A.E.A.’s Prof. Alec Bell’s Drome No. 4 “Silver Dart,” From Apr., Until it Crashed, 2nd Aug 1909, Original Accounts .

Mainstream history popular narrative on the organisation of, Canadian Aerodrome Company ending March 1909, certainly questionable, nor any archived documents, I uncovered establishing a precise date. There are no Photos that I’m aware of for this time period, and will be inserting from March, and Baddeck I while at Petawawa Camp; noted the fights were conducted early morning and in secret. Sadly, McCurdy post AEA dragged his heels, as previously H.Q.d at Hammondsport, when it came too proper record keeping, considered as tedious. This infuriated the Prof., especially when Baldwin went rogue, considering he had properly schooled him on the importance in keeping daily dated, detailed, and photographic records, especially when it came too patent applications. We can deduct by 16th April CAC was not yet organised, “Casey” wrote a personal letter to “Mother,” Mabel Bell, saddened by AEA’s dissolvent, and parting of the ways, no mention of any company formation. If it wasn’t for the “Professor,” records for this time period would be lost; post completion, contacted Mabel B. McCurdy, requesting her assistance and cooperation in keeping proper records. Canadian Aerodrome Company records takes flight in 19th May, moreover conducted a comprehensive search, regrettably earliest date I could find, nor any official records unlike AEA.

The company consisted of McCurdy and Baldwin, bankrolled by Prof. Alec Bell in continuance of the work, owing “Cygnet II would not leave the ground.” He needed their contribution too his flying experiments, expressed by the 11th Dec 1910 press articles on, Bell’s “Unwritten Chapter of Airship History,” by that time admitted: “Well, we all got onto the air except myself. The Doctor seemed to appreciate the joke on himself and laughed heartily as he told how the big kite on runners slid gaily along the ice, but refused to soar. ‘Too much weight for the power,’ he explained.” Carring on with Silver Dart experiments and manufacturing Baddeck I, while persuading the Canadian government and militia in purchasing their aerodromes, were the objectives of CAC. The latter will be covered on a separate paper, considering I literally stumbled on the original letters, telegrams between all parties involved, complied and recorded, obviously by Dr. A.G. Bell.

Historians/Authors, online, articles, etc., accounts on the Silver Darts final moments while at Petawawa Camp as it landed; remnants of the original narrative are scattered all over the makeshift airfield. Accounts claim the Silver Dart landing wheels or wheel; “dug into the soft sand,” these narratives only surfaced in 1955-59, appearing in North American newspaper featured columns, deriving from a recent published book. In 1949 the narrative, “wheels hit a rise in the ground,” while in 46 and 1939, “the wheels hit a knoll or two,” while pre latter date “the wheel initially hit a hillock or two, the latter being smaller in size.” Newspress despatches of the day, 2 Aug 1909: The famous Silver Dart Aerodrome is no more. It lies a huge mass of twisted wood, wires and rubbered silk on cavalry field at the military camp here. “An error of judgement on our part in making a landing,” said Baldwin in giving his reasons for this state of affaires. Four successful flights, each exceeding half a mile in length, were made in the early hours of this morning, a fine easy landing being made every time. A fifth trail was essayed, and while the aerodrome with its two passengers, Messr. McCurdy and Baldwin, were going at a speed of about forty miles an hour a landing was attempted with disastrous results. The front wheel struck one off “ the small hillocks” with which the country abounds, careened the machine on one side, broke the left supporting surface clean off, and buried the aviators in the ruins.

The recorded anecdotes from Baldwin, McCurdy, too onlookers, correspondents and  Bell’s, telegrams, letters, received and sent, you’ll notice the differences in narrative of the incident.

Prof. Alec Bell 7th Aug: — Letters have been received from Mrs. F. W. Baldwin dated August 2 and 3; and also a letter from Mr. Douglas McCurdy (August 2), which enable me to put on record the main facts concerning the four flights of the Silver-Dart at Petewawa August 2…..Just as we were about to land, the front wheel struck a knoll, and bounded up throwing the starboard wing down where she struck another small-sized mountain, a very young one, and it was all over. We landed on the grass, one on top of another, and the machine quite near us. The starboard wing was badly smashed.

