Two Canadians, Frederick W. (Casey) Baldwin and John A.D.
McCurdy, graduated in engineering from the University of Toronto
in the spring of 1907 and travelled to Baddeck, Nova Scotia to
explore the possibilities of flight with Bell. Once the two
arrived and discussed the work done in flight, Bell suggested
that they form an association to work rapidly on developing
their ideas together. The group formed the Aerial Experiment
Association, which became internationally renowned for its work.
Bell invited the American Glenn H. Curtiss to join the
Association because of his expertise in manufacturing motorcycle
engines that could be used to provide the power needed for
flight. The United States Army was interested in the development
of flight and had Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge serve as their
observer in the Association.
The first experimental flight carried out by the Association
took place on 6 December 1907. The test aircraft, piloted by Selfridge, was a large, tetrahedral kite placed on pontoons
called the Cygnet I. The kite was pulled by the
steamboat Blue Hill on Bras’Or Lake, Nova Scotia.
Cygnet I reached a height of 51 metres and remained in
the air for seven minutes, but when it landed on the lake the
towline was not released and the kite with Selfridge was pulled
below the water’s surface. The kite was destroyed and Selfridge
The development of additional flying machines moved to
Hammondsport, New York because Curtiss had his machine shop
The first machine built by the Association was called the
Red Wing because of its colour. The first engine
Curtiss designed specifically for aircraft was used in the
Red Wing. Casey Baldwin successfully flew it on 12
March 1908 for 97 metres. His second flight took him 37 metres,
but ended with heavy damage to the aircraft. The Red Wing
had no controls except an elevator (a control used to adjust the
up and down motion, or pitch, of an aircraft's nose or tail),
and it was this lack of control that led to its destruction.
The next aircraft was named the White Wing, and
the members of the Association developed controlled flaps on the
wings that improved stability. These control flaps were soon
called ailerons by another well-known aviation pioneer, Hari
The White Wing was flown four times in 1908:
first by Baldwin on 18 May for 82 metres, Selfridge on 19 May for
73 metres, Curtiss on 20 May for 310 metres, and finally on 23
May by McCurdy, who flew for 183 metres, landing with a
destructive crash that slightly injured the pilot.
The Association’s next aircraft was the June Bug.
It was flown many times between 21 June and 31 August, with the
longest flight lasting over three kilometres. When it was flown by Curtiss on 4 July 1908, it set the record for being the first
aircraft to fly one kilometre in the western hemisphere, and
received the Scientific American Trophy.
The June Bug was renamed The Loon
in November when members of the Association put pontoons on it
to experiment with flight off water surfaces, but the experiment
ended in failure.