1915 McDowall Monoplane
Canadian single-engine single-seat pioneer monoplane

Archive Photos 1

1915 McDowall Monoplane on display (9/17/2003) at the Canada Aviation Museum, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (Photos by John Shupek)


McDowall Monoplane

The McDowall Monoplane is the oldest surviving Canadian-built aircraft. It was designed and built by Robert McDowall, an aviation enthusiast, land surveyor and civil engineer from Ontario, Canada. It was inspired by McDowall’s first sighting of airplanes, during a 1910 visit to England and France. The McDowall Monoplane is similar in general design to a Blériot XI which McDowall would have seen in France. It was built in a machine shop between 1912 and 1915. The aircraft could not technically fly, although it could perform short "hops". Its first flight attempts were in 1915.

In the early days of flying it was not unusual for aviation enthusiasts to design, build, and fly their own airplanes. The McDowall Monoplane was built in a carriage shop between 1912 and 1915, but made only a few short hops and was then stored. Two school boys attempted alterations in 1916-17. After 1920 a new owner removed the wings and fitted skis to use it as an ice scooter near Durham, Ontario. It was resold in 1954 and again stored.

Due to the builder’s lack of airplane design experience, the aircraft was tail-heavy and had no provision for lateral control. This failing was recognized by the school boys who in 1917 cut pieces out of the wings in an attempt to install ailerons. The boys also tried to improve the performance of the used three-cylinder, air-cooled Anzani engine, but the aircraft never flew again.

In 1954 Edward Pratt of Durham, Ontario sold the aircraft to Keith Hopkinson of Goderich, Ontario, who hung it from the rafters of his hangar. In 1967, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum purchased the aircraft from the Hopkinson estate and it was displayed for several years at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. Between 1984 and 1986, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum restored the monoplane to its original condition, as constructed by McDowall and it is now on display at the Museum.



  1. Photos: John Shupek
  2. History and Technical Data: Canada Aviation and Space Museum

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