Experiment Association Drome No. 4 McCurdy's Silver Dart at Baddeck Bay N. S. March 1909.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4 McCurdy’s Silver Dart at Baddeck Bay N. S. I believe this is Feb., 23, 1909.


Press despatch April 3rd 1909:— Aerial Experiment Association Ends — Its Aeroplane Has Excelled Anything Yet Shown in Public, with the Exception of the Wright Successes.

 Dr. Alexander Graham Bell’s Aerial Experiment Association terminated its existence this week at Baddeck, N.S. This organization, first of its kind to be formed on this side of the water, has been in operation eighteen months………..its greatest success has been attained with aeroplanes, of which four have been built, the last the Silver Dart. With the exception of the Wright machines, the Silver art has flown further than any other aeroplane in the world, its longest flight being twenty miles in about twenty-two minutes, with J.A.D. McCurdy as the aviator, on March 11, over the town of Baddeck and the frozern Bras d’Or Lakes.  Mr. Curtiss, who was in New York this week, was unable to tell just what line of work the other members of the association would devote themselves to, but he intimated that Mr. McCurdy and Mr. Baldwin might, in the near future, build a machine an conduct some experiments on behalf of the Canadian Government. Dr. Bell himself is averse to taking part in aerial work commercially, but he will continue his experiments during the winter at his home in Baddeck with his tetrahedral kite, and when a powerful engine is obtained for the big kite that he has been testing this season, efforts will be resume to get the kite in the air by motor power…..

Dissolution of the A.E.A. April 5, 1909:— The Aerial Experiment Association came to an end by time limitation at midnight on the 31st of March 1909. It was quite a pathetic little group that gathered round the great fireplace in the Hall at Beinn Bhreagh, and watched the clock go round. Only three members were present, Messrs. Bell, McCurdy and Baldwin; with Mrs. Baldwin, Miss Mabel B. McCurdy, and Mr. Charles R. Cox present by invitation.

  • The vote to adjourn sine die was hardly put when the first stroke of midnight was heard, and. . . . . exeunt omnes!

Prof. A.G. Bell To Trustee:—The tools and apparatus at Beinn Bhreagh, including the aerodrome “Silver-Dart”, the aerodrome “Cygnet II” and the hydroplane boat “Query” will belong to me; and the “Silver-Dart” will be placed at the disposal of Messrs. McCurdy and Baldwin for practice purposes. After the payment of the debts of the Association nothing will remain in the hands of the Trustee excepting:—

  • The inventions made by the members of the Association between Oct. 1, 1907, and March 31, 1909.
  • These may, or may not, turn out to be of value. In order to test the matter two applications.


Notes by J.A.D. McCurdy and Frederick W. Baldwin, Wednesday May 19, 1909 At Beinn Bhreagh. THE CANADIAN AERODROME COMPANIE’S NOTES.

May 19, 1909:— The new tubular truss for the front control of the Silver-Dart is well under course of construction and gives promise of being very efficient not only from the strength standpoint but as a head resistance proposition. The laterals alone are formed of the tubing the perpendiculars and horizontals being formed of fish. We are also raising the general lever of the front control so that its center is in direct line with the thrust of the propeller. The carpenters were at work to-day getting out the skids. We weighed up two and although they are cut out of the same shipment of planking we were very much surprised to discover that whereas one weighed 10 lbs. the other weighed 15; the size of these two skids was identical. This was indeed an astonishing discovery and Mr. McNeil thought that the heavier piece would prove to be far the stronger or as he expressed it “The life have entirely gone from the light one”. We supported them at each end and placed a certain definite weight at the center of each skid and measured the deflection under this load. The heavy stick showed a deflection of one inch whereas to the light one a deflection of two inches. We have therefore decided to make up another skid of equal strength with the heavy one. J.A.D. McC.

