7 September

Hunt Flies Homemade Airship over Edmonton

This is the anniversary of perhaps the biggest hoax in Canadian aviation, and it was uncovered only recently. J. A. D. McCurdy had flown the first airplane in Canada on February 23, 1909, at Baddeck, Nova Scotia. Later in 1909 it was announced that Reginald Hunt of Edmonton had accomplished an even more remarkable feat. Working alone, and without financial backing, he had built his own airplane and flown it over Edmonton for half an hour on September 7. Newspapers published stories and pictures of Hunt's exploit.

Actually, Hunt had made a balloon shaped like an airship, and not an airplane. However, airplanes were so little known in 1909 that reporters called the airship an airplane, and the mistake was not discovered until years later when the National Research Council investigated. There was also a picture of Hunt standing beside an airplane, but it turned out to be a French Farman, and not the balloon Hunt had flown.

McCurdy's Silver Dart was built in the Curtiss bicycle workshop in Hammonsport, New York. The honour of building the first airplane in Canada should go to William Wallace Gibson who was brought up on a farm near Regina. He began building model airplanes in 1903 after reading that the Wright brothers had flown in the United States. He devised a motor from the spring of a window-blind roller!

Gibson moved to Victoria, British Columbia, when he was twenty-seven and found a gold mine which he sold for $10,000. He used this money to build a full-sized airplane, making every part by hand and using his own plans, although he had never had a lesson in drafting or engineering. He even designed an unorthodox 50 horsepower engine and had it built by a Victoria machine shop. It weighed 210 pounds. There were two propellers one behind the other. The pilot's seat was an ordinary horse saddle! Gibson's plane took to the air on September 8, 1910, flew 200 feet and crashed into an oak tree! It was no mean feat. The Wright brothers had flown only 210 feet in their first try, and A. V. Roe in England flew less than hundred.


7 September

-1535    Cartier reached the Island of Orleans on his second voyage; he named it Bacchus.

-1619    Jens Munck, a Dane, discovered the Churchill River, Hudson Bay.

-1763    King George III issued a proclamation inviting his subjects to settle in Canada.

-1816    The first Canadian steamer on Lake Ontario, Frontenac, was launched.

-1864    The Charlottetown Conference adjourned and delegates arranged to meet again in Halifax.

-1910    The Hague Tribunal defined American fishing rights on the North Atlantic coast.

-1927    Edward, Prince of Wales, and Prince George returned to Britain after their tour of Canada.

-1958    Duplessis, Premier of Quebec for eighteen years, died.

              Twelve thousand delegates from 51 nations attended the World Power Conference at Montreal.

-1961   The armed forces were increased by 15,000; plans were announced to train 100,000 civil defence workers.

-1965    Prime Minister Pearson dissolved Parliament and called an election for November 8.