© Guardian photo by Jim Day
It was an historic day that turned many heads skyward.
One hundred years ago, on Sept. 24, 1912, Cecil Peoili, known as the Bird Boy, sat at the controls of the Red Devil and took off in front of an enthralled crowd in Charlottetown.
The flight that ushered Prince Edward Island into the air age was marked Monday with the official unveiling of a plaque that will hang in the Charlottetown Civic Centre.
William Anderson, president of the P.E.I. Carl F. Burke MBE Chapter of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, says the centennial of such a key event deserves prominent recognition.
“It did bring aircraft to the Island,’’ he said. “Those people who had never seen anything like that flying, there it is up in the air: boy oh boy.’’
Coverage in The Guardian at the time captured the public’s fascination with seeing the single-engine, one-seat bi-plane flying.
The article noted that an ideal autumn day, a good card of races and the unique attraction of the biplane drew a record attendance at the exhibition grounds.
“The grand stand was packed and fully 2,000 people lined the fences and the centre of the track to view the sport,’’ the article noted.
“Without any fuss and very little preparation, (the pilot) gracefully ascended into the sky, circling an area to full view of the grand stand several times, then alighting in almost the same spot in which he had started.’’
“His feat brought a great tribute of applause from the spectators with whom he is a great favorite because of his pluck and modesty. The aviator is only 18 years of age and is considered one of the best performers in America.”
Anderson says a group of air minded businessmen contacted Capt. T. Baldwin requesting he bring his flying machine to the province.
The aircraft needed to be shipped to the province in crates that were hauled by horse and buggy to the infield of the exhibition grounds where the plane was reassembled.
After the flight, the plane was diassembled, re-crated and shipped back off the Island.
Anderson notes that the late Syd Clay initiated the move to have a plaque recognizing the centennial of flight in P.E.I.