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Alberta's Aviation Heritage
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George Elmer and John Underwood

A replica of the Underwood’s flying machineDriven to fly like so many enthusiasts following the flights of the Wright brothers and others, Elmer, George and John Underwood of Stettler, Alberta set to work inventing a machine of their own.

The result was unique: a craft with elliptically shaped wings. The Flying Wing was composed of long strips of fir and wire that were covered with cloth. Above the wing was a large fin, with a rudder at the back and an elevator attached to the tail. Under the large wing was a platform where the pilot sat. Motorcycle wheels were placed under the platform and bicycle wheels placed on each wing to hold it steady for take-offs and landings. The platform also contained a place to house the motorcycle motor… once they were able to afford one.

In the meantime, the Underwoods displayed their creation at Stettler’s exhibition in July 1907, and tested the machine on their farm. Tying the aircraft to a fencepost, the brothers placed sacks of wheat on the platform to replicate the weight of a pilot, and launched the plane like a kite. The test went well, and for the next trial, John took the place of the wheat to "fly" the machine for 15 minutes. Their enterprise was then put away until the next year, when the Underwoods finally obtained their coveted motorcycle engine.

Attached to the front of the wing was a large bamboo and canvas propeller, powered by the motorcycle motor. Unfortunately, the brothers found that the engine was too small to get the craft airborne, so they hitched the plane to the fence post once again, using it like a kite, until the Flying Wing was destroyed one day by high winds. Their effort was eventually abandoned, since they lacked the resources to continue.

 

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Alberta's Aviation Heritage

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