1909, May 21 Friday at Beinn Bhreagh, May 20, 1909:— Still progressing well on the Dart control. The crates are being made for the transportation of the Silver-Dart to Petawawa. We wired Chandler & Farquhar and Livermore for our complete order of hardware materials required on the new machines. The moulds that we have been using for glueing our ribs have been made up out of scantling folded together and chipped off to a required curve. Employing this method it is difficult to get the moulds to fit exactly so that an even pressure can be exerted all along the slab to be glued. The result is that in spots the glueing is not as good as it should be. We therefore think it would be a good scheme to have the mould made up out of solid block of laminated wood of laminations, and by running a saw through it lengthwise along the line of the required curve a perfect fit can be counted upon between the top and bottom portions of the mould. Ingraham has therefore gone over to town to telephone Chapel and find out whether they can make up this mould for us at once. He will also interview A.C. Thompson & Co. in relation to the copper wire and the price of giving it a coat of nickle. If the price of nickleing is not prohibitive we will place an order with Thompson for all the wire required on our machines. The old 8 ft. propeller which we brought from Hammondsport with the Dart has been retouched all over and, as it has a greater pitch than the one we were using on the Dart, it will probably be just the proper load for the 5 new engine. This propeller and the one we have on the Dart will be sent to Petawawa for trial. Casey will test out while there different sprockets with these propellers which will give us the following gear ratios:— 15:40, 15:30,15:24, 18:24, 18:40, and 18:30. J.A.D. McC.

1909, May 22 Saturday At Beinn Bhreagh, May 21, 1909:— Tubing and hexagonal nuts which were ordered from G.H. Curtiss Mfg. Co. arrived to-day. The wings have been taken off the Dart and are more or less crated. An engine-bed is being prepared for the new Kirkham engine. J.A.D. McC.

1909, May 26 Wednesday At Beinn Bhreagh, May 22, 1909:— The new bow control truss made up entirely of tubing and fish stock for the Silver-Dart, was completed to-day. It was very much more rigid, looks better and cleaner than the old bamboo truss and should not add more than twenty pounds to the weight at the outside. F. W. B.

Notes by J.A.D. McCurdy, 1909, June 17 Thursday At Beinn Bhreagh. June 16, 1909:— We started assembling the wings of the C.A.C. No. I to-day and in a very short time will have the two bottom wings assembled. The diagonal wiring in this plane through the trussed ribs comes very nicely. We have put in the ordinary Monot copper wire instead of waiting for our nickle plated wire which has been very much delayed in its preparation. assured by A.C. Thompson & Co. that it will arrive by Marion on Thursday. J.A.D. McC.

Our order of aluminum, placed with the Aluminum Company of America, Pittsburgh, Penn., has at last arrived which means that all the material required for our machine is now here. The two inch sheeting for the back edges has been bent to its required shape and installed on one wing. It gives a very satisfactory appearance and makes the edge look very neat. For the belt on the front we think it would be better to make it up in the form of simple V in cross section securing it to the beading by small countersunk screws. The only disadvantage this method of attachment has it that the screws must necessarily go through the cloth, a detail of construction we are trying to avoid all through the machine; but when we came to make up this belt as formerly proposed, having the open part of the bore completed by a semi-circular curve, the attachment being made by means of a 4½ inch bolt passing from the beading and belt, disadvantages offered in making this section up were more than made up for by the other method even with its disadvantage. The machinist is at work making up the ball sections for the front control so that now everything looks bright for a near finish. A letter from Baldwin received night before last, states that a shed is being erected for the Dart at Petawawa and that he is getting the center section assembled in some military shed already on the grounds. He also 35 states that the black flies and mosquitoes are his greatest trouble, his slowness in red tape with the Government being a close second. It is with deep regret that I notice by the papers that the Wrights have been granted an extension of thirty days and that Herring will probably have this advantage afforded him. I say “regret” because we are anxious for a new issue of contracts by the Government which might afford us an opportunity of putting in a bid. This may seem a selfish motive but as a business proposition I think it is fair. Both radiator sections are now finished one of which is just installed in the machine in the starboard panel and looks exceptionally neat and efficient. The radiating surface of this radiator amounts to 52 sq. ft. and I sincerely hope that this will be ample to effect the proper cooling of the motor. We weighed the machine proper Saturday, which includes the wings, four tips, all the wiring and all the cloth. The weight amounted to 300 lbs. flat whereas in the case of former machines, June Bug, Silver Dart, etc. this corresponding weight amount to 119 to 120 lbs. It is a little difficult at first to see how this weight could have been doubled but on analysing the materials used in the construction of C.A.C. No. I it is quite clear where this difference occurs. Figuring out the probable weights of the rest of the machine, controls, engine, truck, etc. and one operator weighing 150 lbs., this would bring the weight of the machine in flying condition up to about 1050 lbs. This includes our full capacity of gasolene and oil. With the surface of 550 sq. ft. this would mean a flying weight of about 1.9 lbs. per sq. ft. which is less than in the case of all our former machines. The construction of the engine bed is a bit obscure. We want to try and arrange it to look as neat as possible placing material only where it is needed. The rear of the engine can be easily mounted on a double bracket placed directly over the rear chord ad Ingraham suggested that the front might be fixed by a system of tubes and guy wires. We intend to try this as a starter and if it proves to be rigid enough would be fine. If, however, there is too much play we can substitute more rigid fastenings. J.A.D. McC.  http://www.loc.gov/resource/magbell.14410105

