To 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
During 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
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.