Nice is the capital of the department Alpes-Maritimes at the eastern
end of the French Riviera. It has for a long time been a resort for the
rich and famous, due to its mild winter climate and its casinos and
beautiful promenades. In 1910 the town had 130,000 inhabitants and
apart from tourism lived from agricultural produce, such as oil and
fruit. It was also a military town, with several forts and batteries in
Nice received one of the sanctions for a 1910 meeting that were granted by the Aéro-Club de France. It was organized by the town of Nice, with support from the Aéro-Club de France and the Aéro-Club de Nice. A committee was formed, headed by M. Sauvan (mayor of Nice), Albert Gautier (president of the Comité Général des Sports) and Juste Fernandez (president of the Aéro-Club de Nice). Like at several other French meetings, the sporting matters were handled by Marquis de Kergariou, Paul Rousseau and Ernest Zens from the Aéro-Club de France. Among the famous people visiting the meeting were the kings of Sweden and Denmark. US president Roosevelt was invited, but couldn't take part.
The budget for the meeting was no less than 800,000 francs, a large part of it provided by the town of Nice. An enormous lot of work was required in order to make an airfield of the wet beach flats. Construction of the airfield installations was delayed by rainy weather and during the last week preparations were going on around the clock, in the light of acetylene lamps during the nights. Sixteen hangars were built, several big grandstands and a music pavilion, apparently modelled on the famous casino pier on Promenade Anglais. The price fund was 215,000 francs. Thirteen flyers entered:
The unfortunate Hubert Le Blon had also entered, but he was killed
when crashing into the harbour of San Sebastián on 2 April. The big
names were the experienced Latham and Rougier, but Chávez, Métrot and
Olieslagers were also recognized as rising stars. For Efimoff (Russia),
Rawlinson and Rolls (Britain) and Svendsen (Denmark) it would be the
The first planes arrived on the 10th and by the 13th all had arrived except Grade's, which was mysteriously missing en route from Germany. The meeting was preceded by two further days of bad weather, with high winds and more rain. During the 13th and 14th the airplanes were rolled out of their hangars and exhibited to the public, who paid five francs for seeing them.
Friday April 15th
The first day of the meeting dawned beautifully. The first to test his wings was Svendsen in his Voisin. He took off at seven o'clock in the morning, but touched the ground after a short distance. His main wheels stuck in the wet sand and brutally stopped the plane. Svendsen was thrown out of the cockpit, but escaped injury. The front wheel did its job and prevented the plane from nosing over, but it took a hard hit and its landing gear was bent, so the plane had to be towed back to the hangar for repairs.
Grade's plane finally arrived during the morning, having been stuck at the railway station of Geneva, and apart from him everybody was ready except Latham, who had radiator problems, Duray and Rolls. Rougier and Duray went for a trip around the course to check the conditions, but the results can't have been very encouraging, since he car got stuck in the mud and had to be helped out. Efimoff and Rougier made short test flights during around noon.
When the official flights started in the afternoon there was lots of action, and just as at Cannes a Russian flyer was at the centre of attention. Before the meeting nobody had heard much about the young Efimoff and he didn't speak much French, but he turned out to be the star of the meeting. He was first in the air when the official flights started at noon and displayed complete control of his machine, banking steeply around the pylons, zooming and side-slipping. In total he made at least seven flights during the day, the longest of 1 hour 16 minutes. He won the daily four-lap speed prize and take-off prizes, both with and without passenger, and with 120 kilometres flown he took the lead in the "Prix de la totalisation des distances".
Chávez made four flights. The first was interrupted by a broken rudder wire, which he repaired after landing on the course. His longest flight was 1 hour 22 minutes. Van den Born made at least two flights, at first taking wide tentative turns around the tiny triangular course but soon finding his lines. He made the day's longest flight, 87 kilometres in 1 hour 40 minutes. Van den Born was slightly faster than Chávez, gaining gradually and finally overtaking him, to the excitement of the crowds. Métrot made a flight of 25 minutes, during which he left the field and flew over the countryside. Rougier made two flights of totally 21 minutes. The hairpin turn at the east end of the course was difficult in the unwieldy Voisins and both Rougier and Métrot were reprimanded for flying above the grandstands.