AEA's Aerdrome No. 4 McCurdy Silver Dart circling at Baddeck Bay, as Asst., photographer about to take a picture, March 17, 1909.

AEA’s Aerdrome No. 4 McCurdy Silver Dart circling at Baddeck Bay, as Asst., photographer about to take a picture, March 17, 1909.


EVENTS ON BEINN — BHREAGH, July 2, Friday:— I Mr. Bell visited the Aerodrome Factory of McCurdy and Baldwin and saw their aerodrome first aerodrome, Baddeck No. I, in a nearly finished condition. Also which was approaching completion. He also inspected Beinn Bhreagh Laboratory and saw the front of Cygnet II which has now been arranged to be flown as a kite.


July 6, 1909:—My idea would be something like this. The new machine here will be in Petewawa about the 20th of this month. By that time the Silver Dart will be making some flights and public attention will be more or less attracted to that direction. Then when the new machine comes along they will sort of be ready for it and if she makes the flights as expected we will step down to Ottawa and say that here we have a bran d new machine which flies and it does so and so; do you want to buy it? We would much prefer to sell our first machine to the Canadian Government. If they say they do want to buy it the arrangement after that will be very easy. If they say they don’t want to buy it but they would like to make some other proposition I would suggest we would for us not consider that all for the time. Then go down to Washington and submit a proposition before General Allen. Do you want to buy it? If he buys it then we will sell do it right off. The second machine will be ready by that time. Then if the Canadian Government wants to buy it they can; and if they don’t we will take this over to England as soon as we like. I think it is very important that we dispose of our one machine as soon we as we can. Our plans for continued building will be very much simplified. We will have a guarantee then that we can sell machines and go right ahead and build more. We will have the money from the first machine to go right ahead. Another thing if we do dispose of a machine the prestige we will get from disposing of one to the American Government or to the Canadian Government will make our services to the Canadian for more valuable than if we do not sell at all. J.A.D. McC.

