). Engine started off well in each case but faded away before John could cover Stony Island course. The second of these attempts looked very promising. The start was the best I have seen. However John could not keep up and stopped off Baddeck on return. Batteries were 23 5 weak. John tried several times this afternoon (March 17) to make a long flight. After finding batteries weak this morning, it was thought that a new set would keep engine working O.K. However, on each occasion engine faded after short flights had been accomplished, and experiments were given up about 4.30 P.M. The wind was decidedly strong and puffy during one of these flights, and the Silver-Dart did a good deal of jumping about. F.W.B.

Bell to Associated Press, March 18:— Mr. F.W. Baldwin, Chied Engineer of the A.E.A. made this evening at dusk a flight in Drome No.4, McCurdy’s Silver-Dart. This is the first time the Drome has been tried by anyone except Mr. McCurdy. (Signed) Graham Bell.

Aviation Roots Hatching Them Out Evert Day New York Herald, Sunday March 14, 1909.

Aviation Roots Hatching Them Out Evert Day New York Herald, Sunday March 14, 1909.


Baldwin‘s Account 18 March, 1909:— Took Dart out and ran her around in a snow storm. Didn’t steer straight and nearly took the steering wheel off on a skid. Machine would not lift on  elevating the front control. Later in the afternoon after Conference John and I took the Dart out by ourselves and tried a short jump. The engine worked well and she went into the air with no difficulty. The starboard wheel lifted first. When in the air the machine turned to starboard for some reason, and fearing that skidding action was getting worse and not wanting to break the wheels I shut off power. F.W.B.

McCurdy’s Account:— This afternoon we took the Dart out on ice with the intention of having Casey make a flight. He took his seat and the engine started. He sped away, but as his plan was to get just the feel of the machine and controls, he did not allow her to rise, but described a long circle to starboard coming back almost to his starting point. Later on in the day about 5.40 P.M., after the Laboratory was closed we again took her out and started the engine. It worked well and Casey started off. She rose nicely but a turn to starboard evidently decided him to shut off which he did, 8 landing after traveling a distance of about 35 yards. The distance was easily paced off on the ice as a slight fall of snow showed exactly where the wheels left the ice and where they landed. It was very pretty to me as it was the first time I had seen the machine under way. J.A.D. McC.

A.G.B., 20 March, 1909:— This morning Baldwin had another try at the Silver-Dart. The following are the accounts given by McCurdy and Baldwin. A.G.B.

McCurdy’s Account:— This morning Casey took out the Dart and tried for a flight. The ice was covered with about 4 inches of snow saturated more or less with moisture. The engine worked well but sufficient speed to cause the machine to take the air could not be attained. Just to see whether thirty pounds in weight would make the necessary difference in speed (Casey is thirty pounds heavier) I tried a run but with the same results. We then had a track ploughed on the ice about half a mile long and Casey tried again. This time he succeeded in getting into the air, and a short flight resulted. A minor repair was here necessary and so experiments were postponed till afternoon. J.A.D. McC.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No.4, McCurdy's Silver-Dart in the air over Baddeck Bay Mar., 16 1909.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No.4, McCurdy’s Silver-Dart in the air over Baddeck Bay Mar., 16 1909.


Baldwin‘s Account:— John and I tried the Dart this morning with about six inches of snow covering the ice. I could not get the machine into the air. We then had a track cleared and I tried a short flight. It did not seem to me at first that she would carry me so after trying to raise the control slowly and failing to get up I gave her a quick shoot. This put her into the air all right; but after a short distance she 9 came down again to one side of the track so I did not get up again. The beam which holds the front wheel was weakened, although landing was quite easy, so we decided to have a small iron reinforcement put over it before trying later. F.W.B.

Despatch: Alexander G. Chambell’s laboratory at Baddeck, N.S., on 21st March:— “There’s now open water on the Bras d’Or lakes, expecting in shelter bays, and it is expected that navigation will be resumed tomorrow. The Aerial Experiment Association, fearing that the good ice in the bay will not last longer, have decided to discontinue flights with the aerodromes Silver Dart and Cygent Second…………Drones four and five will be tried again if the ice on Baddeck Bay continues to be good.” The AEA resumed experiments the next day, using Dr. Bell’s drone No. 5 Cygnet II with McCurdy at the controls, against strong winds, the engine was unable too produce the power required for lift-off. They transferred the engine, in McCurdy’s drone No. 4 Silver Dart, and on their first attempt failed to rise, prompting an overhauling and speeding of the engine, which proved successful. With winds blowing at 8 to 14 miles an hour, against the wind he was able to control the aerodrome for 3 miles. He made several attempts that day fighting the wind with an unsatisfactory engine; McCurdy was successful in covering the eight miles straight course.