The grandstands were full of nobility and important persons. At around three o'clock Gustaf V, the king of Sweden arrived at the field to the tones of the Swedish national hymn and he had the pleasure of seeing four planes in the air at the same time, something that hadn't happened since the Reims meeting the year before.
Rawlinson made two flights. The first lasted only half a lap because of engine and rudder problems, but during the second of eight minutes he flew wide turns over the sea. Olieslagers made three short flights, troubled by a sticking valve in his Anzani engine and also being blown over the grandstands. Svendsen did two more tests in his repaired plane during the afternoon, but it didn't run well and he had trouble making turns. He twice landed close to the waterline, the second time running into a small ravine and had to be retrieved by car. The first day of the meeting was a complete success, although several flyers still hadn't made an appearance.
Saturday April 16th
On the second day the weather was more unsettled, with changing and gusty winds and some rain during the morning. This did nothing to improve the condition of the airfield, large parts of which were covered by puddles. The second pylon could only be reached by planks.
Once again Efimoff was first to make an official flight. Rain started to fall again and postponed further action until 13:15. This was the day for the distance contest and the first to try was Van den Born. He landed after 15 km, breaking a front skid, which was soon repaired. At 13:56 Chavez took off, but his engine didn't run well and he landed almost immediately. Efimoff flew five laps and then Van den Born took off again, this time staying in the air for 58 minutes. At three o'clock Efimoff was in the air again and immediately posted the best time of the day for the speed contest, but without improving his best time of the day before. He didn't land, but continued until he ran out of fuel at half past four.
Duray made his first flight, after spending some time finding an obligatory life-vest big enough. He flew the four laps for the speed contest, but his time was void since he had failed to announce the flight in advance to the race committee. Van Riemsdijk also made his first flight. Olieslagers' engine still didn't run well, so he failed to take off despite several tries. At four o'clock the wind had dropped and Rougier took off. He didn't go onto the course but stayed high above the sea, around 300 metres off the beach.
At 16:46 Duray and Van den Born appeared to be heading to a mid-air collision when they tried to round the second pylon at low altitude at the same time. Duray saved them by quickly turning right towards the sea. Olieslagers had finally cured his engine problems and made a flight of 34 minutes at an altitude of 60-80 metres. The tight turns were difficult for the Blériot pilot, since the wings and fuselage blocked the view downwards. Due to several pylon cuts he was only credited with an official distance of eight kilometres flown.
Chávez and the indefatigable Efimoff took off again, trying to make use of the last hour before the 18:30 curfew. Efimoff flew more than 138 kilometres during the day, increasing his big lead over Van den Born in the "Prix de la totalisation". Latham finally made his long-awaited first flight but had to land after only eight minutes. A manometer joint had worked loose and he was sprayed with hot water. During the short flight he had already confirmed that the Antoinette was the fastest plane at the meeting, the lap times of 1:26 - 1:27 being around ten seconds shorter than those of the Farmans.
At 17:43 Rawlinson took off and soon found himself in front of the faster Efimoff, who went to the inside instead of overtaking high and on the outside as prescribed. Rawlinson's plane was caught in his propeller wash and swerved to the right. This drove him out over the sea and when he tried to quickly get back to the racing line he lost control and crashed heavily right on the waterline. He was thrown into the water, fortunately with nothing more than a bruised arm, but the tail of the plane remained on the beach pebbles. The accident happened close to the start-finish line, so help arrived quickly. The elevator, the lower wings and the propeller were broken and the engine drenched, but Rawlinson, after changing to dry clothes and enjoying a whisky in his hangar to get the taste of sea-water out of his mouth, hoped that it could be repaired during the meeting. Efimoff was given a reprimand by the stewards and fined 100 francs for his irregular overtaking manoeuvre.
There was still time for a couple of flights. Efimoff tried for the take-off prizes, winning the non-passenger prize but not managing to get airborne quickly enough for the passenger prize. In the last flight of the day Rolls finally got his Wright into the air, but he returned to the hangar after half a lap. After the second day Efimoff led the "Prix de la totalisation" by 269 kilometres against Van den Born's 153 and Chavez's 125.
