Little Bits of History

Men and Their Flying Machines

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 28, 2014
Louis Paulhan's biplane

Louis Paulhan’s biplane

April 28, 1910: Three aviation firsts occur. In 1906, the Daily Mail, a British newspaper issued a challenge and would pay the first person to fly between London and Manchester. The distance is about 185 miles. Flying long distances was a challenge and this was considered a very long distance. The £10,000 prize was to be given for making the trip with no more than two stops and within 24 hours. The take-off and landing could not be more than five miles from the newspaper’s offices in both cities. This contest was not immediately won and so in 1908, the paper offered £1,000 to the pilot of the first flight across the English Channel (a distance of 21 miles) which was won in 1909 by Frenchman Louis Bleriot.

The first pilot to even make an attempt at the long-distance trip was Englishman Claude Grahame-White. He was one of the first people in Britain to obtain a flying license after learning to fly in France in 1909. He took off from London on April 23, 1910 and made his first planned stop at Rugby, a distance of about 90 miles or approximately half way to Manchester. He was able to make it about 40 miles nearly to Lichfield, before engine trouble forced a landing. High winds kept him from taking his biplane back into the air and the craft suffered more damage when it was blown over on the ground.

He managed to get his plane back to London for repairs. But while these were being attended to, on this date, Frenchman Louis Paulhan took off late in the day, heading for Lichfield. When Grahame-White learned of Paulhan’s departure, he immediately set off in hot pursuit. This was one of the firsts – a night time take-off. By the next morning, he had nearly caught up with the Frenchman but Grahame-White’s plane was overloaded and was forced again to land. He had to admit defeat. Paulhan reached Manchester early on April 28 and won the challenge. Both pilots were at the Savoy Hotel in London to celebrate at a special luncheon.

Paulhan was an experienced pilot in both heavier and lighter than air vehicles having started flying balloons. Prior to this contest, he had been in California and had only recently arrived in England. His plane was brought in and assembled in under eleven hours. He took off at around 5.30 PM and followed a special train with white washed sleeper cars on the ground below who were both tracking and helping the pilot. While Paulhan won the contest, it was Grahame-White who made the historic first night time flight guided by the headlights of his ground crew’s cars. He heroically took off at 2.50 AM but was unable to catch up to the Frenchman. This was the first long-distance air race, first night-time take off proving it could be done, and the first powered flight into Manchester from outside the city. Paulhan made the flight again in 1950 on the fortieth anniversary of this historic flight. This time, he was a passenger aboard a British jet fighter. This later flight was of much shorter duration.

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return. – Leonardo da Vinci

Pilots take no special joy in walking. Pilots like flying. – Neil Armstrong

Flying might not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price. – Amelia Earhart

I hate flying, flat out hate its guts. – William Shatner

Also on this day: A Voyage to the South Sea – In 1789, the Mutiny on the Bounty takes place.
Kon-Tiki – In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl set sail.
Exposed! – In 1967, Expo 67 opened in Canada.
Scully’s Predecessor – In 1988, Aloha Airline Flight 243 met with disaster.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 14, 2012

Claude Grahame-White flight

October 14, 1910: Claude Grahame-White goes for a short flight. He was born in Bursledon, Hampshire, England in 1879. He learned to drive in 1895 and was apprenticed to an engineer. He later started his own motor engineering company. In 1909, while in France, he learned to fly and became the first Englishman to qualify as a pilot. Early in 1910, the British newspaper Daily Mail held a contest offering £10,000 (about £796,000 today) to the first person to fly from London to Manchester. Claude was the first to try. He left London on April 23, 1910 and made it to his first stop, Rugby. His biplane needed to be repaired and he returned to London. Late on April 27, Louis Paulhan took off with Claude close behind. Finally Louis won, but Claude was widely praised anyway.

Another contest in July found Claude winning a £1,000 prize while he was flying at the Midlands Aviation Meeting. He managed to win the Aggregate Duration with a time of 1 hour, 23 minutes, and 20 seconds in the air. He next went on to win the Gordon Bennett Aviation Cup in Belmont Park, Long Island, New York. He was flying a Farman biplane and on this day he flew that plane over Washington, D.C. He landed on Executive Avenue near the White House. He was not arrested but instead praised in the local papers. He went on to establish a flying school and eventually began the Grahame-White Aviation Company. There he was able to not only fly, but to design, develop, and build the planes. He continued to design planes for a few years, but lost interest in the pursuit. He died in 1959, at the age of 79 after making a fortune in property development in both the UK and the US.

Farman Aviation Works was an aircraft company founded by the Farman brothers, Richard, Henry, and Maurice. They began building planes in 1909 with the Farman III, leading one to believe they had a few trial planes that were less than successful. The French brothers built their biplane after Henry bought one from the Voisin brothers in 1907 and improved on the design. Their next type of plane didn’t hit the market until 1913, so we can assume Claude was flying a Farman III. They designed over two hundred planes before going out of business in 1941 with at least two dozen major designs. Their last plane was no longer a solo plane, but a six-seat trainer and coastal reconnaissance floatplane. In 1941, the Farman brothers changed the name of the company and a few years later it was absorbed into Sud-Oust.

Aerial flight is one of that class of problems with which men will never have to cope. – Simon Newcomb

There are only two emotions in a plane:  boredom and terror. – Orson Welles

The modern airplane creates a new geographical dimension.  A navigable ocean of air blankets the whole surface of the globe.  There are no distant places any longer:  the world is small and the world is one. – Wendell Willkie

If God had really intended men to fly, he’d make it easier to get to the airport. – George Winters

Also on this day:

Pooh Corner – In 1926, A.A. Milne published his first Pooh story.
Bull Moose – In 1912, presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt was shot.
Ready! Camera! Action! – In 1888, the oldest surviving movie was filmed.