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September/October 2000 issue


Flying through time
Canadians in flight | Flying through time | High-flying quotes | Facts of flight

February 23, 1909
Canada takes fiight: With men on skates to steady the Silver Dart’s wings, J. A. D. McCurdy pilots the biplane for 0.8 kilo-metres over the ice-covered surface of Baddeck Bay, N.S., completing the first flight in Canada by a powered heavier-than-air machine. The plane was developed by Aerial Experiment Association members Alexander Graham Bell, F. W. Baldwin, Glenn Curtiss and McCurdy. Two years later, they are granted United States Patent No. 1,011,106 for their “flying machine.”

May 24, 1912
Might as well jump: Wearing bright red tights and a leather helmet, Charles Saunders makes the first parachute jump from an airplane in Canada, over Vancouver, beating out bat-suited Cecil MacKenzie for the honours.

July 23, 1913
Night sky: With his biplane fitted with electric lights on the wings and his landing area outlined with small blazes, H. W. Blakeley makes the first night flight in Canada at the Dominion Livestock Show and Fair at Brandon, Man.

July 31, 1913
Alys McKey Bryant becomes the first woman pilot to fly in Canada, over Vancouver, in a Curtiss-type pusher biplane.

August 6, 1913
The first fatal airplane accident in Canada occurs when John M. Bryant, Alys’ husband, is killed in the crash of his plane at Victoria.

October 8, 1913
The first commercial cargo flight in Canada delivers copies of the Montreal Daily Mail to Ottawa. Unfortunately, the aircraft crashes on the return takeoff.

June 27, 1914
But did he spill his lunch? Lincoln Beachey completes the first loop-the-loop and inverted flying in Canada during an exhibition at Maisonneuve Park in Montréal.

August 4, 1914
The First World War thrusts the fledgling aviation technology into prominence. Canada has neither pilots nor aircraft in its armed forces, but about 22,000 Canadians bravely fly with British squadrons, in planes like the SPAD VII.

January 4, 1917
E. R. Grange of No. 8 (Naval) Squadron is credited with downing his fifth enemy aircraft, becoming Canada’s first "ace."

June 24, 1918
Airways go postal: Carrying 120 letters in envelopes specially postmarked for the journey, Capt. Brian A. Peck makes the first airmail flight in Canada, from Montréal to Toronto, piloting a Curtiss JN-4. Canada would wait until 1924 to establish regular airmail, when Laurentide Air Service introduces delivery between Haileybury, Ont., and the goldfields around Rouyn, Que.

Stuart Graham pilots the first bush flight, in a Curtiss HS-2L.

One tree, two trees, three trees... The first aerial-survey business sets up shop, conducting a timber count in Labrador. The 5 pilots and 30 crew of the Owens Expedition took some 13,000 aerial photographs, kick-starting the region’s pulp and paper industry.

June 14, 1919
Better than frequent-flyer miles: British aviators Capt. John Alcock and Lt. Arthur Brown take off from a field near St. John’s, Nfld., in their Vickers Vimy, landing 16 hours and 12 minutes later in Ireland and winning the £10,000 London Daily Mail prize for the first aviators to fly nonstop across the Atlantic.

August 7, 1919
Mountain climbing: Ernest Hoy is the first to fly over the Canadian Rockies, in a Curtiss JN-4, travelling from Vancouver to Calgary. Unable to climb above 7,000 feet, he has to fly between mountain peaks, with vicious updrafts and downdrafts pulling at his plane and only 150 feet between him and the craggy peaks of Crawford Pass. On his return flight, he cartwheels shortly after takeoff and, badly shaken, never flies again.

April 1, 1924
Designation of "Royal" Canadian Air Force is granted by King George V.

November 3, 1924
Your ticket please, sir! An unidentified man becomes the first aerial stowaway in Canada, sneaking onto a Curtiss HS-2L flying from Rouyn to Angliers, Que.

June 8, 1927
Hope their luggage made it: Newlyweds Dr. and Mrs. James Nesbitt are flown from Toronto to Hamilton, the first known Canadian honeymoon trip by air.

June 29, 1927
Flight Lieutenant G. E. Brooks, flying in an Avro 504K conducts the first flight test of Wallace Turnbull’s variable-pitch propeller, a major Canadian innovation in aviation technology.

March 13, 1928
Eileen Vollick of Hamilton receives private pilot’s Certificate No. 77, the first for a Canadian woman.

August 1929
T. M. “Pat” Reid and a group of pilots and engineers lead the first aerial search and rescue in the High Arctic.