Press (Special) despatch 22nd Mar.:—Two More Successful Flights Made at Baddeck—J.A.D. McCurdy of the Aerial Experimental Association, in drome No. 4, McCurdy’s Silver Dart, made two successful flight on the ice in Baddeck Bay this morning. McCurdy dromed through the air at different elevations from six to thirty-five feet high demonstrating his perfect control of the machine. Mr. F.W. Baldwin, of Toronto, chief engineer of the Aerial Experimental Association, also made a flight in McCurdy’s Silver Dart today, but, as the wind was puffy at the time, he shut off power and glided to the ice, the machine gliding a great extent.

A.G.B., March 22, 1909:— As it will take some days to make repairs on the Gauldrie’s engine, the proposed experiments with the ice-boat must be postponed. Mr. McCurdy and Mr. Baldwin took advantage of this delay by making some practice flights in the Silver-Dart. In one of these flights McCurdy circled Baddeck Bay three times without coming down droming for at least six miles in the air. I give below accounts of these experiments by Baldwin and McCurdy. A.G.B.

Baldwin’s Account:— John made two flights this morning round the Bay in the Silver-Dart. On the second flight he made three rounds of the Bay starting at Laboratory and circling around from the old church to about the warehouse and back to Laboratory. In this flight he was in the air for about eight minutes. Shifted yoke back and I took a small jump in the Silver-Dart a little over 100 yards. A side gust caught the machine and she slewed around breaking back wheels and a chord in landing. F.W.B.

McCurdy’s Account:— Silver-Dart made this morning several flights. First tried to circle in the Bay starting at the Laboratory over to the Crescent Grove Shore and round to the warehouse etc. etc. The first trial was unsatisfactory as the machine touched the ice several times. We stopped the engine and put more 10 oil in the crank case and tried again. This time we succeeded in making three complete turns. Time in the air being eight minutes. The wind was blowing in puffs from the SE. and SW. Casey had the tip lever shifted back about two inches and made a flight. A puff of wind however, struck him from off the port bow and tipped him up so that the starboard wing struck the ice and consequently the machine turned rapidly to starboard and the wheels gently removed from under the Dart. Repairs, however, can be made in about an hour or more. J.A.D. McC.

March 23, 1909:— Experiments were continued with the Silver-Dart on the ice in Baddeck Bay to-day. I give below the accounts of Mr. Baldwin and Mr. McCurdy:— C.R.C.

McCurdy’s Account:—The morning being exceptionally fine for flying the Dart was taken out on the ice about 9.30 A.M. Mr. Manchester had ploughed a track through the 4 inches of heavy snow which extended in the direction of Baddeck for about 1/2 of a mile. It is worthy of note that the engine has for the last two or three days worked beautifully, no tuning being necessary at all. It was agreed that I should try her first with the idea in view of circling the Bay as many times as possible. At the conclusion of experiments yesterday afternoon a watch had been attached to the center of the steering wheel so that the aviator could observe the time of flight for himself. The Silver-Dart started off well and responded at once to the action of the front control. The yoke had been previously shifted back 2 inches to accommodate Baldwin’s weight and I soon found that the center of gravity, with my weight, was too far back. I therefore landed after making one complete circle and had the yoke shifted forward to its old position. This time the machine seemed to be better balanced but the power of the engine didn’t hold out owing to over heating and so again after completing a circle during which I touched the ice twice, the power was shut off and investigation showed that the water in the jackets was very hot. To prepare for the third experiment we put a quart of light oil directly into the crank case and waited about twenty minutes till the water was cool. The circulating system, pump, etc. were carefully looked over and tested to be sure that good circulation was ensured. During the 3rd flight, the Dart covered the circle touching the ice but once. Investigation again showed the water was hot. The reason for this was not apparent. The weather still continued good and so Baldwin was elected to make a try. Everything in connection with the engine and machine proper was carefully looked over, and at the signal Baldwin started. He only made a little jump of about 100–200 feet finally landing at the end of the ploughed track. Here the machine was turned round and off she started again going due East. The machine rose well to a height of about 6 feet and flew for about 6–700 feet when suddenly she rose to an altitude of about 12 feet and there dove striking the ice with the front wheel. Casey immediately stopped the engine and we all hurried to the scene. It proved 12 to be one of those accidents which seem to be a lot worse than they really are. The machine proper was not injured at all. The bow control and trussing gave way and a wheel was slightly bent. Repairs will be easily effected in a day or so. J.A.D. McC.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4 McCuryd's Silver Dart With two men seated March 17, 1909.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4 McCuryd’s Silver Dart With two men seated March 17, 1909.

