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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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)

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Undercover operation exposes prominent human trafficking problem in Greater Victoria

VicPD’s Operation No More took place in mid-June at a local hotel

Victoria man in custody after shooting in 100-block of Gorge Road East

The man is facing recommended charges including assault with a weapon

Langford approves permit for 124-unit mass timber building

Tallwood 1 to be completed by late 2021

Book stores in Victoria notice uptick in sales for anti-racism titles

White Fragility, How to be an Antiracist are among the best selling titles

‘This year is unlike any other’: Trudeau delivers Canada day address

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and the Prime Minister release video celebrating the national holiday

Tsilhqot’in Nation demands meeting with feds on declining Fraser River chinook stocks

The Nation wants to partner with DFO to rebuild and recover the stocks

Gov. General honours Canadians for bravery, volunteer service

Five categories of winners presented on Canada Day

COVID-19: Should non-medical masks be mandatory in Canada?

New poll shows Canadians are divided on the rules around mandatory masks

‘A little bit scary for everybody’: Air passengers wary as new rules take effect

Masks or face coverings have been mandatory on flights since April 20

VIDEO: Prince William and Kate chat with B.C. hospital staff about COVID-19

Seven-minute video posted to Youtube on Canada Day

River centre says heavy rains could bring flooding to central, northeastern B.C.

Water levels are already unusually high and river banks can be extremely unstable

Campbell River’s defunct cruise ship terminal to undergo evaluation for future plans

With no cruise ship coming through, the $16million terminal has been a white elephant for over 13 years

Most Read