WHITE, Elwood

Author Tags: Transportation

William Wallace Gibson designed, built and flew the first all-Canadian aircraft in Victoria on September 8, 1910. Before that, The first airship to be seen in British Columbia arrrived in Victoria in September of 1909, flown by one of its two American owners, J.C. Mars. An estimated 12,000 spectators witnessed a demonstration flight on the city's Exhibition Grounds on September 24, 1909. And before that, in 1908, the highlight of the 48th annual Victoria Exhibition was the daily balloon ascent and parachute drop of 'Professor' Frank Sylvan, a local medical doctor who fearlessly soared as high as 5,000 feet before plummeting back to earth.

These aeronauts and dozens of other aviation pioneers are profiled in Wings Across the Water: Victoria's Flying Heritage 1871-1971 (Harbour 2005), co-authored by aviation pioneer Elwood White and Peter L. Smith. Born in Victoria, White, a licensed pilot as of 1938, photographed and observed Vancouver Island aviation as of 1928. His photographic collection formed the basis for the book. According to Harbour Publishing, "Wings Across the Water: Victoria’s Flying Heritage 1871–1971 is illustrated with a vengeance: it contains over 600 mesmerizing aviation photographs, most never before published. Beginning with a procession of 'hot-air professors' performing the Island’s first manned balloon ascents in the 1800s, the book documents everything from the coming of the first spindly flying machines and early barn-storming hijinks to the frantic preparations for two wars, bush-flying follies and the arrival of the jet age." White was 87 at the time of publication. White's co-author Peter L. Smith, a UVic classics professor, also wrote a history of the university and co-wrote Ghosts on the Grade: Hiking and Biking Abandoned Railways on Southern Vancouver Island.


Shays on the Swiftbacks a History of the Narrow Gauge Lenora Mt Sicker Railway (Victoria: British Columbia Railway Historical Society, 1963). With David Wilke.

Wings Across the Water: Victoria's Flying Heritage 1871-1971 (Harbour 2005) $28.95

[BCBW 2005] "Aviation"