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December 13th, 2017
The Rebirth of River City

100 Years of Aviation in Toronto – Training Toronto’s Aerial Aces

“In August 1914, fling was still in its infancy. Taking of and landing a plane without crashing was a signifiant accomplishment.”– Canadian War Museum

Today, it is easy to take a flght to almost any destination on earth.Many people take international flghts multiple times a year.Th period 1903 to 1914 saw pioneering feats that changed the aviation industry forever and paved the way for modern aircraft.

Th Wright brothers flw the fist powered airplane on December 17, 1903. Thy made four flghts that day, the fial flght by Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) lasting the longest at 59 seconds.Th advent of the commercial airplane occurred 100 years ago.Th fist ever commercial flght with a paying passenger took place on January 1, 1914. Th plane flw from St. Petersburg,Florida to Tampa Bay, Florida and took 23 minutes.

As M. Jane Fairburn notes in Along the Shore: Rediscovering Toronto’s Waterfront Heritage, on February 23, 1909, Canadian J.A.D McCurdy (1886-1961) became the fist British subject to fla controlled aircraft in the British Empire after he flw his plane Silver Dart in Nova Scotia. In September 1909, as part of a fling exhibition sponsored by Scarboro Beach Amusement Park in the Beach district, American pilot Charles Foster Willard touched down in front of the grounds with the Golden Flyer., a self-made aircraft by Curtiss. It was the fist ever flght across the Toronto shore at Lake Ontario and it lasted about 3.2km. According to newspaper reports, he landed in the water not far from the shore.

Canada needed a place to train pilots during WWI. Training was provided in the Toronto area at the Curtiss Aviation School (also known at the Curtiss Flying School) in Long Branch, southwest of the city. Th fling boat training facility was established at Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island. Th school was the fist of its kind in Canada. Many of the school’s pilots were Torontonians, including many Island residents, who went on to serve during WWI.

American aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss (1878-1930) originally started Th Curtiss Flying School, with the afore-mentioned J.A.D. McCurdy as manager of operations, was to compete with the Wright brothers’ Wright Flying School Th School also had locations in the United States. Other air training stations were later operated around Ontario during the war, such as at Camp Borden, west of Barrie.

After the war, fling aces Billy Bishop (1894-1956), the top Canadian fling ace of the war, and Torontonian Will Barker (1894-1930), the most decorated serviceman in the history of Canada, established the air passenger service BishopBarker Aeroplanes Limited, which ceased operating in 1922.Many airlines of the time struggled but flght soon became an increasingly popular means of transportation.

Commercial flghts gradually became more affrdable and a popular means of transportation. Flying would eventually overtake rail travel as the most popular means of long-distance travel for Canadians. Flying also became useful in the exploring and developing the Canadian north.

Reference:

Jane Fairburn, Along the Shore: Rediscovering Toronto's Waterfront Heritage Alexander, Christine. ‘Education During the First World War’, Wartime Canada Air Training in Canada – Canadian War Museum

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