John Alexander Douglas McCurdy

Last updated

J.A.D. McCurdy
John A.D. McCurdy.jpg
20th Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia
In office
12 August 1947 1 September 1952
Monarch George VI
Elizabeth II
Governor General The Viscount Alexander of Tunis
Vincent Massey
Premier Angus Lewis Macdonald
Preceded by Henry Ernest Kendall
Succeeded by Alistair Fraser
Personal details
Born(1886-08-02)2 August 1886
Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Canada
Died25 June 1961(1961-06-25) (aged 74)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Spouse(s)Margaret Millicent Ball m. first 20 Sept. 1881 Lucy O'Brien in Windsor, N.S., and they had three sons and a daughter; m. secondly 2 Oct. 1902 Hattie Maria Mace in Montreal, and they had two daughters and a son; d. 1923 in Washington, D.C.
RelationsArthur Williams McCurdy
ChildrenJ.R.D. McCurdy (Son)
Margaret Diana Haddon (daughter)
ProfessionAeronautical engineer, Aircraft designer, Pilot, Entrepreneur

John Alexander Douglas McCurdy (2 August 1886 25 June 1961) was a Canadian aviation pioneer and the 20th Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia from 1947 to 1952. [N 1]


Early years

Son of inventor Arthur Williams McCurdy and born in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, McCurdy was known as "Douglas". He was schooled at St. Andrew's College in Aurora, Ontario and graduated from the University of Toronto in mechanical engineering in 1907, where he had been a member of The Kappa Alpha Society along with his friend Frederick Walker Baldwin. The University of Toronto Year Book for his graduation year (Torontonensis 1907) shows that he was active in rugby and fencing.

The AEA Silver Dart in flight, J.A.D. McCurdy at the controls, c. 1910 AEA Silver Dart.jpg
The AEA Silver Dart in flight, J.A.D. McCurdy at the controls, c. 1910


In 1907, he joined Alexander Graham Bell's Aerial Experiment Association. In 1908, McCurdy helped another AEA member, Glenn Curtiss to set up the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. [2]

McCurdy became the first British subject to fly an aircraft in the British Empire when he piloted the Aerial Experiment Association's Silver Dart off the ice of Bras d'Or Lake in Nova Scotia. [3] The Silver Dart was the first powered aircraft to fly in Canada. In 1910, he was the first Canadian to be issued a pilot's license and the following year, he made the first flight from Florida to Cuba. [4] For the next few years, he continued to set aviation records in Canada and North America, until 1916, when vision problems grounded him.

First World War

In 1915, McCurdy established the first aviation school in Canada, the Curtiss Flying School, operating from 1915 to 1919. and was the first manager of Long Branch Aerodrome, Canada's first airport. He was also instrumental in setting up Canadian Aeroplanes Ltd., an aircraft manufacturing company located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada that built aircraft for the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. Formed on 15 December 1916, when the Imperial Munitions Board bought the Curtiss (Canada) aircraft operation in Toronto (opened in 1916 as Toronto Curtiss Aeroplanes), Canadian Aeroplanes Ltd. manufactured the JN-4 (Can) Canuck, the Felixstowe F5L flying boat, and the Avro 504. [5]

Interwar years

In 1928, McCurdy created the Reid Aircraft Company in Montreal and became its first president. After a merger, he remained at the helm of the Curtiss-Reid Aircraft Company, a position he held until the advent of war. [6] The most notable product of the company was the Curtiss-Reid Rambler. [7]

McCurdy married Margaret Ball of Woodstock, Ontario, daughter of Margaret and Robert N. Ball, Queens Counsel for Sullivan Co, Ontario.

Second World War

At the beginning of the Second World War, McCurdy became Assistant Director General of Aircraft Production. He remained in that position until 1947. [8]


In 1947, McCurdy was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, a post he continued until 1952. He was awarded the McKee Trophy in 1959 on the 50th anniversary of the flight of the Silver Dart. He attended official ceremonies and sat in the replica Silver Dart built for the occasion. He was also named an honorary air commodore at the time. [8]

After a lengthy illness, McCurdy died in 1961 in Montreal, Quebec, and was buried the following month in Baddeck, Nova Scotia where a family home had been maintained. [8]


The McCurdy Award at McGill University in Montreal was introduced in 1954 by the Institute of Aircraft Technicians. The award commemorates the contributions made by John A.D. McCurdy during the development of the aviation industry in North America. Following its creation in 1973, McCurdy was inducted into Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame.

On 27 July 2009 Sydney Airport was renamed J.A. Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport in his honour. [9] In 2012, he was inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame. [10]

Awards and recognition

Order of the British Empire (Civil) Ribbon.png

See also

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  1. According to The McCurdys of Nova Scotia, J.A.D. McCurdy's name was John Archibald Douglas McCurdy. Alexander is a common name in the McCurdy family. [1]
  1. Blanchard 1930, pp. 162–163.
  2. Gunston 1993, p. 87.
  3. "Link with Canadian Pioneers". Flight . 70 (2491): 642. 19 October 1956. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  4. "McCurdy's Crossing". Historic Wings . 31 January 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  5. Given, Robert A. "Long Branch." Archived 5 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved: 24 February 2011.
  6. Taylor 1989, p. 288.
  7. "Curtiss-Reid Rambler." Archived 15 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine Canadian Historical Aircraft Association. Retrieved: 31 October 2010.
  8. 1 2 3 McDonald, Tom. "John McCurdy of Nova Scotia Dies, Ist in British Empire to Fly Plane_Jun 26, 1961." Archived 30 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved: 18 August 2011.
  9. "Sydney Airport." Archived 6 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine Sydney Airport Authority, 2011. Retrieved: 24 February 2011.
  10. "U of T Engineers Inducted into Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame". Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, University of Toronto. Archived from the original on 28 November 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2012.