Postponment of Further Flights with Silver-Dart and Cygnet II, March 21, 1909:— There is now open water on the Bras d’Or Lake excepting in sheltered Bays and an attempt is to be made to-morrow to cut out the Steamer Blue Hill from Baddeck Harbor so as to open navigation again. As we fear that the good ice in Baddeck Bay may not last much longer we have decided to discontinue experiments with the Silver-Dart and Cygnet II for the present in order to secure some data concerning the thrust of an advancing propeller by experimenting with the power driven ice-boat. Upon the conclusion of these experiments the Silver-Dart and Cygnet II will be tried again if the ice still holds good on Baddeck Bay. A.G.B.


March 21, Bell to Thompson (Associated Press):— There is now open water on the Brasd’Or Lake excepting in sheltered Bays and it is expected that navigation will be resumed to-morrow. The Aerial Experiment Association, fearing that the good ice in Baddeck Bay may not last much longer, has decided to discontinue flights with the aerodromes Silver-Dart and Cygnet II for the present in order to secure some scientific data concerning the thrust of an advancing propeller, for experiments here indicate that the thrust of a rotating propeller when an aerodrome is flying in the air, is materially different from what it is when machine is at rest. The Association has fitted up an engine and aerial propeller upon an ice-boat which makes a speed of about forty miles an hour under its own power. The power-driven iceboat carries scientific apparatus for measuring the thrust of a propeller while advancing over the ice at various speeds. Upon the conclusion of the tests dromes 4 & 5 McCurdy’s Silver-Dart, and Bell’s Cygnet II will be tried again if the ice conditions on Baddeck Bay still continue good. (Signed) Graham Bell.

  • NB. The above telegram was also sent to Fred Cook, London Times Correspondent at Ottawa; to W.R. McCurdy, Halifax Herald; to Halifax Chronicle To Milton Brown, Sydney Post, and to the Sydney Record.

March 22, Cox to Thompson (Associated Press):— J.A.D. McCurdy, Secretary of the Aerial Experiment Association in drome No.4, McCurdy’s Silver-Dart, made two successful flights on the ice in Baddeck Bay this morning. McCurdy’s last flight brought much praise to the young aviator, as he circled the Bay three times in succession, covering a distance of about six miles in eight minutes. Mr. McCurdy in this flight dromed through the air at different elevations from six to thirty feet high, demonstrating his perfect control of the machine at all times. Mr. F.W. Baldwin, Chief Engineer of the Association also made a flight in McCurdy’s Silver-Dart to-day, but as the wind was puffy at the time Mr. Baldwin shut off power and glided to the ice, the machine skidding to a great extent. A clock has been placed on the wheel of the Silver-Dart in order that the aviator might keep his own time. (Signed) Charles R. Cox.

Cox to Chas. S. Thompson (Associated Press), March 23:—Mr. J.A.D. McCurdy in Drome No.4, McCurdy’s Silver-Dart made three flights from the ice in Baddeck Bay to-day. McCurdy in the last flight circled the Bay three times. A track had to be cleared on the ice to allow the machine to start as about 4 inches of snow had fallen during the night. Mr. F.W. Baldwin, Chief Engineer of the Aerial Experiment Association also made a beautiful flight in the Silver-Dart to-day. (Signed) Charles R. Cox.

  • (The above was also sent to Fred Cooke (London Times Correspondent, Ottawa; Halifax Herald, Halifax Chronicle, and Sydney Record).

McCurdy to Bell, March 25:— Silver-Dart tried out to-day. Substituted short ice runners for the hind wheels, but the wheels proved to be far superior. The ice was covered with about three inches of water which however did not interfere with the operation of the machine. Good luck to you in your address. (Signed) Douglas McCurdy.

Press Despatch Halifax, N.S. 25th March:—Aerodrome Looked Like a Huge Water Fowl—Despatch from Baddeck: “The ice on the Bras d’Or Lakes was covered with about 3 inches of water when the drone Silver Dart from Graham Bell’s laboratory, was taken out for trial today. Several changes were made on the machine, runners being substituted for wheels. A shower of water was thrown over the aviator and machine as the Silver Dart sped over the ice, giving it the appearance of a huge water fowl getting under way.”

