Stormy weather forces cancellation of Silver Dart flight

A snowstorm has forced organizers to cancel a flight meant to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of aviation in Canada — by a replica of the Silver Dart, the biplane that lifted off from a Cape Breton bay in 1909.

A snowstorm has forced organizers to cancel a flight meant to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of aviation in Canada — by a replica of the Silver Dart, the biplane that lifted off from a bay in Nova Scotia in 1909.

The original aircraft achieved the first powered flight in Canada, lifting off from Baddeck Bay in Cape Breton on Feb. 23, 1909.

On Monday, Cape Breton was battered by ice pellets, high winds and snow — with as much as 25 centimetres expected along the western side of the island. Rainfall warnings have been issued along Cape Breton's Atlantic coast.

The replica was able to take to the air over Baddeck Bay on Sunday for some test flights.

Former Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason lifted off in the fragile biplane and flew for about 10 metres before setting down.

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean and other dignitaries were expected to be in Baddeck on Monday for the ceremonies, but word came in the morning that they would not be able to attend because of the weather. 

"This event was important to me," Jean said in a release Monday. "The Silver Dart is the irrefutable proof that nothing is impossible and that sometimes a dream is all it takes to give history an unexpected, unforeseen and wonderful turn," said the Governor General.

"I am very disappointed that I cannot attend but I hope everyone in Baddeck has a great celebration!"

The original Silver Dart was flown by engineer John McCurdy, one of the aircraft's designers, who was part of a team led by inventor Alexander Graham Bell.

McCurdy was fully exposed to the weather as he flew the plane over the bay, covering one kilometre at an altitude of about five metres.

The biplane was built of wood and silk fabric and had a three-wheeled undercarriage, which enabled the machine to take off under its own power.

Some smaller ceremonies that are not weather-dependent are still expected to go ahead, including the dedication of a commemorative coin from the Royal Canadian Mint and the launch of a new stamp from Canada Post.

The Silver Dart flight launched aviation in the Commonwealth. The world's first heavier-than-air human flight was achieved by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903.