Internationale Flugwoche
Berlin, Germany, May 10th - 16th, 1910

The first meeting of a busy season in Johannisthal

Waiting for flights in one of the airfield cafés. (1)
The skids that curve up to join the front framework and the big ailerons identify Amerigo's Sommer. (2)
Jeannin preparing for a flight in his first machine. This was a Farman built under license by Aviatik in Mülhausen. It had ailerons only on the top wings and was equipped with a 55 hp Argus inline four-cylinder engine. (1)
Von Gorrissen in flight. Except for the landing gear the Euler was very similar to a Voisin. (1)
A couple of nurses in front of the grandstand. (3)
Baron de Caters and Ellery von Gorrissen, together with Elisabeth Woerner, who flew with de Caters on the morning of Saturday 14 May. (4)
Thorup's Blériot being salvaged after his crash into a tree. This was only the first of four accidents on Saturday 14 May. (1)
The sad remains of Thelen's #13 Wright after his crash. The ground hardly looks like an ideal landing field. (1)
De Caters in his Voisin passing smartly over the first line of the "Höhenkurven-Preis" course... (1)
...and below the second, before passing over the third. With the lines spaced only 40 metres apart this was certainly no easy test. (1)
The wreckage after Engelhard's failed attempt to negotiate the "Höhenkurven-Preis" course. (1)
Jeannin in his reserve machine. This was an original French Farman, recognizable by the ailerons on the lower wings. (3)
The reserve machine didn't last long. Here it is, inverted, after Jeannin's second crash. (1)
Frey flying above de Caters' Voisin. (1)
An official checking the results, which were marked on a strip of paper by electromagnetically operated pens, one line for each machine. Each pylon was equipped with a switchboard, where a pylon judge signalled the passing of the different machines by pushing buttons. This for its time very advanced equipment was installed already before the 1909 meeting. (1)

During the winter the Berlin Johannisthal airfield, the centre of German aviation, had been financially reorganized, with the old managing society "Deutsche Flugplatz-Gesellschaft" being replaced by the "Flug- und Sportplatz-Gesellschaft Berlin-Johannisthal" and fresh capital brought in. Work had started on expanding the hangars and other installations in the previously unexploited north-western parts of the field, and on realigning and extending the race course and spectator areas, but these works were not completed in time for the first of the three aviation meetings planned for 1910.

At many early meetings big prizes were offered to the pilots that amassed the highest total flying time. When the first fascination of seeing aeroplanes fly at all had worn off, the sight of machines flying for hours at safe speeds and safe low altitudes didn't appeal so much to the spectators. The organizers of the Berlin spring meeting therefore tried to introduce more crowd-pleasing competitions that would reward skilled pilots and manoeuvrable planes. These included a precision landing contest, a contest for the smallest circle flown, a contest for the longest glide and the "Höhenkurven-Preis", offered for the pilot who could alternately fly above and below wires strung ten meters above the ground as close as possible to each other. They also tried to encourage flights early in the day, rather than as late as possible when the conditions were usually more favourable, by offering prizes ("Frühpreisen") for the first two flights of each day and offering bonus minutes to pilots who made their efforts for endurance contest earlier in the afternoons.

The summer and autumn meetings of the 1910 Berlin season were only open to German flyers, but the spring meeting was international. However, the losses incurred by the previous year's meeting, and the fact that there wasn't as much sponsorship money available in Germany as in France and other countries, restricted the prize fund to 75,000 Mark, which didn't attract the foreign top names. The most accomplished foreigner was Baron Pierre de Caters, who entered one of his Voisins. The other participants were Germans and foreign novices:

  • Stefano Amerigo (Italy), Sommer
  • Adolf Behrend (Germany), Schultze-Herfort
  • Pierre de Caters (Belgium), Voisin
  • Paul Engelhard (Germany), Wright
  • Alfred Frey (Germany), Farman
  • Hans Grade (Germany), Grade
  • Ellery von Gorrissen (Germany), Euler
  • Emil Jeannin (Germany), Aviatik/Farman
  • Fridolin Keidel (Germany), Wright
  • Robert Svendsen (Denmark), Voisin
  • Robert Thelen (Germany), Wright
  • Knud Thorup (Denmark), Blériot
However, the Wright flyers, particularly Korvettenkapitän Engelhard, were accomplished pilots, as were Frey and Jeannin, who were both trained at the Farman school in Mourmelon. Grade, perhaps the most famous of the German pilots, didn't turn up at the beginning of the meeting and it was only announced at a very late stage that he wouldn't participate.

