First sea­planes were built by in­ven­tor who helped de­sign the Sil­ver Dart

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS -

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.

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