Winging it

Canada's History - - EDITOR’S NOTE -

From the an­cient Greeks, who told sto­ries of Icarus fly­ing too close to the sun, to the Maori of New Zealand, who flew kites as part of re­li­gious cer­e­monies, hu­mans have long dreamed of touch­ing the heav­ens.

In the fif­teenth cen­tury, in­ven­tor Leonardo da Vinci be­gan study­ing the lo­co­mo­tion of birds and bats in an ef­fort to di­vine the se­cret of flight. Ap­ply­ing his knowl­edge, he de­signed sev­eral fly­ing con­trap­tions. Some fea­tured flap­ping wings, while oth­ers em­ployed ro­tors sim­i­lar to to­day’s he­li­copters. Da Vinci’s imag­i­na­tion was bound­less, but he was lim­ited by the ma­te­ri­als of his era — he was un­able to build a fly­ing ma­chine light enough to stay aloft.

Hu­man flight re­mained elu­sive un­til two centuries later, when a pair of French broth­ers launched a hot-air bal­loon to the amaze­ment of crowds in Paris. That 1783 flight fired the imag­i­na­tions of would be avi­a­tors ev­ery­where, and by the early 1800s, a Bri­tish in­ven­tor, Sir Ge­orge Cay­ley, had de­buted the first work­ing glider. Cay­ley also dis­cov­ered the four aero­dy­namic forces that con­trol flight — weight, lift, drag, and thrust — and is to­day con­sid­ered the fa­ther of aero­nau­tics.

Another cen­tury would pass be­fore the first pow­ered flight. In 1903, the Wright broth­ers suc­cess­fully con­ducted the first pow­ered flight of a heav­ier-thanair ve­hi­cle. Six years later, in Fe­bru­ary 1909, a team led by in­ven­tor Alexan­der Gra­ham Bell con­ducted the first pow­ered flight in Canada, pi­lot­ing the Sil­ver Dart a dis­tance of eight hun­dred me­tres.

Since then, the pace of aero­nau­tic ad­vance­ment has been staggering. For in­stance, my grand­fa­ther Pe­ter was born five months af­ter the Sil­ver Dart’s in­au­gu­ral flight. By the time I was born, in 1971, hu­mans had al­ready walked on the moon.

The his­tory of flight is filled with many mile­stones, as well as plenty of ground­break­ing pi­lots. In this is­sue, we bring you the story of an On­tario teenager who de­fied so­cial norms in the 1920s to be­come the first Cana­dian woman to earn a pi­lot’s li­cence. By earn­ing her wings, Eileen Vol­lick in­spired count­less women pi­lots who fol­lowed in her draft.

Else­where in this is­sue, we ex­plore the chal­lenges faced by Ro­mani em­i­grants to Canada, we re­call the ad­ven­tures of an Ir­ish-Cana­dian hero of the Cuban Revo­lu­tion, and we dis­cover how the term “First Na­tions” came to promi­nence as part of the In­dige­nous sovereignty move­ment of the 1980s.

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