Lanark is a small town in the central belt of
Scotland, located around 45 kilometres southeast of
Glasgow, close to the river Clyde. It has been a market
town since medieval times and was originally the county
town of Lanarkshire, but lost that status to Glasgow in
1890. In 1910 it had around 7,000 inhabitants. There was
a couple of textile factories and tanneries, but
otherwise the town's economy relied on cattle trading
and fruit-growing. One of the attractions of the town is
the beautiful Clyde Falls south of the town.
The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale allotted two international aviation meetings to Britain in 1910. The first meeting was given to the Lancashire Aero Club and Bournemouth. In February, the Scottish Aeronautical Society made a bid to organize the second, at the Lanark racecourse. The decision was taken in April, and preparations started. An organizing committee was formed, headed by the Duke of Argyll. It was decided to use the racecourse for hangars and public enclosures, while a flying course was laid out on the fields east of the existing installations. The course was reached after a starting straight of around one kilometre, which would also be used for take-off contest and the "dispatch carrying competition" in which the competitors dropped "messages" on a target.
Lanark only had two hotels, and both were booked up far in advance of the meeting. This wasn't a huge disadvantage, since there were good train services from Glasgow and from Edinburgh, both some 45 kilometres away. The Caledonian Railway Company had built a temporary station at the airfield, which they claimed could handle 30,000 passengers per day.
A company was registered, the "Scottish International Aviation Meeting, 1910", and a guarantee fund of £ 12,000 was collected. The total prize money was set at £ 8,000. Messrs. Norman and McKnight of Glasgow were contracted as official aeronautical and repairing engineers, providing an up-to-date workshop with machinery, a staff of trained builders and mechanics, and a large selection of spare parts.
The meeting, which was the most important in Britain to that date, attracted 22 entrants. With exception for Claude Grahame-White, who was contracted to fly at the coinciding Blackpool Flying Carnival, almost all accomplished British flyers were present. The field also included several experienced foreign flyers, for example "Géo" Chávez, Marcel Hanriot, Bartolomeo Cattaneo, Edmond Audemars, Gijs Küller and "Edmond" (Edmond Morelle). The day before the start of the meeting the machines of Chávez and Küller were unfortunately destroyed by fire on the North-Western Railway, close to Lancaster, on the way to the meeting. Three more machines, the Hanriot of René Vidart, the Tellier of Edmond Audemars and the Short of George Colmore had gone missing on the railway and were delayed, so the British railway operators had no reason to celebrate. Maurice Tétard, who had entered, decided to stay in Blackpool, where he probably had a guaranteed purse.
Work at the airfield had progressed smoothly and efficiently. Everything was ready in time, and the quality of the hangars, which were solidly built and even had corrugated metal roofs, was praised. Safety was stressed in the regulations, which strongly decreed that a competitor should only pass on the outside of the competitor to be passed. The overtaking pilot was held responsible for clearing the overtaken competitor and had to keep at such a distance that the overtaken competitor had undisturbed air in which to travel. In the interest of safety, the announced precision landing contest was cancelled. Official flights could take place between noon and sunset.
Saturday 6 August
The first day of the meeting was windy and misty. Several of the competitors were still busy assembling and preparing their machines. Bertram Dickson was ready, however, and made the first flight. He made a two-lap flight of seven minutes, obviously troubled by the wind. The reason for giving up the flight and landing was a broken inlet valve, but he still returned to make a perfect landing. The wind, which was measured to around 8 m/s during Dickson's flight, calmed down somewhat during the afternoon and at half past three he was followed by Cattaneo, and then by John Armstrong Drexel and Gustave Blondeau. Drexel's total flying time was 1 hour 48 minutes, putting him far in the lead in the endurance contests, while Cattaneo in his Gnôme-powered Blériot took the lead in the speed contests. Late in the evening Graham Gilmour took out his JAP-powered Blériot and made a flight outside the airfield. After eleven minutes it started raining and he was forced down.
Sunday 7 August
No official flights were scheduled during the Sunday, but several pilots made test flights. One of them was "Edmond" (Edmond Morelle), who tried out the Farman copy built by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company of Bristol. His machine had been assembled by French Farman mechanics, who weren't aware of the differences between the original and the copy. As a result, it was incorrectly rigged and flew with the ailerons on one side permanently pulled down.