Sunday April 17th
The third day started windy, but it didn't discourage Efimoff who was once again first in the air, only minutes after the official start, which had been postponed one hour to one o'clock. Chavez soon followed and he in turn was followed by Van den Born. There were a couple of anxious moments when he took off straight onto the racing line in front of Chávez, but Chávez reacted quickly and went high to avoid a collision. Van den Born's mechanics had spent the night replacing the engine, which suffered from valve problems, but the new one seemed down on power so Chávez soon overtook him.
When Chávez had flown for an hour and a half his mechanics started to signal that he should land, but he kept on. After 1 hour 44 minutes the tank was empty and the engine stopped. Chávez glided down and made a heavy landing in a pool of water. He was immediately on his feet, uninjured but drenched in muddy water, but the plane was badly damaged. The landing gear, the front fuselage and the right wings were broken. When asked why he hadn't landed while the engine ran, Chávez said that he had wanted to reach the two-hour mark and that he had trusted that he would be able to glide to safe landing when he ran out of fuel, but the wind caught him.
With Van den Born's engine not running well there was nobody stopping Efimoff from, as usual, taking the speed prize and the two take-off prizes. For the passenger prize he had his compatriot Nicolas Popoff, the big money winner at Cannes, in the passenger seat, his pockets full of stones to bring him up to the 75 kg minimum weight. The take-off runs were sensationally short thanks to the headwind. Olieslagers also made five efforts for the take-off prize, but his best result of 13.2 metres was not enough to beat Efimoff's 10.5.
At three o'clock a storm with black clouds and high winds came down from the north. The wind rose to 12 m/s, with gusts of 20 m/s. The white flag was hoisted and all flying stopped. This was no doubt a relief for all flyers with sick planes, and there were several: Latham's engine had developed new troubles. Van den Born's new engine still didn't deliver full power. Métrot's crew was working on his ENV V-8. Chávez was pleased that his engine hadn't even received a scratch during the crash and confident that he could repair his plane during the meeting. Things looked worse for Rawlinson, whose plane was completely taken apart.
It would be a long afternoon for the spectators. There was no action until six o'clock, when the red flag was briefly hoisted again. Van den Born wanted to fly, but his engine would have none of it, and then the day was over. After the succes of the first two days this was a disappointment. Efimoff still led the "Prix de la totalisation des distances" by 326 km against Chavez's 203 and Van den Born's 159.
Monday April 18th
The sun was shining again from a cloudless sky, but the wind from the west was still rather strong when official flights started at one o'clock. This didn't discourage Van den Born, who lost only one minute before taking off, soon followed by Efimoff. The Russian lost his cap during the take-off, but managed to catch it with one hand. He then held it between his teeth until the first turn, where he calmly put it on again! He flew six laps and took the lead in the daily speed contest, before landing to make several efforts for the take-off and passenger contests. Van den Born stayed in the air for 66 minutes, also setting a time for the speed contest. After landing he only filled his tank before taking off for a second flight of 69 minutes. When he tried to make a third start his engine had had enough and a cylinder of his Gnôme blew off, making a sound like a cannon-shot and a big hole in the ground where it hit.
At three o'clock Latham took off, but only covered two laps before his engine started missing. Efimoff, his confidence obviously sky high, enjoyed himself by making dives on people along the course. He had already made ten flights during the day, and more would come.
Around four o'clock there was lots of action on the airfield. Métrot, who had tried for two days to cure his engine problems, failed once more to take off. Duray took off and steered out over the sea, where he circled a couple of ships and flew along the Promenade des Anglais before landing. Svendsen took off, but landed after an uncertain flight of 500 metres. Olieslagers flew a lap, followed by Rougier and another over-sea flight by Duray. Rolls took off from his rail and made his longest flight so far, 11 minutes. His unstable Wright had obvious problems with the turbulent air and an observer remarked that his flight looked like a boat rocked by waves. Olieslagers made several efforts for the take-off prize, without beating Efimoff's marks, followed by a couple of laps at 80 to 120 metres. This high flying obviously spurred Latham, who took off and gradually climbed to 340 metres to the cheers of the enthusiastic crowd. He landed with his face full of oil from the leaking engine, stating that the air was very turbulent and that he only found calm air at 300 metres. Then there was a new loud bang from the hangars. This time it was one of Svendsen's cylinders that was blown off, making another hole in the ground and narrowly missing several people, among them the king of Sweden.
