Silver, Blue and Gold

 Silver, Blue and Gold

Intro photo - a composite courtesy of Tom Podolec (Hornet), Andy Cline (Silver Dart) and Canadian Forces (Sabre).

Canada is a country of extreme distances and scattered population. To say that the flying machine has greatly and positively affected our lives is an understatement. To say that most Canadians have never taken the time to fully understand the importance of this invention to our lives and to the very nature of our existence is another understatement. To say that the vast majority of Canadians have no knowledge what so ever about the Canadian men and women who have made aviation history in our land and in foreign lands and wars is not only an understatement, but a travesty. The celebrations spearheaded by three groups seek to change all that.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of flight in Canada and across this vast land, men and women are flying, teaching, building and celebrating. They are building airplanes, re-enacting history, convening flying parades and holding special events, dinners, air shows, lectures, school tours, meetings and conventions. The entire flying community is gathering together under the banner of the Centennial of Flight logo created by Vintage Wings of Canada for the national celebration and through a critical mass of enthusiasm and hard work, showing Canadians who have never even thought about it, that the airplane is part of who they are.

There will be hundreds of spectacular events and achievements throughout the year and we will endeavour to tell you about many of them until the sun sets on December 31st, 2009.  To start the year off, let's take a look at three of the most ambitious projects that have been planned and executed already so as to be ready for the actual 100th birthday of flight in Canada - February 23rd, 2009

The first project of course is the creation of a replica Silver Dart airplane to be ready to fly on the same frozen surface as the original and on the same February day. This project involved building the replica to the same standards as the original and with the same materials. The Aerial Experiment Association 2005 was created to bring together the talents and money needed to build the aircraft. They worked hard over the past 4 years to make it happen.  Not more than a couple of weeks before the important day, the Silver Dart was completed and rolled out to much fanfare at the Hamilton Airport.  Within a couple of hours it was successfully test flown, pulled back indoors, partially disassembled and readied to be shipped by truck to Sydney, Nova Scotia.  The pictures that follow will tell you all you need to know about the success of this great endeavour.

Meanwhile, at about the same time, famed Fighter Artist Jim Belliveau and his team at CFB Cold lake were dragging their own beauty out of the hangar into the light of day for the first time. She was an aircraft from a more modern era than the Silver Dart - a CF-18 painted to celebrate everything that has happened in aviation since the Silver Dart first flew. Each year, the Canadian Forces select and paint one of their CF-18 fighters to be a demonstration and recruitment aircraft and these are almost always designed by Belliveau. Whether it is to commemorate an anniversary such as 20 years of operating the CF-18, NORAD's 50th or a squadron's history, the results are always spectacular and the source of much shutter clicking and model making. The Centennial of Flight project is perhaps Belliveau's tour de force, his pièce de résistance. Painted in high gloss red, white, blue and gold, the aircraft is a breathtaking beauty that celebrates flight, military aviation, speed and just-plane Canuckness. The pictures that follow will tell you all you need to know about the success of this great endeavour.

And of course, from us at Vintage Wings of Canada comes the much talked about Hawk One project - a spectacular partnership with the Canadian Armed Forces and Discovery Air and visionary sponsors like Westjet, Marks Work Wearhouse, Cirrus Research Associates, Magellan Aerospace and Inter Pipeline - that has resurrected a Canadair Sabre and a historic RCAF aerobatic team to help all of Canada celebrate.

The funeral of John Alexander Douglas McCurdy, the pilot of the Silver Dart, was held in the summer of 1961 on the sloping hills overlooking the spot on Bras d'Or Lake where he had flown into history. On that day, as the bagpipes skirled, and the breeze blew warm up from the lake, four aircraft thundered over the grave site and one climbed for the heavens. They were F-86 (Canadair) Sabres from RCAF Station Chatham - the same base that our Hawk One is from. Hawk One will continue to pay that same tribute to McCurdy and the AEA throughout 2009. The pictures that follow will tell you all you need to know about the success of this great endeavour.

