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Bits and Pieces

Was Canada First in Electric Flight?

By Ian Brown, Editor - Bits and Pieces, EAA 657159

Electric-powered flight is continually advancing in recent years, so it was notable to hear from Ken Dick, EAA 5610, about a report of a flight by an electric-powered airplane in Oakville, Ontario...on September, 10, 1908! Yes, that's right, 1908!

The flight was reported as unmanned, using a 50-pound bag of sand as ballast. The aircraft apparently flew with batteries and an electric motor, with a plan to put a pilot on board for future flights.

Here is the text from the microfilm archives of The Canadian Champion that Ken e-mailed to Bits and Pieces:

"An aeroplane near Oakville"

A somewhat successful flight was made by an aeroplane near Oakville [Ontario] on Monday. Carrying fifty pounds of sand, the airship travelled for about fifty yards at a distance of about forty feet above the ground. The originator of this aeroplane is said to be an electric engineer residing in Toronto, and a friend of Count Seppelin, the famous aeronaut. The trial was apparently perfectly satisfactory and now a larger machine will be constructed along the same lines, so that a man instead of sand may be carried. It is made of silk and bamboo and is operated by storage batteries."

So here is a challenge! Is anyone presently living near Milton willing to go and check out the microfilm archive? There are some intriguing questions. Was there a subsequent flight which would almost certainly have been reported? What about the confusion over aeroplane versus airship especially with the reported construction method (silk and bamboo) and the reference to Count Seppelin? Was this in fact a lighter-than-air aircraft? Is someone involved in early aviation history able to clue us in on the rest of the story?

The Milton Historical Society website:

The Canadian Champion Microfilm Archive
The Canadian Champion Microfilm Archive

Let us see if we can get some responses to this intriguing story for next month's issue. You would have to be at least 105 to have been there, so perhaps someone remembers a story from a family member.

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