Aerial Experiment Association No. 4 Drome McCurdy’s Silver Dart, rear view of power plant and operator March 17, 1909.

Aerial Experiment Association No. 4 Drome McCurdy’s Silver Dart, rear view of power plant and operator March 17, 1909.


EXPERIMENTS WITH THE SILVER-DART, MARCH 26, McCurdy’s Account:— Repair work on the Silver-Dart was rushed right along as fast as possible and so by this afternoon at 5 o’clock she was again taken out on the ice for a trial. As we had run short of wheels it seemed as although a good opportunity had offered itself to test the efficiency of ice runners or skids as compared to wheels such as we have been using. Two runners were made about 3 ½ feet long and by sutiable tubing braces were attached to the truck in the same manner as when the wheels are used. The steering gear was left unchanged, and a wheel as usual was in its place at the front end of the truck making the third point of suspension. As our new control was not finished we substituted the red cloth control of the Cygnet II so that no time would be lost in making a trial. The ice was covered over with about 3 inches of water which, with the addition of a little snow, made fast travel impossible. We, however, ran the Dart round the ice without making any attempt to fly her. The runners seemed to be sluggish, not allowing the machine to “get away” fast as in the case when wheels are used all through. While repairs were going on with the Dart the eight cylinder engine was thoroughly overhauled inside and out and all of the nuts and bolts carefully looked over. We have ordered a new supply of wheels from the Curtiss factory and when they arrive we do hope that the long flight which we all so much desire may be pulled off. J.A.D. McC.

Baldwin‘s Account:— The Silver-Dart was in commission again to-day with runners in place of the back wheels. The runners were about 3 ft. 6 inches. They were made of wood with half round iron for a shoe and were so arranged that they fitted in taking the place of the back wheels without necessitating any change in the running gear. The front wheel was left as before and the front control of the Cygnet II a used as the new one was not ready. The ice was covered with three or four inches of slush and water which made the going very bad. After turning the engine over inside the harbor the machine was pushed over the neck of land and headed out on to the Bay. It was evident from the difficulty we had in pulling the aerodrome along that it would be hard for her to pick up good speed when under power. However it looked like a good opportunity to see how runners worked over very bad ice. When the engine was started the ice was so sticky that the Silver-Dart instead of having to be held back had to be given a little push to get started. She picked up headway very slowly but after going about 200 yards seemed to be making pretty good time. The front wheel and runners threw a great deal of spray all over the machine and John got thoroughly soaked before he had gone very far. Two short runs were made and the machine was taken back into the shed. The experiment indicated that under the circumstances wheels would have offered much less resistance. A mud guard on the front wheel might make it much pleasanter for the 16 aviator. Although no turns were attempted Mr. McCurdy when interviewed after the experiment expressed himself as being of the opinion — dirigibility offered no insuperable difficulties. F.W.B.

EXPERIMENTS REPORTED BY THE SECRETARY: Experiments with the Silver-Dart, March 27, 1909 (Saturday):— The ice being in better shape than on the previous trial day the Dart, fitted with two runners in place of the back wheels, was taken out on the ice. We were very anxious to see how the runners compared with the wheels from the standpoint of efficiency. Another change was made which I forgot to mention in the account of experiments for last day. This was in reference to the angle of incidence of the surfaces. In repairing the Silver-Dart, after Casey’s accident, advantage was taken of the occasion to change the angle of attack from 6 to 4°. To-day, as the Silver-Dart started, mist was falling quite heavily and in addition to this there was about two inches of water all over the ice. The Dart, however, responded to her front control after having traveled an astonishingly short distance, about 100 feet I should judge. The usual turn to port was easily made and a second one attempted during the same flight; the machine however, touched the ice after almost completing the second circle. The trouble was with the motor again although investigation failed to show anything which would give rise to this reduction of power. A series of three such flights was made at the conclusion of which the machine was taken to the shed. J.A.D. McC.

March 29, 1909, (Monday):— This afternoon, although the ice was in a much worse condition than on Saturday, the Dart was given its usual series of trials. We had with us on this occasion a gentlemen from Halifax of German birth, Mr. Hermann Drechsel, who is much interested in the subject of aviation generally. Three flights resulted. In the last one of which the complete circle was made without mishap. During this flight, which was about 3 ½ miles in length the Silver-Dart rose to a higher altitude than ever before attained with this machine. I should say the maximum height attained was about 50 feet.

J.A.D. McC.






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