In December 1908 the Aerial Experiment Association completed the construction of Aerodrome 4 - the Silver Dart, in Hammondsport NY at the factory of Glenn H. Curtiss. The Silver Dart, the final airplane produced by the AEA, was test flown in Hammondsport in late December 1908 by chief designer Douglas McCurdy and by engine manufacturer Glenn Curtiss.
Curtiss had designed and built the earlier June Bug (Aerodrome 3) and flown it successfully for over one kilometre on July 4, 1908 to win the Scientific American Trophy for the first publicly witnessed flight of one kilometre in length.
Building on the highly publicized success of the June Bug, the Silver Dart incorporated all of the accumulated knowledge and best thinking of its designers.
Silver Dart being towed onto the ice for flight - Feb. 23, 1909.
After the successful trial flights of the Silver Dart in Hammondsport, the aerodrome was dismantled and shipped to Baddeck Nova Scotia where it flew off the ice on Bras d'or Lake on February 23, 1909. That flight was the first flight in Canada and the first in the British empire. It was truly an amazing accomplishment in the history of Canadian aviation.
Silver Dart Replica at Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum prior to test flights, Feb. 6, 2009
In January of 2009, just one month over 100 years later, the modern aviation group AEA 2005, Inc., comprised of twenty-five historic flight volunteers from Welland, Ontario, completed a full scale replica of the original machine in a hangar of the Russell Aviation Group in Niagara Falls. Working from a set of original plans, the dedicated AEA 2005 crew worked for over five years to bring their dream to reality. It is a story of tremendous love for aviation and Canada's history.
Essentially the only difference between the replica and the original Silver Dart is the inclusion of foot controls, disc brakes, some basic instruments and the use of a 1947 aircraft engine of similar horsepower to the original Curtiss engine.
After completion in Niagara Falls, the plane was disassembled and shipped to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario to be close to test runways at the Hamilton International Airport.
Silver Dart, with Bjarni Tryggvason as pilot, taxis for test flight, Feb. 6, 2009
On February 6, 2009 beginning at approximately 1:30 p.m. the Silver Dart replica, Canadian airplane C-IIGY, flew six brief but highly successful flights to demonstrate its airworthiness.
Former Canadian Astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason was at the controls and lifted the Silver Dart off with ease. His landings on each occasion were feather light. The first flight, on Runway 24 heading South-West, was over 3000 feet in length at a maximum altitude of three metres and lasted 50 seconds. Final touchdown occurred at 2:40 EST (19:40 Zulu). On the sixth and final flight of the afteroon the Silver Dart flew over 5,000 feet covering much of the 6,000 foot runway.
Silver Dart nears take off speed on main runway at Hamilton Airport, Feb. 6, 2009
Silver Dart airborne on first flight of the day, Feb. 6, 2009. Six flights were completed.
Refueling the Silver Dart between flights. Pilot Bjarni Tryggvason smiles,
pleased with the handling of the aerodrome, as he confers with the flight support crew.
The Silver Dart at peak altitude on sixth and longest flight, Feb. 6, 2009.
The Silver Dart will now be disassembled and shipped to Baddeck Nova Scotia for the Centennary Celebrations of the flight of the original Silver Dart. On February 23, 2009, exactly one hundred years after Douglas McCurdy flew the Dart over Bras d'or Lake in a flight witnessed by Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel, the other members of the AEA (Curtiss and Casey Baldwin) and hundreds of townsfolk from Baddeck, the Silver Dart replica will re-create history.
I was honoured to be a witness to this historic event by being present at the test flights of the Silver Dart replica on February 6, 2009. The hangar images of the Silver Dart and the Dart taxiing were taken at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario. The three still images of the flight record the Silver Dart at high speed taxi and in flight on Runway 24 of the adjoining Hamilton International Airport. I took these images though the windshield of the official Hamilton International Airport escort vehicle following about 30 metres behind the Silver Dart travelling at 32 kilometres per hour . The image of Bjarni Tryggvasson conferencing with the flight support crew was taken during a refueling break on Runway 24.
Two videos showing the flight from dramatic points of view were taken by my close kiting friends Jim Anes and Carlos Simoes who also had special access to the flight.
The Jim Anes video shows the Silver Dart as it flies from right to left down the main runway. It is an amazing visual record of the fifth flight.