Monday 8 August
This was perfect day for flying. Already before the start of official flights, "Edmond", whose machine had now been re-rigged, and Florentin Champel made test flights. The first two hours of official flying were spent on the take-off contest. James Radley had borrowed the Gnôme-engined Blériot of Launcelot Gibbs, who couldn't participate for medical reasons. William McArdle, Alec Ogilvie, and George Cockburn all made successful efforts, while Audemars, who had fitted a heavy in-line four-cylinder engine to his Demoiselle, couldn't even lift off. It seemed like to big engine didn't deliver power enough to lift itself off the ground. Gilmour scored the day's best result, with Radley second, while McArdle's best effort was disqualified, since he had turned back on the ground and crossed the start line a second time. He claimed that it was not a proper effort, but the officials didn't agree.
While the take-off contest went on, Dickson made an effort for the cross-country contest. His time over the 36 kilometres was 36 minutes. After his landing, McArdle also took off for the cross-country prize. When more than an hour had passed, people started to worry that he had had an accident. After a long time a telegram arrived, explaining that he had flown at high altitude, lost sight of the ground in the mist and failed to spot the turning point. He had continued eastward almost to Edinburgh, some 40 kilometres away for, the airfield, before turning back to land near Corstorphine. He landed in a field, without doing any damage, after spending 1 hour 25 minutes in the air. The machine had to dismantled and sent back by road during the evening. It was also announced that McArdle had lost his wallet, containing the rather significant sum of £ 300, during the day.
After two o'clock, the endurance flying started. Blondeau took off, but after a couple of laps he lost one of his ailerons. The screws that held it had pulled out of the wood. He managed to land safely by controlling the plane with the rudder, but after touching down a hummock caught the horizontal wire between the landing skids. The skids were pulled together, which made the entire landing gear collapse and put the plane on its nose, causing considerable damage.
Then Dickson made an effort for the passenger prize, with a reporter from "The Aero" on board. The minimum weight of pilot and passenger was 25 stone (159 kg), but Dickson wanted to carry more than 180 kg, so he added extra weight by wrapping lead sheet around the landing gear legs. The added weight was probably too much for the circumstances, and to make things even worse his crew had miscalculated the weight and added 6 stone too much. It was reported that the total load was 235 kg. The plane lost lift at the third pylon when it was exposed to the downdraught from the hills. Dickson managed to land safely, but while still rolling the machine ran into a ditch that hadn't been properly filled. The landing gear on the left side was ripped off and both the upper and the lower wings were destroyed. Dickson reportedly "said rude things" about the man who had filled the ditch with straw, rather than earth. Drexel also made an effort for the passenger prize, but his engine didn't pull well, and he gave up already on the first straight.
There was an interesting and potentially lethal incident in the hangar area, when Grace's engine was started. One of the mechanics had left a knife on the ground, which was sucked up by the propeller and thrown far away, fortunately without hitting somebody. The knife knocked a piece as large as the palm of hand out of the propeller blade.
Chávez also borrowed Gibbs' Blériot to make an effort at the altitude prize. Clouds were building up and at 1,500 metres he was lost from sight. He soon found it too cold and wet in his light overcoat and returned to land. He had carried two barographs, but they didn't agree. One showed 1,500 metres and the other 1,800 metres, and in the end his official result was given as 1,600 metres. This was the last official flight, but again Gilmour made the last flight, without official timing.
In total, seven pilots had entered the endurance contest. Cattaneo was far ahead, having scored a total of more than three hours in the air during the day, with Drexel second and Champel third. Radley had taken over the lead in the speed contests.
Tuesday 9 August
The weather was bright, but there was a nasty wind of some 9 m/s from the north in the early afternoon. Chávez announced that he would not take further part in the flying because of difficulties finding a replacement airplane, and that he would return to Paris. Küller was busy building a machine from his spares, which had been on a different train and hadn't been burned, and parts that were sent from France. He had a complete spare fuselage and a set of spare wings, but he didn't have a spare landing gear. This unique piece of equipment was particularly problematic and several parts of it had to be built at the airfield. He also had to send for a replacement engine, which couldn't be tested before fitting.
