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Aerial Experiment Association

From Academic Kids

The Aerial Experiment Association (AEA) was formed in 1907 under the tutelage of Dr. Alexander Graham Bell.

The AEA came into being when John McCurdy and his friend Frederick W. "Casey" Baldwin, two young engineers fresh out of the University of Toronto, decided to spend the summer in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. McCurdy had grown up there, and his father was the personal secretary of Dr. Bell. He had grown up close to the Bell family and was well received in their home. One day, as the three sat with Dr. Bell discussing the problems of aviation, Bell's wife, Mabel, suggested they form a company to exploit their collective ideas. Being independently wealthy, she offered to bankroll the idea, taking care of one of the major problems facing aviators of the day.

The American motorcycle designer and manufacturer, and recognized expert on gasoline engines, Glenn H. Curtiss also became a member of the association. Curtiss had visited the Wright Cycle Company to discuss aeronautical engineering with Wilbur and Orville Wright but the Wrights did not want to cooperate with him in the development of aircraft. The group attracted sufficient attention to inspire the United States government to request that an official observer be allowed to join. Their nominee was Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge.

This collaboration lead to very public success. One of their planes, the June Bug, won the Scientific American Trophy by making the first official one kilometer flight in North America. Their fourth flying machine, the Silver Dart, constructed in 1908, made the first controlled powered flight in Canada on February 23 1909 when it was flown off the ice at Baddeck by McCurdy who had been one of its designers. On March 10, 1909, McCurdy set a record when he flew the airplane on a circular course over a distance of more than 32 km (20 miles). The Association made the first passenger flight in Canada on August 2, also in the Silver Dart. Much development also took place in Hammondsport, New York where experimentation was done on development of the first seaplane.


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