Tuesday 10 May
The first day of the meeting dawned with miserable weather. It rained persistently and the wind was strong and quite gusty. The rain stopped around noon and the wind calmed down somewhat, but at three o'clock, when the flying was supposed to begin on all days, the crowds were small and the pilots stood hesitating outside their hangars. The wind was still between 6 and 8 m/s and it seemed that nobody wanted to go for the "Frühpreis", offered for the first three-lap flights between three and four o'clock. Engelhard broke the deadlock by firing up his Wright. He took off, but was forced down almost immediately by the wind. Despite this, Jeannin and Keidel were obviously encouraged and took off, but both had to give up after one and a half and two minutes respectively. The disappointed spectators withdrew to the restaurants, not knowing whether to stay or go home.

Around four o'clock Major von Tschudi of the race committee announced that due to the inclement weather there would exceptionally be a second window for the "Frühpreis" between five and six o'clock. Engelhard was again first, and after a careful take-off won the first prize with a flight of 8:40.2, flying very low and almost skimming the ground. Jeannin was next to try and quickly rose to a height of 20 meters, but after the first lap his right aileron failed and forced him to land. Keidel was third, around a quarter of an hour later, but at a turn on the north side of the course he lost altitude and hit the ground. The lower wings and the rudders of his Wright were badly damaged, but Keidel escaped without injury. After the accident there was no more flying.

Wednesday 11 May
The weather was sunny and warm, but the winds were even stronger than the day before, increasing from 10 m/s in the morning to 14 m/s in the evening. No flying was possible. The management decided to give the money back to those who had bought tickets, except those who had hangar passes, since it was considered that they had at least got some value for their money by being able to see the machines from close.

Thursday 12 May
The third day of the meeting was sunny and hot, almost too hot according to some, but still very windy. The good weather attracted big crowds to the airfield, but winds of 7-8 m/s made flights impossible until 16:22, when the red flag was finally hoisted. Engelhard was again first to fly. He took off at 16:41 and won the first "Frühpreis", covering the three laps in 8:38 at a height or around 3 metres. Jeannin in his Aviatik licence-built Farman was next, winning the second prize with a flight of 8:28 at a height of 10-15 metres nine minutes later. Because of the unclaimed prizes of the previous days the organizers had put up two extra first flight prizes of 300 and 200 Mark. When Frey took off at 17:06 and flew several laps at high altitude everybody believed that he was going for the third prize, but to the consternation of spectators and officials he kept making turns inside the pylons. When asked for the reason after landing, he replied that such low sums were not worth competing for.

The wind calmed down more and more, and Amerigo, von Gorrissen, Thelen, Svendsen, Behrend and Thorup brought out their machines from their hangars. Immediately before six o'clock Engelhard made a flight for the passenger prize, but had to give up after trying in vain for ten minutes to get off the ground. Von Gorrissen, Thelen and Frey took off soon after six, but Thelen's engine didn't sound right and they had only been in the air for minutes when a big black cloud and a heavy rain shower passed. The others landed and only von Gorrissen continued, but he too had to give up after eleven minutes. During the rain shower an approaching airship could be seen. It was the little sports airship "Parseval VI", and it was soon flying stationary over the middle of the airfield.

When the rain finished six planes were in the air, circling the airship and trying for different prizes, a spectacular sight! Frey was particularly celebrated after a 20-minute flight at altitudes over 150 meters, leaving the airfield and flying southwards over neighbouring Rudow. Only two of the pilots didn't fly during the beautiful evening: Keidel, whose machine was still being repaired, and de Caters, who had brought a brand-new Voisin and wanted to test it before making any competitive flights.