  1. BELL’S LETTER TO SECRETARY OF MILITIA COUNCIL Baddeck, N.S., July 6, 1909:— I have just returned from Europe and have consulted with Messrs. McCurdy and Baldwin concerning the letter of the Deputy Minister of Militia and Defence addressed to me dated May 7, 1909. Messrs. Douglas McCurdy and F.W. Baldwin have associated themselves together under the name of “The Canadian Aerodrome Company” and have been engaged for some time past in the manufacture of improved forms of aerodrome modelled upon the Silver Dart at Baddeck, Nova Scotia. I find that they have already completed one aerodrome and have another well under way. If they can dispose of these aerodromes the proceeds will be employed to continue the manufacture of such machines in Canada. Their idea has been to offer their first Canadian machines to the Canadian Government which would, by purchasing them, be fostering the establishment of a new industry in Canada.Should the Canadian Government decline to consider the purchase then they would offer the machines to some other Government. Upon the sale of these machines depends 3 the establishment of this industry in Canada; for these young men have no capital of their own and have borrowed the capital necessary to complete the machines upon which they are now at work. Mr. F.W. Baldwin is now at Petewawa with the aerodrome Silver Dart where he proposes to try out a new engine. In a short time Mr. McCurdy proposes to take the new aerodrome, the first built in Canada, to Petewawa and try it with the engine now there. If it turns out to be as successful as they anticipate Messrs. McCurdy and Baldwin will proceed to Ottawa and offer it to the Canadian Government. I filed that Messrs. McCurdy & Baldwin would be very much pleased if some arrangement could be made which they should give They would be glad to make some arrangement to give their services to the Department of Militia and Defence as Specialists in Aviation as suggested, & they and would be glad to receive from the defendant a a some proposition as to terms and conditions. After the experiments with the new aerodrome at Petewawa they would be glad to They will be in very soon and will hope to be in request to visit very soon and hope to personally with the Minister of Militia on his representative give their views as to what mentioned the funds they consider should be provided next year for the pursuit of Aerial Investigation, Construction and Navigation on the Government’s behalf. As both these I am gentlemen you will be in Petewawa very soon in personal contact with the members of the Department I shall refer you them and need say nothing further on the matter.

McCurdy leaves for Petawawa July 21, Wednesday:— Mr. J.A. Douglas McCurdy left Beinn Bhreagh for Petawawa. Wednesday Morning July 21. Bell.

A.G. Bell, July 23, 1909:— Now that Mr. F.W. Baldwin and Mr. Douglas McCurdy (the consulting Engineers of Beinn Bhreagh Laboratory) are at Petawawa, and likely to be absent from Beinn Bhreagh for an indefinite period, I cannot obtain their assistance in Laboratory matters unless we have some form of Bulletin to keep them in touch with Laboratory work. At the same time, I am unwilling to fetter myself by undertaking regular issues of a Bulletin; and have therefore decided to start a record book which will be issued, a few pages at a time, as convenient to me: The book to be known as THE BEINN BHREAGH RECORDER. Vol. I will be commenced at once.

NEWS FROM PETEWAWA: A letter has been received from Mr. Douglas McCurdy at Petewawa Camp, Ontario, to the following effect:— McCurdy to Bell, July 26: —We arrived at Petewawa Camp O.K. on Friday night (July 23) in a pitchfork rain, and found later that it had been raining for two weeks every day. Casey and wife are across the River, two miles away, staying at the Fort William Hotel, so I did not see them upon my immediate arrival. The Dart shed is just big enough for one machine, and is not yet completed. Men are, however, busily at work shingling. The weather now is beautiful although terribly hot. 1909, July 31 Yesterday (July 26) we assembled out of doors and got the wings all together and the engine installed. That, however, requires some fitting, so it will probably be the first of next week before all is ready for a trial. The Military here are awfully keen, and the old Colonel casually remarked to me yesterday that he was looking forward with a great deal of pleasure to a ride in the machine. All the officers are interested, and in general things look bright. The Assistant Deputy Minister of Militia is here, and is going to stay over for a flight. The grounds are fair, not very smooth, and covered with blueberry bushes. It will, however, be perfectly safe for both machine and aviator. The engine is a beauty all right, and leaks the part. (Signed) J.A. Douglas McCurdy.

Prof. Bell remarks:— Mr. McCurdy says “we” arrived at Petewawa Camp etc. This refers to Mr. William McDonald who accompanied Mr. McCurdy to Petewawa to assist Messrs. Baldwin and McCurdy in their experiments. An interesting personal letter has been received from Mrs. Baldwin, dated July 25, describing the events at Petewawa; but the points are all covered by McCurdy’s letter quoted above. The machine now being assembled at Petewawa is undoubtedly the “Silver-Dart”, not the “Baddeck No. I”.