This was not the end of the day's drama. Just before five o'clock Rougier took off and steered out over the sea. Around 100 metres off the beach he lost control of his Voisin, which rolled to the left and dived into the sea from an altitude of twenty meters. Rougier had the presence of mind to cut the ignition before hitting the water, which he claimed felt as hard as concrete. The plane soon started sinking and Rougier had to fight hard to get free. He cut his hand on a broken steel wire while freeing himself from the collapsed fuselage and while struggling to get to the surface he got a further cut above the left eye from the wing rigging. It was a narrow escape, according to the time-takers he had been below the surface for more than twelve seconds. Luckily Rougier was a good swimmer and he set off towards the beach in order to avoid being pulled down by the sinking plane. He displayed more presence of mind when he first got rid of his jacket to swim easier and then changed his mind when he recalled that this would have meant risking losing his wallet, which contained 10,000 francs in cash, the entire payment for his appearance in the meeting, his pilot's license and his insurance documents! He was soon picked up by a motor-boat and was driven bleeding by car to the time-keepers' hut on the gun butt inside the course. The king of Sweden was once again close to the action and helpfully recommended that Rougier should change to dry clothes in order to avoid catching pneumonia. The wreckage of the plane was saved thanks to a sailor who jumped into the water and managed to tie a rope to the engine. Since Rougier had a second plane it was hoped that he would fly again before the end of the week.
Olieslagers took off immediately after the accident. The ex-motorcycle racer had experience from nasty crashes and wanted to give the spectators something to look at that would take their minds off the dramatic accident. The day finished with several passenger flights by Efimoff, whose performance during the meeting exceeded everything that had been seen before, prompting observers to state that the days of practical, reliable and predictable flying had finally arrived. Altogether he carried seven different friends, VIPs and reporters as passengers during a day of almost taxi flying. He also increased his lead in the "Prix de la totalisation des distances", now 458 km against Van den Born's 266 and Chavez's 203.
Tuesday April 19
This was another sunny day but the winds were unpredictable during the morning. The only one to venture out before the official flying started was Grade, whose machine was finally ready. He made his first test, a short straight hop, at 12:15.
The first one to venture out after one o'clock was Van den Born. His mechanics had worked hard to assemble a good engine from the two failed ones, but three short tests showed that something was still missing. Back to work… Meanwhile Efimoff started, as usual regular as clockwork. He began by clocking four laps for the daily speed contest and then stayed in the air for almost 50 minutes.
Latham's engine suffered from ignition troubles and still didn't run well, but that didn't stop him from reaching 300 metres during a 50-kilometre flight and winning the daily speed prize with a new course record. Rolls' Wright was finally in good shape and at 13:35 he started a flight of almost half an hour. After some quiet minutes almost everybody flew between two and three o'clock. Van Riemsdijk flew half a lap and landed after touching the ground with a wing tip, followed by Duray, who took second in the speed contest. Efimoff made several efforts at the take-off prize with and without passengers and as usual won both of them. Van den Born made another test, but the engine still didn't run well and he landed after a few minutes. Olieslagers made two flights, first four laps trying for the speed prize and then a flight of some twenty minutes, during which he climbed to 80-100 metres. Rolls made a flight of some twenty minutes, flying out over the sea. He was forced down when one of the propellers started breaking up. Duray, Olieslagers and Grade made further short flights.
At 15:40 Van den Born came out again, and this time it appears his carburetion problems were solved. He stayed in the air for almost 50 minutes, breaking the monotony of touring the course by venturing out to sea. Efimoff and Duray made passenger flights.
Between four and five o'clock there was another flurry of activity and for more than twenty minutes the spectators could watch five planes of four different makes in the sky at the same time: Latham high, Olieslagers and Grade a bit lower and Efimoff and Van den Born chasing laps for the distance contest at low level. Latham several times frightened the spectators by stopping his engine to glide down from high altitude, but it always started again so that he could land under full control. Olieslagers made a heavy landing and broke a propeller and a wing tip when a wheel got stuck in the soft ground, but he would soon be up again in his spare plane.
