First seaplanes were built by inventor who helped design the Silver Dart
he number of seaplanes available at North Sydney will be limited to four for the time being. The cruising speed of these machines is taken as being 60 knots (about 70 mph), with their fuel range of four hours ( flying time). Two machines will be used for convoy escort work, one will be used for emergency anti-submarine work, and one will be kept in reserve.” When 1st Lt. Robert Donohue of the United States Navy was appointed commanding officer at Naval Air Station North Sydney, one of his first duties was to attend a meeting in Halifax between representatives of the Canadian, British and American navies. This meeting took place on Aug. 26, 1918, when the above directive was issued.
It should be kept in mind that these three allied governments believed that the First World War could continue for another two or three years, and the naval air stations at North Sydney and Dartmouth would be the first of several such facilities that would be built in eastern Canada. At that time nobody knew that the war would end less than three months later, on Nov. 11, 1918.
In the 11-month period from Jan. 1918, to the end of the war, more than 16,000 merchant ships sailed in convoy from the east coast of North America to the British Isles. Of these, only 35 were sunk by German submarines. The convoy system worked, and in the last year of the war the plan was for Canadian convoys to sail from Sydney Harbour between the months of May and December, and sail from Halifax’s ice-free harbour from January to April.
The first of four Curtiss flying boats was assembled in North Sydney on Sept. 6, 1918. These seaplanes had arrived from the United States, in sections, on railroad flatcars. These rail cars were parked on a siding at the Newfoundland ferry terminal, and the various sections were moved to Indian Beach by truck, where they were put back together.
The first test flight took place on Sept. 11, from the local harbour. Eleven days later, seaplanes from Naval Air Station North Sydney escorted their first transAtlantic convoy from Sydney Harbour. They were in the air for almost three hours.
An interesting point with regard to these flying boats is that they were designed and built by Glenn Curtiss, a young American inventor from New York. In the early years of the 20th century he started out building bicycles and motorcycles, and went on to have a leading role in the early development of the American aviation industry.
He was also a founding member of the Aerial Experiment Association (1907), set up in Baddeck by Alexander Graham Bell, which designed and built several primitive airplanes. The most famous was the Silver Dart, which flew from the frozen surface of Baddeck Bay on Feb. 23, 1909. It was the first airplane flight in Canada and the British Empire.
Curtiss later went on to design and build seaplanes, or flying boats as they were originally called, and four of his aircraft were later stationed in North Sydney.