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Alberta's Aviation Heritage
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Riding Balloons

Jack Dallas ascended in J. Strobel's airshipTo many in the early years in Alberta, the first glimpses of flight occurred at local summer fairs, where those attending had a chance to see balloons ascend, and in some cases, the pilots parachute back to the ground. Among the first reports of these demonstrations was the exhibition presented to fair goers in Edmonton, in June 1906. Professor R. Cross had arrived to ascend in his balloon and then parachute back down. But, as in many cases in these early days, the flight did not go as he had hoped. The balloon was ready to go at 7 p.m., steadied by a group of men. When Cross stood on a trapeze below and gave the signal, they let go. The balloon rose quickly, but soon began to descend. Cross could not release himself and went down with the balloon, which landed on the roof of a house near McKay School.

Cross successfully completed a number of ascensions in the following days, but the winds pushed his balloon dangerously toward the North Saskatchewan, threatening to damage the aircraft in the trees near the river, and to possibly force him and the balloon into the water. He refused to carry on more flights under those wind conditions.

A week later, Professor Williams carried out a similar demonstration, ascending on a trapeze below a balloon and parachuting back down. Everything was going as expected until Williams fell into the Elbow River below.

Captain Jack Dallas in Calgary

Flights of Strobel's air shipDuring the summer fair of 1908 in Calgary, visitors were able to see the flight of a 183-metre long dirigible owned by the American J. Strobel, and piloted by Captain Jack Dallas. The flights over the city showed that a dirigible could be controlled in different wind conditions. The dirigible was inflated with highly explosive hydrogen. On 4 July, the hydrogen exploded while being filled on the ground, causing the death of one bystander and the injury of others, including Bert Hall, an assistant working on the dirigible that day. 

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Alberta's Aviation Heritage

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