McCurdy, John Alexander Douglas

BASc, PEng 
1906 Mechanical 
Inducted: Hall of Distinction, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, University of Toronto 1980

J. A. D. McCurdy was a true visionary of his time; one of the principal architects of Canadian Aviation. He made the first powered heavier-than-air flight by a British subject in the British Commonwealth when he flew from Bras d’Or Lake, Baddeck, Nova Scotia in an aeroplane he designed and built called the Silver Dart. He was born in Baddeck and with Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, F.W. “Casey” Baldwin, Glenn Curtis and Lt. T. Selfridge (US Army), formed the Aerial Experiment Association.

McCurdy also pioneered other “firsts”:

• First Canadian to be issued a pilots license and granted Great Britain’s pilot’s license Number One
• Established the first aviation school in Canada
• Made the first oceanic flight between Florida and Cuba
• Flew the worlds first flying boat
• Along with F.W. Baldwin formed the first aircraft production company in Canada and took Baldwin up as Canada’s first passenger, August 2, 1909
• First to utilize a water cooled engine in an aeroplane, which he had installed on the Silver Dart
• Made the first figure eight in an aeroplane and first flight in Mexico
• Transmitted and received the first wireless message from an aeroplane in 1911
• Made the first inter-city flight in Canada between Hamilton and Toronto
• Was the first to demonstrate the possibility of bombing from the air; in 1917 his aeroplane factory in Toronto produced the world’s first twin-engined bomber for the Royal Navy
• Contributed to the development of the aileron, the tricycle landing gear and pontoons.

In 1915, he formed Canada’s first aviation school in Toronto. In between World Wars, he helped found the Reid Aircraft Company which became The Curtis-Reid Aircraft Company of which he was president.  One hundred years after J. A. D. McCurdy’s historic flight, the airport in Sydney, Nova Scotia was renamed the J. A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport.  At the time of his death on June 21, 1961 he was the world’s oldest living pilot. Buried in his home town Baddeck, Nova Scotia,his tombstone faces Bras d’Or Lake from where he made his historic fight and from where Canadian Aviation took its first steps.

Awards and Achievements
• Was chiefly responsible for the founding of the RCAF
• Served as Lieutenant Governor, Nova Scotia, 1947-1952
• Honorary Air Commodore
• Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame
• Order of the British Empire, OBE
• The McGee Trophy
• Holder of three Honorary Degrees: University of Toronto; University of King’s College; Nova Scotia Technical College
• Awards named for him: The McCurdy Award; The J. A. D. McCurdy Trophy