The Aerial Experiment Association was formed at Hammondsport, NY, in September 1907, by Dr Graham Bell (leader) and Mrs Bell (prime mover and financier), Glenn Curtiss and three others. McCurdy and his friend, Frederick “Casey” Baldwin, two young graduates from the University of Toronto, decided to spend their summer vacation in Baddeck Nova Scotia, Canada. McCurdy had spent his youth there and his father was the personal secretary of Dr. Bell. Discussing the field of aviation and some of Bell’s aeronautical ideas, Bell’s wife, Mabel, suggested they form an association to exploit their collective ideas. She agreed to fund the fledgling organisation.
Dr. Bell also invited Glenn H. Curtiss, to participate in the venture. As an American motorcycle designer and manufacturer, he had acquired considerable experience with light-weight gasoline engines. The United States government took interest in some of the AEA’s ideas and proposed that it should have an observer participate in the plans and discussions. Thus, Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge joined the group.
With no shortage of ideas, the group built three prototypes in sequence, each building on the experience of its predecessor. These were the Red Wing, the White Wing and the June Bug. The June Bug with Glenn Curtiss at the controls broke several aviation records and won the Scientific American award for the first official one-kilometre flight in the United States of America.
The AEA’s fourth effort was the Silver Dart, designed and piloted by McCurdy.