By 27th July McCurdy and Baldwin, were at Petawawa military camp, preparations for the trail flight of their bi-aerodrome Silver Dart, with a newly built automobile motor still under testing. Committed, they worked tireless for a week insuring the drone was ready for its Canadian Militia demonstration debut. Baring witness, much too the annoyance of McCurdy and F.W. Baldwin approximately 40 correspondents and photographers congregated to Petawawa camp. A decision was made; a clandestine flight should be attempted, avoiding reporters, onlookers, prior camp activities commenced. Although the “wheel colliding with a small hillock” was blamed, however as they quickly descended from their secret jaunt, the rising sun temporarily blinded both aviators unable to avoid a small “six inch” rise at ground level. Soldiers helped collect the mangled remains and transported to the aero shed, for further evaluation prior too discarding the parts, as room was in need for the “Baddeck No.1.” McCurdy stated: Dr. Bell will not worry at all over a temporary set back, he takes things like this in a more philosophical manner than Baldwin and I do. He believes they are good for us and urge us on to more completeness our work. He won’t worry half as much as we will.” Not fazed McCurdy that afternoon after being at the hospital mending his wounds, hard at work at the aero shed. That day individuals congregating at the drome shed, pocketed curios of the plane, while others carried out parts as souvenirs of the Silver Dart.

AEA's Aerdrome No. 4 McCurdy Silver Dart, side view circling at Baddeck Bay, March 23, 1909.

AEA’s Aerdrome No. 4 McCurdy Silver Dart, side view circling at Baddeck Bay, March 23, 1909.

The Montreal Gazette 3rd August 1909:—End Of Silver Dart—Canadian Aerodrome Smashed to Pieces When Landing at Petawawa.—McCurdy And Baldwin Hurt—Tests Made With New Engine Proved Eminently Satisfactory. Petawawa, Ont., 2nd August—Special.—The famous Silver Dart Aerodrome is no more. It lies a huge mass of twisted wood, wires and rubbered silk on cavalry field at the military camp here. “An error of judgement on our part in making a landing,” said Baldwin in giving his reasons for this state of affaires. Four successful flights, each exceeding half a mile in length, were made in the early hours of this morning, a fine easy landing being made every time. A fifth trail was essayed, and while the aerodrome with its two passengers, Messr. McCurdy and Baldwin, were going at a speed of about forty miles an hour a landing was attempted with disastrous results. The front wheel struck one off the small hillocks” with which the country abounds, careened the machine on one side, broke the left supporting surface clean off, and buried the aviators in the ruins. That they were not killed outright is indeed miraculous. As it was, Mr McCurdy sustained severs cuts about the face and head and other slighter injures, while Mr. Baldwin received a painful gash in his left hand and a badly sprained ankle. Both were pulled out of the demolished drone and were able to proceed to the hospital to receive medical attendance.

Although now smashed and useless, the Silver Dart served the purpose for which it was brought to Petawawa. This was to test out the new Kirkham 40hrs power automobile engine, weighting 350 pounds, before it would be installed on the Baddeck No.1 so soon as it is assembled. The flights this morning were also productive of another interesting fact, namely, that the aerodrome will carry two passengers with case. This was the first time the Silver Dart had carried more then the operator. That the lifting power of the aerodrome was considerably increased by the new high-power engine was another gratifying outcome of this mornings trails; 6,400 revaluations per minute was the rate at which the propellers was driven, and the speed attained on the last flight, which was nearly a mile in length, was forty miles per hour. It was not known at the military amp that the first trails would take place this morning. Consequently there were no spectators of the first flight, except a couple of newspaper men. The noise of the motor, however, woke up soldiers, and by the time of the last trail there was a goodly number of spectators on the grounds. The aerodrome was brought out of its house at 3.30 a.m. After some preliminary lighting of bolts and testing of supporting wires, they mounted the one seat and started the motor. For about two hundred yards the machine ran along the ground, gradually increasing its speed. Then it rose gracefully in the air like a huge bird to a height of about 50 feet, and continued its flight to the edge of the woods half a mile away, where it came to terra firma in an easy manner. Turning it around, the aviators proceeded in the same manner to return over the same course again alighting prettily and without jar. Two more sails across the field were indulged in, the motor running smoothly and in a satisfactory manner. The aviators then decided to return the Silver Dart to its house, about three-quarters of a mile away. The power was turned on again and the drome rose in a gentle flight. About fifty feet from the shed door are two small hills. The machine was steered for them, the intention being a alight on…………Some soldiers who arrived on the scene quickly took the daring aviators out of the wreckage, McCurdy was navigating the machine at the time of the accident. Although, naturally, very much chagrined and disappointed at the unlooked for conclusion to the day’s trails, Messrs. McCudry and Baldwin are by no means disheartened.  They are particularly gratified at the fine showing made by the new engine. More determined than ever to go ahead with the trails, McCurdy started in shortly after the accident to superintend the removal of Baddeck No. 1 from its confining crates. This drome has arrived here in very complete order, and it is expected that within a few days the work of assembling the parts will be completed. Baddeck No. 1 is slightly larger all around that the Silver Dart. The supporting surfaces are of greater size and the rubbered silk on them of an exceptionally fine quality.