The Silver Dart, the Blue Hornet and the Golden Hawk. There are no better aircraft to celebrate with, The Silver Dart was the first, the Blue Hornet represents the full span of a century and the Golden Hawks were originally created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of flight - the halfway point. It looks like a great year ahead for aviation in Canada, so strap on your gear, tighten your straps, and get ready to celebrate.   Dave O'Malley

More on the Funeral of McCurdy

More on the Silver Dart Project


The speed of sound meets the light of day. The shiny, brand spanking new CF-18 demo bird or “colour bird” is pulled from the CFB Cold Lake paint bay in February to let the true colours be captured by Canadian Forces photographers. And what a beauty she is – perhaps the finest design that her creator Jim Belliveau has done… and he has done many such CF-18 demo-birds.  Photo: Canadian Forces


Stone cold beautiful. The CF-18 100th Anniversary of Flight colour-bird warms in the sun on the frozen ramp at Cold Lake, Alberta.  The design, by Jim Belliveau, features the same “Sheffields Pale Gold” metallic paint from the Hawk One aircraft – once worn by the Golden Hawks on the 50th or Golden anniversary of flight in 1959. The red and white swooshes are reminiscent of the old RCAF lightning bolt “cheatlines” and from above the paint scheme flows like a magnificent bird. The tail features the Centennial of Flight logo designed by Vintage Wings of Canada designer Dave O'Malley. Photo: Canadian Forces.


The beautiful flowing lines and high polish of the 100th Anniversary Hornet. Photo: Canadian Forces


The first public appearance of the 100th Anniversary Hornet was in the skies over Ottawa as part of a cavalcade of 24 aircraft that flew over Dow’s Lake and then on up the Rideau Canal. The last group was the fastest – three CF-18s – the Belliveau Hornet and two frontline Hornets from CFB Bagotville. Here, photographer Tom Podolec captures the sleek form while standing with thousands of skaters on the frozen surface of Dow’s Lake during Winterlude – Ottawa’s three week-long winter festival. Note the full colour logo on the outboard sides of the tails and the single colour logo inboard. Photo: Tom Podolec


Down to the wire. Just two weeks before her planned appearance at Baddeck to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Flight, the newly finished Silver Dart replica is exposed to the Canadian winter for the first time as she is pushed outside for her first flight. The flight took place at Hamilton’s John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport. While the Silver Dart replica was largely finished at the Russell Group's hangar in Niagara Falls, the final roll out and test flight was conducted at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's world-class facility in nearby Hamilton. The Museum also assisted with logistical and media support (not to mention the heating costs to reheat the hangar/museum after the Silver Dart was rolled out and rolled back!) - a valuable partner in this stunning achievement. Photo: Andy Cline.


The first milestone on a journey 100 years back in time. The test pilot for the Silver Dart, former Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason, taxies his fragile aircraft out to do speed tests and eventually to take to the air.  Photo: Andy Cline


Through the long lens of Andy Cline, we see the Silver Dart flying for the first time. She didn't get too high, but everyone was delighted with the results. Photo Andy Cline

SBG 24

The view from above. Tom Podolec captures the historic flight from a unique angle – a hovering CTV News Toronto Helicopter
! Tom is the CTV video and still cameraman on board. Photo: Tom Podolec

SBG 11

Former Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason wears a more earthly suit for his test flight in the Silver Dart. Photo: Andy Cline


Fast forward to a sunny day nearly 100 years after the first flight of the Silver Dart. Gerald Haddon, the grandson of J.A.D. McCurdy, the pilot of the historic first Canadian flight poses with the replica.  McCurdy along with Casey Baldwin (the first Canadian to fly a heavier-than-air, powered aircraft), Glenn Curtiss (the great motorcycle designer and racer and entrepreneur), Thomas Selfridge (who, the previous summer had earned the dubious honour of being the first person to die in a powered aircraft crash) and Alexander Graham Bell made up the five members of the AEA – the Aerial Experiment Association. The Silver Dart was the AEA’s fourth powered aircraft – after the White Wing, The Red Wing and the June Bug (all tested in the United States). Photo: Janet Trost, Hawk One