Vidart was first in the air, around noon. The wind was still manageable, and his handling of the Hanriot monoplane, in his first appearance at an official aviation meeting, impressed the crowds. Vidart's flight was followed by the first efforts for the "Dispatch Carrying Competition". The object of this contest was to drop a "dispatch", in the form of a ripe orange, as close as possible to a target in the form of a red flag in the centre of a 12-foot diameter sheet placed on the ground. Grace and Ogilvie made efforts, with the former taking the lead by missing the target by 7.26 metres, beating Ogilvie's 18.90. Ogilvie had fitted his machine with a launching tube, made from a biscuit tin, but one of his efforts still failed when the orange hit a rigging wire and burst.
The wind then increased, and it went quiet for a long while, until Cody brought out his machine. His big machine was intended for a 100 hp engine that hadn't been delivered, and was underpowered with an engine of only 65 hp. It ran the length of the field and back, barely getting off the ground.
At around six o'clock the wind calmed down. Drexel was first to take advantage of the improved conditions, going for the altitude prize. He kept climbing for a long time and eventually reached 1,039 metres. He "afforded a remarkable lunar spectacle" by flying across the moon like a "small insect-like shape, which was easily enclosed between the horns of the crescent", according to the reporter from "The Scotsman". He descended in a long glide, only starting his engine once in a while. While Drexel was still in the air Cattaneo and Grace also took off for the altitude prize, but they only reached 987 and 756 metres respectively. Afterwards, the airfield was rather busy, with Vidart, Grace, Ogilvie and Cattaneo all competing for the speed prize, while Edmond tried for the slow flying prize. There was a bit of a traffic jam and Cattaneo had to take evasive action above the crowds when he came across Edmond.
Meanwhile, Radley made an effort for the cross-country prize. He made the flight in 26 minutes, but got lost on the way back. He wore goggles, which he wasn't used to, because he had got oil in his eyes on a previous flight, and was blinded by the setting sun in the haze. This made him mistake the Lanark Loch, a little lake northwest of the airfield, for a pond outside the airfield that he had used as a landmark. After realizing his mistake, he spotted the roofs of the hangars and came down to land from the wrong direction, blowing a tyre when touching down.
Later on, Vidart, Champel and Gilmour made test flights. Just before closing time Edmond and Grace again tried for the slowest lap prize. Edmond did best, stretching his time to 3:31.6, corresponding to an average speed of around 47.5 km/h.
Wednesday 10 August
The weather was perfect, and since it was an "early closing day" in many neighbouring towns a lot of people had the chance to go to the airfield. It was estimated that there were more than 50,000 visitors. Several pilots made tests during the morning. The Tellier monoplane had finally arrived, and Audemars was eager to test it, having retired and dismantled his re-engined Demoiselle. His first one-lap flight was successful, but after a second flight the plane swerved on the ground and a wing touched the ground. The landing gear and a wheel were damaged, which necessitated a few hours of repair work. Edmond made a heavy landing during a passenger flight and damaged his landing gear.
The day's first contest was the starting competition. Radley made the best start, getting off in 32.6 metres, while McArdle was second with 33,2 metres. Drexel tried with a passenger on board and travelled 74 metres before rising, while Grace, also with a passenger, needed 112 metres.
Early in the afternoon Cattaneo took off for the endurance prize. He flew lap after lap and finally landed after 3 h 11:41.6, having flown 227 kilometres. This was announced as a British record, beating Louis Paulhan's London-to-Lichfield flight for the "Daily Mail" London-Manchester Prize. Later on, Drexel and Cattaneo entered the altitude contest, but both broke off their efforts after encountering strong winds and turbulence that were set up by an approaching thunder cloud. Several pilots made passenger flights, among them Grace and Drexel. Drexel also made three long flights, trying to close the gap to Cattaneo in the total distance contest.
Cattaneo, Radley and Grace flew the five laps required for the speed contest. Radley, who made two efforts, scored best with a time of 9:32.4, beating Cattaneo by 21 seconds and Grace on his slower biplane by almost five minutes. Radley also scored the day's fastest lap.
