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Magnificent Flying Machine

A replica Silver Dart constructed of bamboo, wire, and nylon made six takeoffs from John C. Munro International Airport in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, recently to mark the 100th anniversary of the Silver Dart's first flight in 1909. The original flight was the first in Canada and the British Empire by an aircraft. Piloted by space shuttle Discovery astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason, the replica's longest flight was 1.5 kilometers. By comparison, the original Silver Dart, built under the guidance of Alexander Graham Bell, flew a half-mile on its first journey. "It feels great," said Tryggvason. "I've flown the fastest thing in the world. I've flown the slowest thing in the world. I've flown the newest thing, I've flown the oldest thing," The 2009 takeoff was the culmination of five years of work by a Niagara-based nonprofit group of volunteer aviation enthusiasts calling themselves Aerial Experiment Association 2005. The project cost $36,000 and was made possible by a host of sponsors and 6,000 hours of volunteer labor. On hand at the event was Gerald Haddon, grandson of the original plane's inventor, J.A.D. McCurdy, as well as Sean Baldwin, grandson of F.W. (Casey) Baldwin, who helped build the original Silver Dart. Also among the spectators was David Houston, who flew in from Ottawa in a Cessna 182. "Aircraft are like race cars," said Houston, a pilot and race car driver. "I just really appreciate the way things are built. And they both go fast."

March 11, 2009

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