K.Molson, H.Taylor Canadian Aircraft since 1909 (Putnam)
Percival Hall Reid was born at Dalhousie, New Brunswick, on 29 January, 1891. He moved to Montreal with his family in 1901, but when and how his interest in aviation was first aroused is not known. He was given a complimentary pass to the 1910 Montreal Aviation Meet, which indicates that his interest was well known locally at that time.
Reid was then reported as Shop Superintendant or Foreman Mechanic at the Stockwell Motor Co located at the corner of Bishop and St Catherine Streets in Montreal. It was there he built his first two monoplanes with the assistance of his friend Ernest Anctil and a helper, W. Audy, and his aircraft was the first powered aircraft to be built in the Montreal area. Later, Gustave Pollien built propellers for him, probably in 1912 and 1913. Reid’s third aircraft was built in a small wooden hangar, apparently erected in 1912 with some assistance from the Montreal Standard newspaper, on the polo grounds near Cartierville where he did most of his flying.
Reid’s use of the polo grounds marked the beginning of aviation activity on the site which has continued to the present day. The Montreal Polo Club had leased the property from Gervais Cousineau, a local farmer. In 1912 the Club ceased operations and Cousineau permitted Reid to use the field, about a mile long (1-6 km) and 1,000 ft (305 m) wide, and in addition donated the use of his barn to house the aircraft. Initially it was used by Reid and Pollien and the occasional visiting pilot. The hangar, built in 1912 and destroyed in 1913, is believed to have been the first aircraft hangar in Canada and backed on to what is now Laurentian Boulevard just where W. T. Reid built his Rambler prototype in 1928. During the first war it was used by visiting RFC/RAF (Canada) aircraft, and the first Canadian air mail was flown from the site on 24 June, 1918. When Canadian Aerial Services Ltd began operations after the war, the site became an aerodrome in regular use. When American Curtiss interests bought W. T. Reid’s company it developed the airport into, probably, the best in Canada, with the exception of the large Government-developed St Hubert Airport. Noorduyn Aviation moved in during the 1930s and during the second war the Government bought the site and enlarged it. A new plant was built there for Canadian Vickers which was taken over by Canadair whose operations continue today.
To revert to Percival Reid, his three monoplanes were all wire-braced shoulder-wing aircraft and used wing warping for lateral control. The Deperdussin control system was used on his first machine but the Bleriot ‘cloche’ control column was used on his second machine, and it is thought that he reverted to the Deperdussin control on his third aircraft. Complete specifications of Reid’s aircraft have not been found but the following details help to distinguish between them.
1911 Monoplane Powered originally by a 25 hp two-cylinder Detroit Aero engine and later a 35 hp three-cylinder fan-type Viale engine. Uncovered fuselage. Constant-chord wing with square tips and wing warping control. Elevators fitted at tips of tailplane as on early Bleriot XIs. Deperdussin control. Undercarriage had skids supported by a vertical member to the fuselage at each end and an axle for the wheels was lashed to each skid between the supports. Span 30 ft (9-14m); length 25ft (7-62m); wing area 210sqft (19-51 sqm). Empty weight 525 lb (238 kg) approx with Viale engine.
1912 Monoplane Powered by a 55 hp five-cylinder radial Viale engine. Uncovered fuselage. Constant-chord wing with tips slightly raked. Undercarriage as on 1911 model. Bleriot ‘cloche’ flight control. Span approximately 32 ft (9-75 m); length approximately 29ft (8-8m).
1913 Monoplane Powered by a three-cylinder fan-type engine. Fuselage was fabric covered from aluminium nose cowling to aft of the cockpit. Rest of fuselage uncovered. Wing with rounded tips. Bleriot XI type undercarriage.
Reid’s first aircraft, fitted with the Detroit Aero engine, started its taxi-ing trials on 7 June, 1911, and made a short hop. These tests were terminated by rain. Whether this can be considered his first flight is conjectural, and it seems that his aircraft, with the Detroit Aero engine donated by F. J. Murray, had only a marginal performance. Later fitted with the three-cylinder Viale, it apparently flew well, and in October Reid was reported to be practising to appear in the Delormier Park Aviation Meet to be held on 6-11 October. However, he did not fly during the Meet but his aircraft may have been exhibited. On 28 December, 1911, on a bitterly cold day, Reid made four flights to Riviere des Prairies (Back River) and return and crashed on his final trip. He was only slightly injured but his aircraft suffered a broken undercarriage and propeller and damaged wings.
The aircraft was repaired and its first flight in 1912 was made on 19 June. By late August Reid had finished his second aircraft with the 55 hp Viale engine and it was reported as most successful.
Reid flew usually from the polo grounds but on occasion he flew from F. S. Meighen’s (later Brig-Gen) estate nearby. He took his second aircraft, towed by car, to Longue Pointe to fly there on at least one, and probably more, occasions. Occasionally Anctil flew the aircraft but Reid did most of the flying.
About the end of September 1912 Reid enrolled in the Sloane School of Aviation, Hemstead, Long Island, for flying instruction, then advertised for $300. There he flew single-seat 35 hp Anzani powered Deperdussin monoplanes under the instruction of Leonard W. Bonney. He passed his test on 18 October, 1912, and was issued Aero Club of America Certificate No. 179 on 23 October and became the fourth Canadian licensed pilot.
His third aircraft incorporated many improvements over his earlier machines but had a short life for it was only completed late in August 1913, and was destroyed in a windstorm in October, along with the hangar at the polo grounds.
Reid built the Reid-Morgan flying-boat in 1914 but gave up flying upon his marriage in 1921. However, he remained in touch with the Montreal aviation community until his friend, J. H. Maher Jr, was killed in a Travel Air 6000 crash at Hamilton, on 1 July, 1931.
Reid continued to work in the automotive field, and died at Montreal on 18 May, 1938.