Around a quarter to six McArdle and Hanriot went for the altitude prize. McArdle reached 698 metres, the best result of the day. Champel's engine didn't run well, and he failed to clear a rise in the ground during a test flight. He touched down heavily, fortunately without breaking anything, and managed to fly back to the hangars. He was less lucky during a second flight. He again made a slow take-off and flew a lap before running wide at the turn and crashing in a fir plantation south of the course. The engine didn't give enough power to clear the trees, but he had the presence of mind to raise the nose and slow the plane down to sink in an almost vertical descent into the trees, where it came to rest several feet off the ground. He escaped injury and the plane was relatively lightly damaged, but some thirty trees had to be felled in order to get it out.
Vidart and Grace also suffered minor mishaps. Vidart's engine suddenly stopped on the course, resulting in a broken landing gear, while Grace made heavy landing, which resulted in a dented propeller and a broken strut. Küller's Antoinette was finally close to completion, but he had a narrow escape during the evening, when a lamp ignited a fuel container. A brave mechanic suffered a burned hand, but managed to throw the container away outside the hangar.
Cattaneo's total distance stood at 624 kilometres at the end of the day, leading Drexel by almost 130 kilometres.
Thursday 11 August
The weather looked promising in the morning - bright and sunny with a little heat haze, but as noon approached the wind increased, reaching 11 m/s in the gusts. During the morning Edmond's crew made a test to measure the thrust of his machine. The tail of the machine was tied to a parked car outside the hangar, with the nose pointing towards the hangar opening. When the engine was opened up all kinds of stuff was sucked out of the hangar and blown far away.
The only one who cared for flying was Küller, whose crew had finally managed to build all the missing parts and assemble his Antoinette. He took off around half past twelve, after a short run against the wind. When he passed the first pylon he got the gusty wind from the side. The wings of the Antoinette had pronounced V-form, which made it sensible to gusts from the sides, and he was soon in trouble. The machine rocked violently from side to side, the engine stopped and suddenly a wing tip hit the ground, then the other. The landing gear skid dug into the soft ground and the machine pitched onto its nose and remained standing with the tail high in the air. Küller was not injured, and he climbed out and dropped to the ground while assistance arrived. The machine was righted, and an inspection showed surprisingly small damages. The propeller was shattered, the skid was broken, and a tyre had blown, but thanks to the Antoinette's wing tip leading edge skids the only damage to the wings was a small tear in the fabric. The loss of power had been caused by an ignition cable that had come loose. The machine was towed back to the hangars, where repairs immediately started.
At half past two Drexel came out and made an effort for the speed contest. No great results could be expected because of the wind, but he finished his five laps, despite having to fight to remain in control. He made a second effort an hour and a half later, but did not manage to improve his result. Küller's repairs were finished at half past four and he immediately rolled out for a new start. He hit some bumps on the uneven ground and the skid hit the ground when the landing gear suspension compressed. It threw up a piece of turf that was hit by the propeller, which was damaged. The machine was returned to the hangars, where another replacement propeller waited. Küller had ordered four, so there were still two left.
Around six o'clock the wind calmed down and most pilots made flights. Grace and Dickson went for the cross-country prize and disappeared to the northeast, followed by the faster Blériots of McArdle and Radley. Cattaneo turned laps for the endurance contest, while Ogilvie and Cockburn took off for the slow flight contest, while Grace and Edmond went for the speed contest. McArdle returned, pleased with finding the turning point this time, followed by Radley, Grace and Dickson, who had also managed to complete the course. The efforts of McArdle and Radley were disallowed, however, because they had landed short of the finish line, which was crowded by other planes when they arrived. They were not pleased with the decision and filed protests, to no avail.
Shortly before seven o'clock Drexel and McArdle announced that they would try for the altitude contest. After being equipped with the necessary instruments they took off and quickly climbed into the more and more cloudy sky. Drexel's climbing turns took him further and further to the north, and it became obvious that he had lost his bearings. After almost half an hour he disappeared out of sight into a cloud. It was not known how much fuel he carried, and people at the airfield started to worry when he didn't return within an hour. McArdle returned from his effort, having reached 832 metres. Hanriot also made an altitude flight, but gave up after reaching 411 metres. Küller made another test at seven o'clock, but the engine failed after three laps, and he landed out on the course. The last flights of the day were a couple of passenger trips by Edmond and Grace. Radley had scored best in the speed contest, while Cockburn had taken the lead in the slow flight contest. Work was going on in the hangars, where Cody's crew had now fitted a second Green engine in his machine. A Howard Wright machine with ENV engine had arrived, having been on the way for eight or nine days on the erratic British railways. It was reportedly intended for Champel. Colmore's machine had also finally arrived.