August 25, 1928
The crash of a B.C. Airways Ford Trimotor in Puget Sound, Wash., during bad weather kills seven people and is called Canada’s first major air disaster.

April 10, 1937
With two 10-passenger airplanes and a mail plane, Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA) takes flight. Early on, TCA (later to become Air Canada) is labeled by its critics an “arrogant monopoly.”

July 1937
Flying a Lockheed Electra, J. H. Tudhope and J. D. Hunter complete the first dawn-to-dusk trans-Canada flight, between Montréal and Vancouver, in 17 hours and 35 minutes.

July 1, 1938
Coffee, tea or.. Serving small boxed lunches and cups of coffee and lemonade, Lucille Garner and Pat Eccleston are TCA’s first flight attendants, paving the way for these stewardesses of the 1960s. At first, only single women under 26 are selected, and until 1957, the airline only hires nurses, to ensure frightened and finicky passengers of medical care in flight.

The Findlays of Ottawa become the first family to travel across the country on an airline. Mrs. Findlay describes the airplane as noisy and flimsy. “From time to time, we would hit an air pocket, and whoosh our hearts were in our mouths.”

During the Second World War, nearly 250,000 men and women serve in air force blue around the world and at home.

April 1940
First schools open under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. They train some 131,500 aircrew in planes like this Harvard, safely away from battle zones, transforming Canada into what U.S. President Roosevelt later terms “the aerodome of democracy.”

Pilots, navigators and camera operators returning from the war participate in a decade-long aerial survey, updating topographic maps of remote regions. Aerial surveying is used in highway, railway, hydro and pipeline projects and forest inventories.

April 15, 1947
TCA begins using the Canadair North Star, the first Canadian-built airliner, on its Montréal to London route. The plane, which logged 311 million kilometres for the airline, offers Canadians long-distance air travel, flying to such exotic locations as the Bahamas, Jamaica, Tampa, Paris and Düsseldorf.

De Havilland Canada designs the first STOL (short-takeoff-and-landing) bush plane, the Beaver.

The first Canadian passenger jet (second in the world after the British), the Avro Canada Jetliner, is flown. Despite its advanced design, it never saw production and was later sold for scrap.

With a continuing post-war interest in aviation, the first National Air Show (now the Canadian International, is held in Toronto. It is billed as the largest in the country and attracts 750,000 spectators each year.

The glory and glamour of the RCAF spurs Canadians’ romance with air travel. A booming economy makes tickets more affordable, and airlines such as Canadian Pacific bring us the world, launching flights to Australia, Japan and South America.

December 18, 1952
Breaking Mach 1 in a dive, Jan Zurakowski becomes the first pilot to fly a Canadian plane faster than the speed of sound, in an Avro Canada CF-100 jet fighter. The ensuing thunderclap rattles windows in nearby Malton, Ont.

Production of the supersonic Avro Arrow begins. Despite its sleek design and Mach 2 speeds, the Arrow project crashes and burns before it can really take off. In 1959, the federal government scraps the project and all the prototypes.

Used to locate downed aircraft, the crash-position indicator is devised by Harry Stevinson and David Makow at the National Research Council in Ottawa.

November 1978
Canadair Challenger business jet takes off. It goes on to log more than a million hours of fiying time and launch Canada as a leading manufacturer of business and regional aircraft.

June 23, 1985
A terrorist bomb explodes aboard Air India Flight 182 from Toronto. It crashes into the North Atlantic off the coast of Ireland, killing all 329 on board. Airport security is subsequently tightened across the country. The crash becomes the subject of the longest criminal investigation in Canadian history.

Fresh air: Following the 1971 introduction of no-smoking sections on its aircraft, Air Canada is the first North American airline to offer smoke-free flights. In 1991, it bans smoking on all its flights.

During the Gulf War, Canadians fiy some 2,700 missions in fighters like these CF-18s,
including the first bombing offensives by Canadian forces since the Second World War.

Air Canada thwarts takeover efforts by Onex Corporation.

January 4, 2000
A numbered company, owned in part by Air Canada, scoops up 82 percent of Canadian Airline’s shares. When the merger is complete, Air Canada will be the country’s only national airline.

Photo credits: winged man, Canadian Aviation Museum/22584; A. McKay Bryant, CAM/25914; Spad 7, J. Matthews/CAM; Curtiss JN-4 Canuck, J. Matthews/CAM; stewardesses, Air Canada; Challenger jet, Bombardier; CF-18, DND/ISC86-534.


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