Gerald Haddon (Back to camera) assists the builders of the Silver Dart replica as they get set for the historic flight from the ice at Baddeck. One hundred years previous, his grandfather sat in an identical Silver Dart - ready to make history and a future he could barely have imagined. Photo: Janet Trost, Hawk One

SBG 14

Former astronaut Bjarni
Tryggvason gets his rear wheels off the ice during one of his flight tests on the 22nd. The Silver Dart replica does lift off by the rear wheels first, but this day, the nose wheel had a hard time jettisoning the earth. Thousands were on hand for this historic re-enactment in this consecrated ground... er, ice.  Photo: Janet Trost, Hawk One

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McCurdy could never have imagined it. One hundred years after he lifted off from the frozen surface of Bras d'Or Lake in Nova Scotia, two pilots would fly tribute aircraft in his honour - both would be space travellers or as we call them - astronauts. Left to right - Astronaut/Group Captain (Ret'd) Chris Hadfield (flying the Hawk One Sabre), Test Pilot/Wing
(Ret'd) Commander Paul Kissmann, former Snowbird Lead Pilot/Wing Commander (Ret'd) Steve Will, Grandson of Douglas McCurdy Gerald Haddon, Astronaut and Test/Silver Dart pilot Bjarni Tryggvason, former Snowbird Lead pilot/Wing Commander (Ret'd) Dan Dempsey, former Snowbird pilot/Flight Lieutenant (Ret'd) Jeff Hill, former Snowbird pilot/Squadron Leader (Ret'd) Réal Turgeon, Maintenance Officer/Warbird Pilot Andrej Janik, Warrant Officer (Ret'd)/Aero Engine Technician Joe Maillet and Public Affairs Officer/Squadron Leader (Ret'd) Mary Lee. --- Of course these ranks are the ones they would have had back in the days of the original Golden Hawks and not their army-style ranks of today - they were granted permission to wear these ranks for the purposes of this project. Photo: Janet Trost, Hawk One

SBG 16

Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield suits up for his trial flight over Baddeck. The flight was done on the day before the actual anniversary day of February 23rd as the weather was perfect on the 22nd and the outlook for the 23rd poor. Photo: Janet Trost, Hawk One

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Hadfield focuses on the tasks of engine start-up beneath his newly painted Sheffield's Pale Gold helmet. Photo: Janet Trost, Hawk One

SBG 18

Hawk One thunders past onlookers at the Sydney, Nova Scotia airport on February 22nd. Photo: Janet Trost, Hawk One

SBG 19

Hadfield waves to ground crew on the ramp at the Sydney, Nova Scotia airport - the jump-off point for the Centennial fly-bys. Photo: Janet Trost, Hawk One

SBG 20

A gathering of Hawks. Standing L-R Andrej Janik, Mary Lee, Dan Dempsey, Jeff Hill, Real Turgeon and
Joe Maillet L-R on wing Paul Kissmann, Steve Will, Tim Leslie. In cockpit - Chris Hadfield. Photo: Janet Trost, Hawk One

SBG 21

The time honoured "Walk of Heroes" shot, made famous in a hundred motion pictures from The Right Stuff to Armageddon to Memphis Belle. Photo: Janet Trost, Hawk One

SBG 22

Time for some formation practise. Steve Will slides Hawk One in on the left wing of a Snowbird Tutor over the Gatineau Hills on the way home from Baddeck. Photo: Canadian Forces

SBG 23

Steve Will, flying from the co-pilot's seat of a Canadian Forces Snowbirds CT-114 Tutor, trails Paul Kissmann through some aeros over the Gatineau Hills on the same day. Photo: Canadian Forces

The complete Warbird U Calendar for 2012
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