For a long time there was no news of Drexel. It was by now obvious that he had come down somewhere, and cars were sent out to search for him. At half past nine a telegram finally arrived: "Have landed near farmhouse at Wester Mossat, near Cobbinshaw Station. Am now at Cobbinshaw Station. Please send mechanics to station". After losing his way he had finally found a field where he could land safely, some 16 kilometres northeast of the airfield. He had borrowed a bicycle by the surprised farmers, whose farm was actually named Wester Mosshat, and ridden to the railway station, where he could telegraph for help and was served tea by the stationmaster. When he returned to the airfield, at half past one in the night, he stated that he had landed after some 50 minutes and still had quite a lot of fuel, but that he was lost, his hands were completely numb from the cold after passing through the big wet cloud without gloves, and to make things worse he was starting to run out of castor oil. He had decided to land as soon as he found a good place, since he didn't want to risk the engine stopping while trying to find his way back to the airfield.
Friday 12 August
The sealed barograph that Drexel had carried was opened and investigated by officials during the early morning, before being sent to the Kew Observatory for checking. It showed 2,057 metres (6,750 feet), a new world record. The old record was held by Walter Brookins, who had reached 1,904 metres in a Wright at Atlantic City on July 10th. The climb to the maximum altitude had only taken 34 minutes.
It had rained during the night, but the morning was bright and windy. The wind speed reached 11 m/s around noon, so nobody went for any longer flights. The first event, the starting contest, began at one o'clock. Because of the direction of the wind, it was decided to make the take-offs towards the hangar area. This was closer to the watching crowds, but it still didn't arouse any great enthusiasm. It led to an exciting incident, though, when McArdle's Blériot was pitched upwards by a gust. He had to quickly decide whether to try to climb above the hangars or land immediately. He chose the latter option, but overcontrolled and made a violent touchdown. The tail rose high in the air and for a moment it looked like the machine would turn over on its back, but it remained standing vertically on its nose. The impact broke the landing gear and the propeller. Radley, Dickson, Grace, Ogilvie and Edmond also made efforts, some of them with passengers on board. Radley scored the best result without passenger, 17.4 metres, while Ogilvie got off the ground in 45 metres with a passenger.
The wind then increased, reaching 13-14 m/s, and the airfield went quiet until four o'clock, when Küller rolled out his Antoinette and pointed it into the wind. He needed a long roll before leaving the ground, and it looked like the engine didn't pull well. He turned back onto the course and flew a lap, despite the wind, but when he turned to start the second lap he suddenly turned right and left the course. The machine lost speed and crashed into the same fir plantation where Champel crashed two days earlier. The young trees cushioned the fall and reduced the damages, but the propeller, the landing gear and the lower wing rigging were damaged. Workmen immediately started felling trees in order to get it out, but it took an hour and a half before a road had been cleared and the disassembled machine could be brought back. Küller, who was again unhurt, explained that the main reason for the bad performance was that the propeller, which was a replacement for the ones burned on the train, didn't deliver enough thrust.
The wind continued to blow, and nothing happened until half past five, when some of the machines were paraded in front of the grandstands. Towards the evening the winds calmed somewhat and at half past six Grace and Dickson rolled out their planes. Grace was first to take off and flew four laps. Dickson continued to fly after Grace's landing and was soon followed by Drexel. Drexel's flight of a little more than eight minutes was the day's longest and ended a disappointing day for the crowds.
Saturday 13 August
The morning was again bright, but windy. The wind speed at noon was between 7 and 9 m/s - not comfortable for flying, but not forbidding. The first one to fly was Cody, who had removed one of the engines again, because it had turned out to be impossible to synchronize the two engines. It was not a glorious flight - he took off after a roll of around 100 metres, flew in a straight line to the end of the course, landed, turned the plane around and flew back only a couple of metres above the ground. He repeated the performance twice, each time with a passenger on board. Several pilots had signalled the intention to fly for different contest around the time when Cody flew, but they called off their efforts when the wind increased again, and the next flight wasn't made until half past one. It was Grace, who made a 13-minute flight with a passenger on board. He was followed by Hanriot, who made two short flights, obviously troubled by the wind.