Duray, Efimoff and Van den Born took off for the third "Prix des Passagers", this time a distance contest. Several of the pilots had started to practice for the cross-water contests of the upcoming weekend. The most spectacular sea flight so far was made by Duray, who disappeared from sight, crossed the Baie des Anges, turned back at Hotel Beau-Rivage in the Old Town and returned along the Promenade des Anglais to the excitement of the around 15,000 people watching. Olieslagers was out in his spare plane and Grade made an impressive flight at relatively high altitude. Rolls also started a flight at around half past five.
At 17:45, after flying several laps, Grade found himself behind one of the Farmans and since his light plane was disturbed by the wash he decided to land. When about to touch down he suddenly noticed a group of people in front and gunned the engine to pass over them. The plane bounced high into the air with the nose almost vertical, jumped the wall that separated the airfield from the river Var and landed on its nose, luckily on a sand bank in the middle of the river. Grade was unhurt, but the accident site was separated from the airfield by a wide arm of the quickly flowing river. A brave seaman, identified by three different names in three different Nice newspapers, finally managed to cross the stream in a little boat and brought Grade to the hangar area, where help quickly arrived. Grade had married only a week before the meeting and this was perhaps not what he expected from the honeymoon! The plane was retrieved in the moonlight in the evening with the help an improvised raft and two strong horses. The propeller and the bamboo beam forming the rear fuselage were broken, but otherwise the plane appeared to be easily repairable.
As for the other pilots who had suffered accidents, Rawlinson still had his arm in a sling and was uncertain about returning to the action. Chávez's crew and mechanics from local airplane builders Henri Chazal were working long busy hours repairing his plane. A reporter colourfully described a person sitting in the seat of the airplane, which had been placed on top of a fuel canister, sewing fabric onto the rebuilt wings. Rougier had made a complete recovery and was following the flying from the balcony of his hotel room. It was reported that he had decided to rest from flying for a month after his busy touring during the spring, but he would never return to competitive flying and announced his retirement a couple of weeks later.
Efimoff, Van den Born and Rolls were all still in the air at 18:30 and had to be flagged down. Van den Born's mechanics were finally rewarded by seeing him win the "Prix des Passagers" after a flight of 70 minutes. Efimoff was beaten by a mere four laps, but the 155 kilometres that he had flown during the day had once again increased his lead in the "Prix de totalisation". He had now reached 614 kilometres, which was claimed to be a world record for distance covered during a single meeting. The previous best was the 569 kilometres scored by Hubert Latham during the 1909 Reims meeting. Van den Born had reached 276 km and Chavez 203 km.
Wednesday 20 April
This was a perfect day for flying, with light cloud cover and winds never higher than 3 m/s. Could the astonishing success of the previous day be repeated?
Latham and Duray had both protested to the race committee that they had been hindered by slower planes during their efforts for the Prix du Tour de Piste the day before. Duray, who had a strong engine in his Farman, even had to overtake two planes during one of his flights and landed after three laps to make his protest.
As usual Van den Born and Efimoff were first out, only minutes after one o'clock. Both made efforts for the Prix du Tour de Piste and then went on to collect "frequent flyer miles". Rolls started at 13:36, also with the same strategy. Speeds were improving, no doubt as pilots learned the best lines around the tight turns of the short course. Rolls displayed the manoeuvring capabilities of the Wright by swooping from high altitude and flying small circles over the Var.
After two days and nights of hard work after the Sunday crash Chavez's Farman was ready to fly at 14:08. New smaller lower wing panels had replaced the original equal-span wings, which seemed to improve the speed. Despite a troublesome engine he posted the best time for the "Prix du Tour de Piste". His lead didn't last long, however, since Latham soon posted a record-beating 5:38.8, but it was the best time by a Farman, beating Duray's time of the day before.