Baldwin Tells Of Flight:—When we took the Silver Dart out this morning they had not intended to go into the air, but merely wished to test out the running gear along the ground. The engine ran so smoothly, however, that they could not resist the impulse to direct the machine into the air. Everything was conducive for flying and there was not a breath of air stirring, day was just breaking and no spectators were near to worry. For the first, second, third and fourth flights the drome responded to our slightest commands. The first flight was made at 4.20 a.m., after which they tightened up parts of the gearing. An hour later we made the second ascent, and shortly after the third and fourth. Just as we were starting on our fifth and last flight, the sun came out in full strength and shone directly in our eyes. John was driving at the time, and we rose into the air beautifully. As we neared the shed I suggested to him that we land on a small short distance from it. He acquiesced and set the planes for the descent. At this time we were travelling about forty miles an hour. The hills all looked the same size to us from our elevation position. Almost the instant John turned the planes to come down the front wheel of the Dart struck the first hill about six inches from the top. The machine veered to the left, breaking the plane lean off and enveloping us in the debris. We are immensely pleased with our morning work, although we are sorry to lose the Silver Dart. It seems like loosing an old friend. It was our first machine and we had come to regard it in a personal light. She was the first airship built in Canada.”

Alexander Graham Bell Laboratory Beinn Bhreagh, overlooking Baddeck Bay, Nova Scotia.

Alexander Graham Bell Laboratory Beinn Bhreagh, overlooking Baddeck Bay, Nova Scotia.

 THE SILVER-DART AT PETEWAWA, August 7:— Letters have been received from Mrs. F. W. Baldwin dated August 2 and 3; and also a letter from Mr. Douglas McCurdy (August 2), which enable me to put on record the main facts concerning the four flights of the Silver-Dart at Petewawa August 2.

  • 1st flight:— McCurdy alone.
  • 2nd flight:— McCurdy and Baldwin.
  • 3rd flight:— McCurdy and McDonald.
  • 4th flight:— McCurdy and Baldwin.

All these seem to have been good flights of about half a mile each; but a bad landing was made at the conclusion of the fourth flight. The machine was badly damaged, but perhaps not beyond repair. We are more concerned, however, with the fate of the aviators than of the machine; and I am glad to report that McCurdy and Baldwin escaped with nothing more serious than bruises and scratches. According to Mrs. Baldwin, McCurdy got his nose and cheeks pretty badly scratched, and Baldwin had his leg “a bit scraped,” and this seems to be all. McCurdy is staying at the military camp at Petewawa in Ontario; and the Baldwin’s are about two miles away on the other side of the Ottawa River, at Port William in the Province of Quebec. Mrs. Baldwin says: (August 3):— In reference to Baldwin “He is perfectly well, and enjoyed a good breakfast”. In reference to McCurdy she says:— I haven’t seen John yet and don’t expect to for some days as his face is anything but beautiful to behold, so I imagine he will keep himself in hiding till it looks a little more presentable.