The Carlos Simoes video shows the Silver Dart from inside the other escort vehicle on the runway. This vehicle was driven by Doug Jermyn, head of the AEA 2005 Group that built the replica. On this video you hear the voice of Doug Jermyn calling the fifth flight as it happens. Background radio dialogue is from the Hamilton tower to the escort vehicles and an airplane that is circling waiting to land after the Dart's test flight. This is a dramatic video of the flight from just behind the aircraft.
Slide Show of the Flight Trials and Events of the Day:
Carlos Simoes has posted a complete slide show of the events of the day. Starting with the Silver Dart in the hangar early in the morning of Feb 6, 2009, the show takes you through the day with both slides and videos of each of the six flights. The slide show ends with the news media scrum and hangar celebration following the flights.
Links to News Media Coverage of the Event:
- Toronto Star: One Small Step for Aviation Buffs
- CBC.ca: Silver Dart Replica Flies at Hamilton Airport
- CTV.ca: Ex-astronaut flies replica Silver Dart
- CKCO-TV: Aviation history soars over Hamilton
- Hamilton Spectator: Magnificent Flying Machine
- Hamilton Spectator: Video - Silver Dart Makes Historic Flight Again
- Hamilton Spectator:
- Toronto Sun: Winging Into History
- Globe and Mail: Modern Silver Dart replicates history - for a few metres
- Canadian Press: Modern day version Silver Dart makes successful test run; next stop Baddeck, N.S.
- London Free Press: UWO prof achieves flight of a lifetime a full century later
- Welland Tribune: Wellander on Cloud 9 After Silver Dart Flight
- Brantford Expositor: Bell's dream taking flight again
- Aviation.ca: The Silver Dart Soars in Ontario
- AVweb.com: Silver Dart Replica Flies in Canada
The events that will take place in Baddeck Nova Scotia around the February 23, 2009 flight to mark the 100th Anniversary of the original Silver Dart flight can be found on the site of the Flight of the Silver Dart Centennial Celebration.
Details of the amazing group of builders, known as the AEA 2005 Inc., who recreated the Silver Dart are found on their web site dedicated to the Silver Dart project. This site is a detailed and very interesting account of their labour of love.
Finally, special thanks for our coverage of this event must go to Doug Jermyn and his wife Carol Harding who accorded Best-Breezes and the Historic Kiters Group incredible access to the Silver Dart during construction and on test flight day. Thank you Doug, Carol, Jack Minor, Ray Larsen, Don Feduck, James Griffith, Bjarni Tryggvason and Gerry Bettridge (Russell Aviation Group) for all you did to accommodate our coverage of this event.
Other related reference sites:
- Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. Located in Hammondsport NY this museum is an outstanding site to visit for information on Glenn Curtiss, the Aerial Experiment Association and early flight.
- Parks Canada - Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. Located in Baddeck NS this museum is operated by Parks Canada and is dedicated to communicating the story of Alexander Graham Bell's wide ranging interests and inventive work, much of it undertaken right in Baddeck, Nova Scotia.
Story and photos by Bob White (Member Historical Research Writers Association).
A recent email from a close kite flyer friend of mine made me realize how small the world has become with modern travel and communication systems.
It is possible to use our computers to learn about events all over the world in real time. Television's video magic makes us feel as though we are at events as they happen. Streaming video and sites like YouTube allow us to experience what is going on no matter where it is happening. The ease of travel can take you from your home to the other side of the world in less than a day.
My friend is travelling to the famous kite festival in Pasir Gudang (Johor), Malaysia in a few days. Pasir Gudang is located on the mainland across from the island of Singapore.
Held at the end of the second week in February each year, the Pasir Gudang kite festival is known around the world as an intersection point for kiters from around the world. At this festival, kite fliers from Europe, India, China, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada will mingle with kiters flying traditional Malaysian "wau" kites. It is indeed a blend of all the best the world has to offer in a variety of kites defined by visitors from different global locales.
The Pasir Gudang Kite Museum is located here, on top of Kite Hill. It is the first kite museum in Malaysia and has a unique working windmill that generates enough electricity to supply the daily needs of the museum. What could be more appropriate for a kite museum than to use the wind to provide green energy.
Nor is this the only kite festival to take place in Malaysia. Malacca, the third smallest Malaysian state, located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, on the Straits of Malacca also recently hosted a major international kite festival. The Star Online in Malacca reported that "about 200 kite enthusiasts from all over the country gathered at the Dataran Pahlawan field in Bandar Hilir, Malacca, to take part in the Third Malaysia-China 2009 Kite Flying Festival recently". The festival was also attended by European flyers from as far away as Finland.