Efimoff made a short break to fill his tank and let the engine cool down before taking off again. Chavez started a second flight at 15:15 and covered five laps before retiring for the day because of engine problems. Latham took off for a twenty-minute flight, flying high and above the countryside. Meanwhile, Efimoff made another landing and took off again. At 15:37 Rolls took off, having changed propellers. He made two flights, totalling more than an hour and officially covering 54 kilometres, despite touring over the sea and having to cut pylons in order to avoid hindering other planes.
Around four o'clock Métrot finally rolled out his Voisin after trying for a couple of days to make his engine run well. The mechanics had apparently been successful, because he immediately embarked on a spectacular high flight, eventually reaching 340 metres. Latham obviously felt that this was a challenge to his territory and climbed to 250 metres while Métrot made a quick descent and an elegant landing in front of the grandstands. Latham stayed in the air for more than an hour, covering 57 kilometres. The altitude contest would be held on the next day and Efimoff, who had previously hardly flown higher than the pylon tops obviously wanted to play too. He quickly climbed to 175 metres before landing again, perhaps not wanting to show his hand.
Duray, Efimoff and Olieslagers made efforts for the take-off contest, but the outcome was the usual: Efimoff won both with and without passenger. This was the day for the "Prix des Mecaniciens", a contest of one lap with standing start. Duray and Efimoff made two efforts each, with Duray scoring the two best times. Latham had also entered, but the place where he was instructed to start was wet and muddy and his wheels got stuck. The plane started to nose over but was caught by the nose skid, which dug deeply into the ground. The propeller hit the ground and broke. As could well be imagined, Latham was furious and protested to the race committee for forcing him start in such a bad place. Fortunately the damages were restricted to the propeller and the nose skid, so after replacing those he would be able to compete for the altitude prize the day after.
Efimoff and Rolls finished the day's flying. Efimoff, who again had to be flagged down after the curfew, had flown 135 kilometres during the day, yet again increasing his lead in the "Prix de Totalisation". The top five at the end of the day were Efimoff (750 km), Van den Born (411 km), Chávez (246 km), Latham (184 km) and Rolls (157 km).
The organizing committee announced that unawarded prize money would go towards a "Prix de Mérite" for the three flyers who had contributed most to the success of the meeting. They also announced that since the exhibition of airplanes before the start of the meeting had been hampered by rain and wind there would be a similar exhibition on two more afternoons.
Thursday 21 April
Weather was again perfect on the sixth day of the meeting. The main event of the day would be the "Prix de l'Altitude", which many in the crowd regarded as the most exciting event. Endurance isn't so exciting to watch, and the speeds of around 60-70 km/h were not that mind-blowing, but flying at an altitude of several hundred meters! In the absence of world record holder Louis Paulhan everybody expected Latham in his beautiful Antoinette to win it. Would he succeed? Paulhan had after all flown a Farman when he set the record, but Latham had also reached 1,000 metres before…
Before the start of the day's action the local restaurant owner M. Roux invited all the flyers for a five-course luncheon. This was perhaps the reason why despite the perfect conditions nobody tried their wings until Latham brought out his plane at 13:35. This flight could have robbed him of the chance to win the "Prix de l'Altitude": His landing after a fast six-lap flight was heavy and just as the day before the main wheels stuck in the soft ground, the tail started to rise and the front skid dug in. Fortunately only the propeller was damaged, but now Latham only had one left. While Latham flew Rolls took off and made a flight of more than an hour, setting a time for the "Prix de Tour de Piste" and making a couple of tours over the sea.
Duray made three starts, but his engine kept missing and he never flew more than a single lap. After a quiet interval Efimoff took off at 15:06 and beat Rolls' time at the start of a 23-minute flight. Rolls made a second short flight, then Efimoff tried without success to improve his time for the "Prix de Tour de Piste" before once again winning the two "Prix de Lancement". His passenger was the young wife of a local press man, who completely enjoyed the experience, saying it was better than riding a car. For his next passenger flight he brought General Beaudenom de Lamaze, commander of the 29th Division, who stated he felt totally secure during the flight.