The next flights didn't take place until a quarter past four, when the wind had come down to 6 m/s. Several machines had entered for a novelty: The first straight-line speed contest in the world. Seven competitors had entered, and they were each allowed two efforts. Radley was first, followed by Grace, Blondeau, Dickson, McArdle, Cattaneo and Colmore, who now made his first flight in the plane that finally had arrived and been assembled. They made their second efforts in the same order, but this time Colmore left the course and crashed outside the field. He was not injured, but the propeller and a wing were broken. The event was won by Radley, who with the help of the tailwind covered the one-mile course in 47.4 seconds, corresponding to a speed of 122.2 km/h. This was around 17 km/h faster than the world speed record, which was set by Léon Morane at Reims a month earlier, but since Morane's speed was clocked over a 10-kilometre closed course the results were of course not comparable. There was also a one-kilometre straight-line contest, which was timed during the same flights but over only the last part of the course. The ground was higher at the middle of the course, so the mile course involved climbing while the planes could descend slightly during the second half. Therefore, the speeds over the kilometre were slightly better. Radley won this contest too, with a speed of 125.0 km/h.
When the speed contest was finished McArdle, Grace and Cattaneo started for the cross-country contest, in perfect conditions. They all finished their flights without problems, McArdle scoring the best time of the week with 23:04.2. Then followed a very active period, when there were sometimes six or seven machines in the air at the same time - Drexel, Cattaneo, Radley, Ogilvie, Dickson, Hanriot, Champel, Edmond and Cody, all competing for different contests or carrying passengers. Grace made the only successful flight for the weight-carrying contest and managed to fly the required lap with a load of 160.5 kilograms.
During the last minutes of the meeting there were a couple of incidents. Radley's engine stopped at an altitude of 180 metres and his machine was damaged during the heavy forced landing. Grace had a more alarming accident around eight o'clock, during the last flight of the meeting. He was carrying a passenger, professor J. Harvard Biles of Glasgow, when the propeller suddenly disintegrated, throwing bits and pieces in all directions. Several of them went through the rear part of the wings, ripped the fabric, and made the ailerons useless. The plane dropped, out of control. It made a very heavy landing, and a tyre blew with a sound like a pistol shot. The landing gear collapsed and the machine crashed down on the lower wings. The crowd broke through the fences and ran towards the accident site, and ambulances arrived quickly, but fortunately there were no injuries. After this there were no more flights.
From a sporting point of view, Drexel's altitude record was the high point, but it was generally agreed that this had been the most successful aviation meeting in Britain. There had been no serious accidents and there had been around three times as much flying as in Bournemouth. Cattaneo had spent a total of 8 h 35:53.6 in the air during the meeting, beating Drexel by around an hour and a half. Grace had taken the biggest share of the prize money, not because of any spectacular performances, but he had performed solidly in all contests, in a machine that he himself considered antiquated. Because of that, he had won all the additional prizes that were reserved for biplanes.
The officials, the practical arrangements of the meeting and the behaviour of the crowds were also compared favourably with the previous meetings. Ticket sales at the gates totalled 144,344, with 31,724 on the best day, which was the Wednesday. To this should be added around 10,000 "season ticket" holders each day. 350,000 words had been sent by telegraph from the airfield by reporters from the press, and around 100,000 postcards had been handled at the airfield.
The Lanark Town Council decided that the Aviation Committee had to compensate the 270 trees that had to be cut down after Champel's and Küller's accidents with the sum of £ 33 15 s, but this was only a small part of the losses. The finances were, as at so many other meetings, very disappointing. The meeting made a loss of £ 8,750, which had to be paid by the guarantors, who had in total committed £ 12,000. The reasons for the disappointing finances of aviation meetings were discussed in the aviation press. The conclusion was that since they gathered so many spectators and so much attention, the reason had to be overspending from the organizers. Three factors were particularly identified: Expensive construction of temporary grandstands and hangars, expensive deals with landowners around the airfields, and expensive deals with the flyers. It was argued that participants shouldn't both be guaranteed appearance money and offered big cash prizes for different contests.