The Early Birds

Throughout history, mankind has looked to the sky and yearned to take flight. As early as the 1500’s, inventors such as Leonardo DaVinci had designed machines that would hopefully fly. Later on, other inventors had built and flown hot air balloons, simple gliders and eventually, powered flying machines. In western Canada, more specifically, British Columbia, early experimental flight took the form of balloons and powered flying machines. Here are a few examples that you will find at the BC Aviation Museum:


DaVinci Ornithopter

The famed Italian Renaissance genius, who lived between 1452 and 1519, turned his fertile mind to the ancient dream of flight, and what emerged was a plan for a human-powered flapping machine.  Our full-sized replica has been donated by BCIT.  It never got off the ground!

Chanute-Type Glider 1896

This replica of a “hang-glider” built in 1896 by Octave Chanute represents the state of the art in aeronautics in the late 19th century.  Chanute’s work was important to the Wright Brothers as it was airworthy but lacked only a practical motor.  Our replica was built in Victoria by Russ Carrington and was donated to the Museum in 1989.

Gibson Twin Plane

Canada’s first designed and built aeroplane, the Twin Plane was “hopped” at Dean’s Farm, Victoria on September 12, 1910.  Ten days later a short flight ended with a collision with a large tree.  Fortunately W.W. Gibson was not seriously hurt, and went on to build a much more realistic machine that flew several times in 1911 in Calgary.  A further crash ended Gibson’s pioneering efforts.  This replica was built in 1996 thanks to a Heritage Trust Fund grant.


Hoffar H-1

Two Vancouver area boat-builders, Henry and Jimmie Hoffar, were so enchanted with the magic of flight, that in 1917 they built and flew a bi-plane of their own design.  In so doing they created the first successful aircraft that was designed, built and flown entirely in British Columbia, created the first aircraft in Canada with a single float, and built the first floatplane in Western Canada.  The Museum's full-scale, externally-correct replica honours these achievements, and the contribution the Hoffar brothers made to the advancement of air transportation in the province.

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