Students attending Lansdowne middle school joined local MLA Rob Fleming in unveiling a sign that commemorated the first flight of an all-Canadian aircraft. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Sign tips wings to Saanich aviation pioneer

Lansdowne middle school was site of the first flight of an all-Canadian aircraft

A new sign unveiled Wednesday pays tribute to the pioneering spirit of a magnificent Canadian aviator and his flying machine.

Joined by students and administrators of Saanich’s Lansdowne middle school, Education Minister and local MLA Rob Fleming unveiled a sign commemorating the first flight of an all-Canadian aircraft.

“On this airstrip, as it was, history was made,” said Fleming.

On Sept. 8, 1910, Victoria-resident William Wallace Gibson lifted off the grounds in his self-made Gibson Twin plane. Based on the replica that hangs in Sidney’s B.C. Aviation Museum, Gibson was relentless, courageous and slightly mad at the same time.

Built over several months, Gibson’s plane looked more like a large-sized bed on bicycle wheels with wings and two propellers located half-way between the nose and the tail. Aerodynamic it was not.

In fact, it did not have a cockpit in the modern sense, as Gibson controlled the plane, while sitting open air in a horse saddle.

Gibson suffered ridicule and failure along the way. But he always managed to escape serious injury along the way, and eventually prevailed. According to Saanich Archives, it flew over 70 feet longer than the Wright brothers’ flight in 1903. But this success remained unrecognized, and Gibson eventually moved to California where he died at the age of 91. In 1985, his son William Gibson unveiled a plaque at Lansdowne Middle School to honour his flight.

For Fleming, Gibson fits into the tradition of entrepreneurs and innovators, who built up B.C. while following their dreams.

The sign paying tribute to Gibson stands just off Lansdowne Road as part of the Stop of Interest program, which the provincial government initiated in 1958 to mark the 100th anniversary of British Columbia.

(In 1858, Vancouver Island was a separate British colony that did not join B.C. until 1866).

The field from which Gibson lifted off also served as the region’s first airport between 1928 and 1931. “It would have been a really cheap cab ride,” joked Fleming.

While physical evidence of this history disappeared long ago, Lansdowne Middle School continues to breathe its spirit as its school teams bear the nickname of Flyers.

Regional aviation also has a present and a future. “What is great on the South Island is that we still have so many active flying clubs. We make aircraft at plants that employ hundreds,” said Fleming, in alluding to Viking Air Ltd., the Sidney-based manufacturer of the iconic DHC-6 Twin Otter, a familiar sight in local skies.

The region is also home to Canada’s 10th busiest airport poised for future expansion, as the regional population and economy grows.

 

William Wallace Gibson’s plane. He built it in his coach house at 146 Clarence Street in James Bay before flying it Sept. 8, 1910. (Photo courtesy of Saanich Archives)

Just Posted

Sidney calls on provincial government to appoint mediator to resolve strike

Council approved motion from Coun. Chad Rintoul by 6-1 vote

West Shore soap company releases Lucky Lager beer soap

Metchosin Soap Works puts out beer-infused olive oil soap

UVic conference explores healthy ways to express masculinity

ReImagining Masculinity conference Nov. 16 hopes to cultivate healthy, non-violent conversations

Bateman gallery’s OneTree 2019 honours the life of a single, salvaged tree

Bateman Foundation Gallery hosts OneTree Nov. 16 to Feb. 29, 2020

Climate change protest to take place in Victoria during rush hour

Extinction Rebellion group targets local media with die-in on Douglas Street

VIDEO: Canadian allergists’ group wants Benadryl behind the counter due to side effects

Some doctors say the medication is over-used because of its easy availability

POLL: Do you support CUPE workers in their dispute with School District 63?

SD63 schools to remain closed as strike continues Tuesday

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 12

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. forest industry trade mission finding new markets in China

Diplomatic tensions eased, minister Doug Donaldson says

Sex assault charge stayed against Port Moody mayor

Rob Vagramov completed an alternative measures program, special prosecutor said

“I thought, enough is enough”: B.C. teen takes on bullies through social media

‘I thought, enough is enough. I wanted to try something to stop it.’

Audit finds Canada’s fisheries in decline and response lacks urgency

Report says 17 per cent of fish stocks are critically depleted, up from 13.4 per cent in 2018

Small group of Cherry fans protest his firing at Rogers HQ

One sign at the Toronto rally: ‘Rogers cancels Don, we cancel Rogers’

Campbell River RCMP investigating after two stabbing incidents Tuesday night

Police are treating each case separately and have one person in custody

Most Read