Aerial Experiment Association (AEA) “Silver Dart”
Archive Photos ¹
AEA Silver Dart (replica) at the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada (Photos by John Shupek)
AEA Silver Dart (replica) at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (photos by John Shupek)
The Silver Dart (or Aerodrome #4) was a derivative of an early U.S. aircraft which after many successful flights in Hammondsport, New York, earlier in 1909, was dismantled and shipped to Baddeck, Nova Scotia. It was flown off the ice of Baddeck Bay, a sub-basin of Bras d'Or Lake, on 23 February 1909, making it the first controlled powered flight in Canada and the British Empire. The aircraft was piloted by one of its designers, John McCurdy. The original Silver Dart was designed and built by the Aerial Experiment Association, formed under the guidance of Dr Alexander Graham Bell. The A.E.A. “Silver Dart” crude 3-view was from Fred T. Jane's “All the World's Air-Ships 1909”. The Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Canada has posted a very nice detailed 3-view drawing on the aircraft.
Design and Development ²
The frame and structure of the Silver Dart was made of steel tube, bamboo, friction tape, wire and wood. The wings were covered with silver Japanese silk; hence the name the "Silver Dart". Its engine, supplied by Glenn Curtiss, was a reliable V-8 that developed 35 hp (26 kW) at 1,000 rpm. The propeller was carved from a solid block of wood. The aircraft had what is now called a canard or an "elevator in front" design. Like most aircraft of its day the Silver Dart had poor control characteristics; likewise, it had no brakes.
By the time the Silver Dart was constructed in late 1908, it was the Aerial Experiment Association's fourth flying machine. One of its precursors, the June Bug, had already broken records. It won the Scientific American Trophy for making the first official one mile flight in North America. But the Silver Dart outdid this when on 10 March 1909, McCurdy flew the aircraft on a circular course over a distance of more than 35 km (20 mi). The first passenger flight in Canada was made in the Silver Dart on 2 August 1909.
The Canadian Army was unimpressed at the headway made by the group. The general impression of the time was that aircraft would never amount to much in actual warfare. Despite official skepticism, the Association was finally invited to the military base at Camp Petawawa to demonstrate the aircraft. The sandy terrain made a poor runway for an aircraft with landing wheels about two inches (50 mm) in diameter. The Silver Dart had great difficulty taking off. On its fifth flight, McCurdy wrecked the craft when one wheel struck a rise in the ground while landing. The Silver Dart never flew again.
There is a reconstruction of the Silver Dart on display at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. The reconstruction was built by volunteers from the Royal Canadian Air Force between 1956 and 1958 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first flight. The aircraft flew over Baddeck Bay on the day of the anniversary but crashed due to high winds. A number of other recreations are found in Canadian and museum collections in other parts of the world, including examples at the Atlantic Canada Aviation Museum, Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame, Calgary Aero Space Museum and the RAF Museum in Hendon, England.
AEA “Silver” Specifications and Performance Data ²
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