This is not the only location where kiting is flourishing in the large global community.
Recent news reports from around the world cited major kiting activity in every corner of the world.
India and Pakistan: recent reports of the major kite flying activity that is associated with the celebration of Utterayan and Makhar Sankranti (India) and Basant (Pakistan) have been streaming steadily from news agencies in the Asian sub-continent.
"May it be Republic Day or Independence Day or Makar Sakranti or Janamashtami, more and more people in north India are taking to kite flying on such days. In a way, kite flying is becoming a festival by itself. The Indian festival of Makar Sakranti is devoted to kite flying and fighting in some states. This year the festival was celebrated on January 14, with millions of people flying kites all over northern India.
The states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Gujarat, and some part of West Bengal, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and the cities of Ahemdabad, Baroda, Jaipur, Dhanbad and Hyderabad are particularly notable for their kite fighting festivals."
- Pakistan: A kite fighting ban imposed by the Pakistan Supreme Court has been effect for several years now due to the number of injuries and deaths that have occurred due to kite flying. In Pakistan, as in India, kite fighting is the ultimate kite flying challenge. Kiters duel it out in the skies cutting one another's kited from the skies using glass and chemically coated kite line to assist in severing the kite of an opponent and thus win the battle. The details surrounding this ban and some of the background can be found here on the Best-Breezes site by using the Search function to see previous articles. However, this year there were calls to lift the ban and legitimize the kite flying that continues in spite of the ruling against the use of sharp kite line. The Daily Times of Lahore reported:
"According to a poll conducted by the channel, approximately 75 percent of the city’s residents favoured kite flying in celebration of the spring festival. Residents say the ban on kite flying not only deprived the people of celebrating and enjoying a festive occasion but also adversely affected the developing industry of manufacturing kite-related products, the channel reported. Overall, the Punjab government’s initiative to consider lifting the ban was welcomed by the public, it added."
Australian and New Zealand kite festivals are in full swing now as the Southern Hemisphere is enjoying summer. These two locales have produced some of the most innovative modern kites to grace the skies at kite festivals in the past decade. Recently, the Tip-Top Kite Day was held in ChristChurch, NZ and featured international kiters in attendance from as far away as The Netherlands. So it is clear that kiting is flourishing in this region as well.
Europe has a number of outstanding festivals: Dieppe France, Bristol in Great Britain, Schveningen in The Netherlands and Fano in Denmark are well known gathering spots for international kite fliers.
North America has a large number of festivals of note: the Niagara International Kite Festival in Niagara Falls, NY; Wildwood in New Jersey; the Smithsonian Kite Festival in Washington, D.C.; Sunfest in Ocean City, Maryland; the Washington State Kite Festival and Dieppe, New Brunswick are among the many events in this continent that attract noted fliers from around the world.
Each of these events has a major impact on the dissemination of current kite knowledge and innovation. In addition, the kites in the sky bring delight to local spectators and tourists who increasingly add these events to their itineraries.
The list could go on and on. However, just using these examples it is safe to conclude that kite flying as a world wide activity is alive and well. The ability to use modern communication keeps us in touch with these events as they happen. Modern transportation allows us to place ourselves on these noted kite fields with the best kiters in the world. It is a small world and somewhere a kite is flying in the sky at all times.
I have recently engaged in a series of discussions with kitefliers that I know to see what first attracted them to kiting. Many stated that they entered the kite hobby as an adult by purchasing a dual line kite after seeing one in flight and becoming intrigued by trying to develop the skills to fly a sport kite.
Later, most stated, they moved to other types of kites as their interests changed in the hobby. That prompted me to wonder: What is your favorite type of kite?
Take the survey and lets see what takes place over the next month or so in terms of reader responses.
China is viewed as one of two possible locations where kites originated thousands of years ago.
The artistry and structure of Chinese kites is unique in the world. Using materials native to China, the early kite crafters developed unique skills in shaving and shaping bamboo into diverse shapes and framing structures. The development of unique and strong papers for sails combined with specialized colored inks allowed images to be painted on the sails by Chinese artists and artisans. This combination of creatively shaped and strong kites created some of the most amazing tethered flying devices in the world.
One type of Chinese kite links many similar segments into a train-like configuration that, when completed and raised in flight, creates a striking kite composition where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its individual parts.