Friday 13 May
The good weather continued into the morning and de Caters finally got the chance to test his new machine. He flew several laps and afterwards he made two passenger flights, first with one of his mechanics and then with bicycle champion Thaddeus Robl, who had himself started piloting and would crash to his death, becoming the first victim of German aviation, only a little more than a month later. Von Gorrissen also made several flights during the morning, one of them with a passenger.

Around noon clouds started to gather and around three o'clock there were a couple of thunderstorms, accompanied by heavy rain showers that left lots of standing water on the airfield. The rain stopped around four o'clock and at 16:49, when the field had dried up, Jeannin was first in the air and claimed the first "Frühpreis". Engelhard was second, four minutes later, but his flight didn't count, since he didn't land afterwards but continued flying in order to go for the "Dauerpreis", the endurance prize. Amerigo then failed to leave the ground, and Thelen was third.

Then started a very busy series of flights for the totalisation prize and the "Dauerpreis", and most of the time there were three or four machines in the air. De Caters made four flights totalling 50 minutes, despite not being completely pleased with the way his new machine handled. Behrend with difficulty made two flights, totalling 13 minutes. Svendsen made a flight of nine minutes before touching the ground and breaking a couple of struts on his Voisin. Frey made two flights, totalling 41 minutes, one of them with one of his mechanics as passenger. Both Thorup and Amerigo had problems and failed to make more than short hops, despite trying several times. Thelen flew 23 minutes and von Gorrissen 14 minutes.

Two pilots still kept flying in the by now calm weather, Engelhard and Jeannin. At 19:14 a strut came loose from its fittings and forced Engelhard to land after being in the air for 2 h 12:15, a new German endurance record. He couldn't enjoy the record for long though, because Jeannin kept flying until the cannon was fired to announce the end of the day's flights and landed at 19:50. His time of 2 h 39:25 took back the record - it was he who had held the record before Engelhard beat it.

Saturday 14 May
The weather was good and again de Caters started the day's flying, taking Elisabeth Woerner, the wife of the director of the Frankfurt "Deutsche Fluggesellschaft" for a flight. He then went on to take the first "Frühpreis" by taking off only two minutes after the window opened at three o'clock, followed by von Gorrissen and Jeannin.

While this went on, the day's drama started - and there would be lots of it. Thorup made a good take-off and flew along the start/finish straight, but at the end of it his machine swerved, either because the light Blériot was caught in the wash from other planes or because of rudder failure. It flew into a line of trees, where it was left hanging. Thorup managed to jump out and escaped without injury, but his machine was out of action for the rest of the meeting.

Jeannin took off for a long flight at 15:15, followed by Engelhard who flew some laps with a passenger. Then Svendsen, von Gorrissen, Thelen, Frey and de Caters all made short flights of some minutes. Thelen's flight ended with a violent crash in front of the main grandstand when his Wright was caught in turbulence and pitched into the ground at almost full speed. Despite crashing from only three or four metres the machine was completely destroyed, only the engine was salvageable. Thelen miraculously escaped injuries and could work his way out of the wreckage.

Jeannin landed after being in the air for 1 h 23:06.6, the longest flight of the day, and then there was a long break until 17:23, when de Caters made his efforts for the "Höhenkurven-Preis". He smartly finished the test, first with the lines at 50 metres from each other, then 40 metres. At 18:19 Engelhard tried. He easily flew below the first line, but when he was about to pass the second he was too far to the right and the wings hit the pole and the machine crashed to the ground. Engelhard was pulled from the wreckage with blood running over his face. He had a deep cut over the left eye and an injured hand, and had to be driven to the nearby Rudow hospital.

Nobody else tried for the "Höhenkurven-Preis". It was heavily criticized in the aviation press after the meeting as being too difficult and dangerous, and also irrelevant for practical flying.

