Daily Archives: April 7, 2014

Issy-Les-Moulineaux: cradle of European aviation

The city of Paris, among other things, can pride itself for the role it played in the early development of aerospace and aviation. In my opinion and to my knowledge there 3 or 4 quite important places in Paris where one can breath the history of those times, one of them is Issy-Les-Moulineaux. In a previous post I mentioned the space dedicated to the aviation history in the gallery of the village placed at the Musée Français de la Carte à Jouer.

Issy is a suburb just at the southwest of Paris, where the Périphérique crosses the river, south of the XV arrondisement.

At the turn of the XX century there was in Issy a military field dedicated to training. With the advent of aviation, that field started to be dedicated to aviation by the several pioneers who decided to relocate their activity there.

One of the images that symbolizes the French nascent aviation industry at the time is the one shown in the picture below. In it we can see Henri Farman (car racing pilot and aviator) flying the 1907 Voisin biplane winning the Archdeacon Prize for the first closed-circuit kilometer flight in Europe. That flight took place in the military field at Issy-Les-Moulineaux.

Henri Farman winning the Archdeacon Prize for the first closed-circuit kilometer flight in Europe (file from Wikimedia Commons, unrestricted picture belonging to the Library of the Congress).

Circuit of the first 1km closed circuit flight at Issy.

Circuit of the first 1km closed circuit flight at Issy.

The circuit can be seen in the following graphic at the gallery of the village of Issy. The circuit was marked by 3 poles planted on the ground. Two poles marked the depart and arrival. One pole located at 500m marked the turning point.

The morning of of the 13th of January 1908, Farman took off with the Voisin biplane equipped with an Antoinette engine for a flight that lasted 1 minute and 28 seconds (thus at an average speed of 41 km/h). With this flight, Farman, won the Archdeacon Prize, which had been set back in 1904 by  Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe and Ernest Archdeacon, with an allocated sum of 50,000F.

In fact, apparently, Farman had achieved the feat already 2 days earlier, but it was only on the 13th of January that the flight was officially controlled by a commission from the Aero-Club de France (an institution created in 1898 to encourage the development of flight by individuals like Ernest Archdeacon, Jules Verne, André Michelin, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe among others).

In the picture with the circuit you may locate the aviation field by seeing the wind rose and the river Seine on the top of the image. Today, that field is the Heliport of Paris, the street surrounding it being called Rue Henri Farman.

That first closed circuit in Europe may be the most iconic image of Issy, but it was not the first happening nor the last aviation achievement that took place there, see some others below:

  • 1905 (March, 26): at the initiative of Ernest Archdeacon a glider type Wright, towed by a car, rose to about 10m.
  • 1906 (August, 18): the Romanian Traian Vuia flies for about 11-24m rising just 2.5m above the ground.
  • 1907 (July, 11): Louis Bleriot makes his first flight aboard his monoplan VI Libellule.
  • 1907 (November, 5): Léon Delagrange flies aboard a Voisin-Delagrange over 300m in a semicircle.
  • 1907 (November, 17): Alberto Santos-Dumont makes his first flight on the XIX Demoiselle.
  • 1910 (March, 9): Elise Raymonde de Laroche obtains her pilot licence, being the first woman in the world to receive one.
  • 1910 (June): the first metallic plane ever is tested in Issy.
  • 1911 (May): the raid Paris-Madrid was organized, with departure from Issy. Among the 8 pilots taking part in the race was Roland Garros. That day one of the airplanes suffered an accident when taking off, crashing against the authorities and killing the then French war minister, Maurice Berteaux.

It goes without saying, that this shall be a mandatory stop for any aviation enthusiast passing by Paris.

Aviation room at the Gallery of Issy (Musse de las Cartes a Jouer).

Aviation room at the Gallery of Issy (Musse de las Cartes a Jouer).


Filed under Aerospace & Defence, France