This genre of kite is known as a 'centipede' kite. Similar in some ways to a kite train, the centipede kite provides one striking difference when viewed in flight: -the total visual effect of its many parts combine to create a single, stunning image in the sky.
Two dramatic examples of this type of kite are the famous Chinese dragon kites and a recent iteration, the Great Wall of China kite.
Chinese Dragon Kite:
The Chinese dragon kite has a long history that is tied to the symbolic importance of the dragon in the cultural lore of the nation. The dragon has long been viewed as a potent symbol of auspicious power in Chinese art and folk tales. The dragon is deeply entwined in Chinese culture and its meanings are deep and varied depending on the geographical region and the era of Chinese history.
With its embodiment in literature and art, it was to be expected that symbolic representations of the dragon would take flight in Chinese skies. There seems to be no precise information to suggest a date that has been historically established to confirm when the first Chinese dragon kites took to the skies, or in which exact area of the country they were first created and flown.
However, the Chinese dragon kite is an arresting and striking visual display when it is launched at any modern kite festival. The color, intricate construction and repetition of the segments of its body undulating in the breeze as it lifts skyward from its imposing head to its far off tail are simply captivating.
This kite is known as a "centipede" type of kite in that the repeated segments that follow behind the dragon's head are all identical in size and shape and are linked to make the dragon's body form, much as a centipede has a distinct head followed by many similar segments to its body. As with the centipede, the dragon kite as a visual whole is much greater than the sum of its individual parts.
The Great Wall of China Kite:
A very recent kite that made the global news, is the kite that represents the Great Wall of China. Although not in the shape of the traditional Chinese dragon kite, this kite has all the characteristics of a 'centipede kite' form: multiple repeated segments that are attached to a lead section. When combined, all these elements provide a total, integrated kite image in the sky.
This kite was constructed during a three year period from 2006 to 2008. It was flown for the first time on June 22, 2008. The kite was crafted by Zhang Tianwei, a master in kite design. Composed of two parts, the kite had a portrait of Qin Shihuang leading the head position, followed by a more-than-100-meter micro great wall. The giant kite is 130 metres in length and 12 kilograms in weight.. Due to its heavy weight, the kite needs at least 10 people to fly it in winds of 12 to 20 kph.
Qin Shihuang was the first emperor of China who founded Qin Dynasty after conquering six other countries in the Warring States Period. He was also the man who conceived of and started the building of the Great Wall to fend off foreign invasions. Kite creator Tianwei felt that an image of the Great Wall could be recreated in a kite that would reach off into the distance and undulate in the breeze just as the physical Wall itself rambles over varying terrain in China.
Single Kite or Train of Kites?
The Chinese 'centipede' type of kite is considered to be one single kite, an amalgam of segments creating a single visual entity. The two kites described and shown above are perfect examples of this.
Typically a 'train' of kites embodies a linked line of kites that are the exactly the same which do not suggest one single visual concept theme.
An example of a kite train is shown to the right. The kite train genre features all kites, including the lead kite, made of the same design structure.
Although the visual effect in the sky is usually quite arresting, it is very different from the effect created by a 'centipede' type kite where the entire array of similar kite elements evokes a collective idea that is greater than that created by the string of kites in a typical kite train.
The train of kites shown flying above was designed and built by the author.
References and Citations:
1. Background information on dragons and their role in the culture of China is from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
2. Image of Chinese dragon kite, of centipede variety, is from The Dragon Cave web site.
Videos of Chinese Centipede (Dragon) Kites:
Since writing this article, I have had several requests for more information on kite trains and, in particular, the Chinese centipede/dragon type kites.
Two video resources that provide insight into these magnificent kites are provided here.
Making a kite of this type is very time consuming. They are among the most beautiful kites in the world. Their long history and link to the culture of China ensures that these kites attract much attention wherever they are flown.
The Magenn Kite Rotor, a prototype of the Magnus Effect power generating kite, was premiered at the 2006 Canal Days Kite Festival in Port Colborne, ON.
The video below was taken at the Festival in August of 2006 by Carlos Simoes of the Kitchener-Waterloo Wind Climbers Kite Club. Appreciation is extended to Carlos for permitting the video to be displayed here.
For additional information on this kite, the following articles provide more complete information:
- Rotor Kites Move From Toy Novelty to High Tech Power Generation
- Interview with Inventor of Magenn Kite Rotor Generator
- Magenn Power Inc. website (complete, up-to-date information on the Magenn project)