***In case you are wondering the extent of John’s damages he got his nose and cheeks pretty badly scratched. Casey says he looks as if he had been in a prize fight.” I am sure that all on Beinn Bhreagh will join me in congratulating Messrs. McCurdy and Baldwin upon their escape from what might have been a very serious accident. In giving an account of the details of the events of August 2 at Petewawa, I can do no better than quote an extract from McCurdy’s letter to Mrs. Bell written upon the date of the occurrences described. Mr. McCurdy says Petewawa, August 2:— Thank you so much for your nice letter received night before last. I can’t tell you how much I miss Baddeck, and all you people. Well, to-day was a red-letter day for us. We sent you a telegram telling of the flights with the Silver-Dart. We were awfully anxious to have a few private and secret trials to test out the new engine, and also to find out how well she would carry two. Another point was to ascertain if the balance was correct. We are attacked on all sides, and at all times, with newspaper men; and in fact they are camping across the Lake so as to be on hand to take in the flights. Well, we planned to go out on Sunday morning early, but it was too windy. The whole military camp were suspicious that we were concealing something, so this morning we got up at four o’clock, and stole away in the moonlight, waking Willie McDonald on our way. At five o’clock we wheeled the machine out on the grass, and I took the operator’s sent, and Casey twirled over the propeller. She started first crack, and instantly the machine sped along the ground light as a feather, and rose into the air as of your. I flew for about one-third of a mile in a straight line, and then landed without accident. Casey and Willie came up then, and we decided to try a two-man flight for the first time. Casey and I went together, and the balance was good, and the Dart rose in about as short a run as before, and we flew back to the shed one-half a mile. We were, of course, very much pleased, and when Willie came up we asked him to ride. Without a moment’s hesitation he got in, and away we flew as before to the limit of the field. Then Casey and I started home again for the fourth flight. This one was the best of all, but—. Just as we were about to land, the front wheel struck a knoll, and bounded up throwing the starboard wing down where she struck another small-sized mountain, a very young one, and it was all over. We landed on the grass, one on top of another, and the machine quite near us. The starboard wing was badly smashed.

Canadian Aerodrome Company Aerodrome Baddeck No. 1 at Petawawa Camp Early August 1909.

Canadian Aerodrome Company Aerodrome Baddeck No. I at Petawawa Camp Early August 1909.

We have decided not to repair her now, but go ahead on Baddeck No. I, which machine arrived on Saturday. This morning and afternoon (Aug. 2) we got her out of the crates, and the center section assembled. The motor will probably be brought down from the shed tomorrow afternoon and installed; and then the rest of the assembling completed by Friday, when we hope to try her out. The point about the engine has been very satisfactorily demonstrated, and she is a dandy. Please tell Mr. Bell that there was not a delay of one-half minute in getting under way. She always starts first turn of the propeller and turns up, with the gear we are now using, 1400 – 1500 rpm. with a ratio of 16:30, so the propeller turns about 900 rpm. The speed of the Dart was, I should judge, about 45 to 50 miles per hour, and the controlling is as easy with two as with one. I do wish that you and Mr. Bell could see the Baddeck No. I fly. The grounds are not as good as the field in Baddeck; so we will, perhaps, decide to fly No. 2 there. etc. (Signed) Douglas.

McCurdy and Baldwin, rightly, I think, have adopted in their new aerodrome a commercial automobile engine whose endurance has been fully tested for motor-car work, instead of an experimental engine specially made for serial work. The light engines manufactured especially for use in flying-machines, while having the power to raise the machines into the air, have not proved very satisfactory in the matter of endurance. They cannot be relied upon for extended flights, and must be considered as only in the experimental stage. Messrs. McCurdy and Baldwin visited several manufacturers of motor car engines, but the lightest commercial engine they could find fulfilling their requirements proved to be much heavier than the heaviest of the experimental engines they had hitherto employed; and it was somewhat problematical as to whether it would have power enough to raise itself and a man into the air, in such an aerodrome as the “Silver-Dart”. The flights of the “Silver-Dart” at camp Petewawa, Aug. 2, have shown that it has not only abundant power for this purpose, but can also carry the additional load of another man. This result is very important; and will speedily be followed, I believe, by the adoption of automobile engines by other aviators in the propulsion of their machines. A.G.B.







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s