The mayhem was still not over. At 18:12 Jeannin started, but before he managed to take off a wheel hit a deep, overgrown hole in the ground. The skid of his landing gear cut into the ground and steered the machine into a barrier, where it nosed over and was badly damaged. Some of the flyers had entered a second spare machine, but Engelhard and Jeannin had only entered one. They did, however, get the necessary consent from all other contestants and were allowed to use spare machines during the rest of the meeting.

Sunday 15 May
The sixth day of the meeting was windy and started as the fifth had finished: with a crash. This time the victim was Behrend, who within one minute of the three o'clock starting time was first to go for the "Frühpreis" in his Schultze-Herfort monoplane. He had flown one lap when he noticed a quickly approaching thunderstorm and decided to land at the end of the front straight. It was already too late, since a gust took hold of his plane as he turned to taxi it back to the hangars and flipped it. Once again luck was with the pilot, who emerged unscathed. The machine wasn't very badly damaged, but it was out for the rest of the meeting.

After that incident there was no activity until 16:47, when de Caters made a flight of almost eleven minutes, but had to land on the back straight before capturing the "Frühpreis". The prize was instead won by Svendsen, who started four minutes later, before Thelen and Frey.

Keidel's Wright was finally repaired. He took off at 17:02, but had only flown for 16 minutes when disaster struck again. While flying low along the back straight a gust forced the machine into the ground. The nose dug in and the machine flipped. It was completely wrecked and even briefly caught fire when the fuel tank broke. Keidel once again escaped injuries.

This was the last day to compete for the landing prize and the gliding prize, and both were won by de Caters before Jeannin. De Caters managed to glide for 196 metres after cutting his engine below the prescribed height of ten metres. Jeannin, on the other hand, had time to make a 40-minute flight that put him way out of reach in the totalization prize. Frey made four passenger flights, the longest lasting 23:34, winning him second in the passenger prize after Engelhard. Amerigo made two passenger flights of three and five minutes and von Gorrissen made a six-minute flight.

Monday 16 May
The last day of the meeting was Whit Monday, a public holiday. The weather was sunny and the big crowds hoped to see many flights, but despite the heat and sunshine it was still quite windy and there were long periods without any action. De Caters, Thelen, Amerigo and von Gorrissen all tried for the "Frühpreis" when it opened at three o'clock, but gave up because of the high winds. Jeannin started soon after, but after only a lap and a half he was forced down. Once again he ran into hole and nosed over, so also his spare machine, a French-built original Farman, was wrecked. He managed to abandon ship at the last moment and escaped injury. It wasn't until more than half an hour later that de Caters could win the "Frühpreis", before Frey, and then the airfield was quiet for more than an hour.

At 17:09 Frey took off for the "smallest circle" prize. He climbed immediately to 80 metres, flew a lap of the course and was just about to start his circle when the machine was caught by a gust from the north-east that drove it down towards the hangars at high speed. He was saved from crashing into them by having the extra altitude margin and the presence of mind to try to climb some extra metres when hit by the gust, but he was blown far outside the airfield over Rudow. After this very narrow escape there was no activity until 18:25, when de Caters made two efforts for the "smallest circle" prize and Frey one more. They reached 194 metres and 166 metres respectively, so the contest was won by Jeannin, who had flew a circle of only 115 metres already on the Thursday, under much better circumstances. After these last flights the meeting was concluded and the spectators, probably not altogether pleased with the day's events, went home.

The German aviation press wasn't overwhelmed by the meeting. It had of course been hit by wind and rain, but many were disappointed with the quality of the events, which according to the Deutsche Zeitschrift für Luftschiffahrt "fell considerably short of what one is entitled to expect of such an event in the German capital". Part of the reason was the shortage of prize money, but the bad condition of the airfield, with lots of overgrown ruts and holes, was also heavily criticized. The loss of machines through accidents of course also contributed to the lack of action during the last days. As the many accidents proved, any landing outside the dedicated starting area involved a big risk and it was pointed out that pure luck was an important reason that only one pilot was only relatively lightly injured. It was reported that some pilots were considering suing the organizers for damages and it was noted that even Jeannin, who won almost half the prize money, couldn't by far cover the cost of his damaged machines.