Structures and Materials

Today’s engineering teams designing next-generation transport aircraft face the same challenge that aviation pioneers like the Wright brothers and members of Canada’s Aerial Experiment Association faced in the early twentieth century. That is, how to make sure that the engine, wings, fuselage and control surfaces are all lightweight, strong and reliable, and that funds are available for production. The structures and materials being used at the dawn of the twenty-first century, however, are very different from those that were available in 1903.

The success of these first aircraft can be attributed to the gasoline engine developments that took place before 1900. However, the limited power of these early piston engines meant that aircraft designers had to compensate by using light and relatively fragile material throughout the aircraft. The entire airframe was therefore made of wood, and steel cables that were covered with linen or cotton fabric. Before long, engines were being designed, in France in particular, specifically to meet aviation requirements.

The first flight of the Wright <em>Flyer</em>, 17 December 1903.<br />  (CAVM 31130)
Antoinette gasoline engine, designed in 1909.<br />  (AH S-5)
The light and fragile A.E.A. <em>Silver Dart<em> is the first aircraft to fly in Canada.<br />  (CAVM 2174)
McCurdy brothers assemble Baddeck Biplane II, Montreal Air Meet, 1910.<br />  (CAVM 4265)