The Lyon-Villeurbanne airfield
The time-keepers' pavillion. (1)
The 1910 Lyon aviation meeting was held on a temporary airfield
in the commune of Villeurbanne, east of Lyon. It was a relatively
small, almost rectangular field, bordered on the north by a railway, on
the west by a fortification wall (which is now demolished and replaced
by Boulevard Périférique Laurent Bonnevay, a part of the Lyon ring
road) and on the south and east by local roads. The field was rented by
farmers and right in the middle of it was the Bel-Air farm and its
buildings. Winds from the east brought the odours from La Poudrette, an
installation immediately to the east of the airfield where a powdered
fertilizer was produced from excrements.
The airfield was well served by public transport, with the permanent
tram lines supplemented by temporary bus services. The impressive line
of buildings along the start/finish straight included two big covered
grandstands, two simpler secondary grandstands, a smaller honorary
grandstand, a press pavilion, a music pavilion and the main buffet
restaurant, operated by Messieurs Berriat & Millet. Two more
restaurants and at least seven bars were built inside the airfield, but
there were also several outside the field in the neighbourhood, where
even some farmers took the chance to make some money by opening
temporary establishments. As usual there was a post and telegraph
office, a kiosk for postcards and several other small businesses, for
example florists and shoe-shiners.
There were eighteen hangars. They were all numbered, but rather
confusingly not with the same numbers as the airplanes. Métrot, Latham
and Paulhan each had two hangars, and Molon was also able to use a
second, since there were not planes enough to fill all of them. The
hangars were arranged at the start of the start/finish straight, so the
flyers could start their take-off runs right from their hangars and
lift off in front of the grandstands.
The course was only 1,666 metres long and around 200 metres wide. It
was marked with pylons consisting of poles with cloth-covered balls. As
usual in those days there was a time-keeper pavilion inside the course,
opposite the start/finish line. The spectators were kept informed of
the events by a signal mast of the type introduced at the 1909 Reims
The Villeurbanne airfield was only used for this single event. Six
months later, in November 1910, a new airfield was opened at Bron, four
kilometres to the south-east. This was the main airport of Lyon until
1975, when commercial airline operations moved to the new Satolas (now
Lyon-Saint-Éxupery) airport, but it is still used for general aviation.
A plan of the airfield from one of the programs of the meeting.
for a high-resolution version!
The airfield was well served by public transport. This is a map of
the tramway lines leading to the airfield. (1)
A photo of the airfield as seen from a balloon at 500 metres
altitude, with north at nine o'clock. Three airplanes can be seen
flying, a Voisin (presumably Métrot's), followed by Molon's
Blériot and Legagneux's Sommer. On the ground in front of the
hangars is a Farman with short lower wings, either Paulhan's or
for a high-resolution version!
One of the entrances to the airfield. (3)
The western end of the line of buildings along the start/finish
straight: Nearest the press pavilion, then the buffet restaurant, the
first main grandstand, the honorary grandstand and the second main
Elegant visitors in the main buffet restaurant, most of them looking
Legagneux in his Sommer ready for takeoff, with the line of hangars
in the background. (3)
Too see more details, open the map in Google Maps by clicking the
"full screen" symbol at the top right of the menu bar!