Flights for the "Prix de l'Altitude" were supposed to start at four o'clock, but nobody wanted to be first. In the end Chávez took off at 16:38, followed four minutes later by Latham. Chávez circled ever higher, but Latham's Antoinette climbed faster and after seven minutes he passed Chávez's Farman at 200 metres and quickly pulled away. Latham had reached 490 metres when a belt broke and the crowds immediately heard the engine losing power. He quickly pointed the nose downwards and at 17:15 glided to safe landing, helped somewhat by the two cylinders that still fired. Frantic action started in the Antoinette hangar, while Chávez kept climbing, finally reaching an unofficially measured 660 metres after a 49-minute climb. He landed at 17:45 after a 67-minute flight, hoping that he had done enough. He didn't know how high he had been, since his altimeter only went to 600 metres.
At 17:10 Métrot took off for his effort. He used a different strategy, making only two wide circles instead of the many tighter circles of Chávez and Latham. He reached 235 metres before finding the turbulence too difficult and quit his effort. He went on a tour over the countryside and the city centre, returning along the beach promenade to land after 30 minutes. At 17:23 Van den Born took "Le Figaro" reporter Frantz Reichel for a 15-minute flight. This was the first passenger flight over the sea and they also finished with a tour along the promenade and around the airfield.
At 17:30 Efimoff started the engine in order to go for the "Prix de l'Altitude", but he had hardly started rolling when a loud bang was heard and his propeller disintegrated, miraculously without injuring anybody. Somebody had left a tool on one of the lower wings and when the plane started moving it fell into the spinning propeller. There wasn't time for both replacing the propeller and reaching a competitive altitude, so Efimoff was out. Rolls also took off at 17:30, climbing to 235 metres before giving up and landing after 12 minutes. Olieslagers took off at 17:50 and reached 220 meters during three wide tours of the field before coming down to land.
Latham took off at 17:48 when the broken belt had been replaced. He climbed quickly, but would he have time to get high enough in the 42 minutes remaining before the 18:30 curfew? His last lap had to be cut short in order to pass the line before the deadline and just as the cannon-shot announced the end of the day the stewards indicated that he had also unofficially reached 660 metres. Would it be a dead heat? The race committee would check their measurements before announcing the final results.
While Latham flew, several other planes were in the air. Van Riemsdijk, who hadn't flown before during the day, made a flight of one lap and Grade took out his repaired monoplane for a two-lap flight. Rolls, Van den Born, Chávez and Olieslagers all added some laps to their scores for the "Prix de Totalisation". The top five at the end of the day were Efimoff (818 km), Van den Born (433 km), Chávez (286 km), Latham (227 km) and Rolls (222 km).
Shortly before eight o'clock the official results of the "Prix de l'Altitude" were finally announced: Latham had won by a mere twelve metres, the official results being 656 metres against 644! Chávez accepted the disappointing decision sportingly and took the opportunity to thank Van den Born for lending him some engine parts that had made it possible for him to fly at all. Small adjustments were also made to the results of the other three pilots, resulting in Rolls being elevated to third place. Efimoff announced that he would try to beat the world altitude record the day after.
On the following day Latham filed an official protest to the race committee, accompanied by the required fee of 50 francs. He had heard from one of the stewards that the margin of error of the measurements was bigger than one percent, which meant that it wasn't certain that the results really reflected reality. Latham stated that since he would himself find it very unpleasant to be the victim of such circumstances, and being the only one to have anything to lose, he wanted the results to be modified taking into account the risk of errors. As a consequence he would be willing to share the prize money with Chávez. The committee rejected the protest, simply stating that the contestants had no right to question the means employed by the committee for measuring the results. On such matters the committee was only responsible to the F.A.I. and the "Commission Aérienne Mixte".
Friday 22 April
This was the last day of the regular contests, since the weekend would be devoted to the two over-water cross-country races. During the morning Van den Born's mechanics installed a new engine to replace his previous troublesome example, a work which was accomplished in two hours. Rawlinson's plane was now completely repaired, except that he still hadn't received the propeller, which was being sent by railway from Paris. Svendsen's hangar was empty. He had packed his plane and would leave during the afternoon, probably realizing that he was not ready for meetings like this. Métrot was also disassembling one of his planes in order to send it to the upcoming meeting in Tours. He would not make any flights during the day, since he still didn't trust his engine.
The weather had turned worse, with strong winds from the east and dark clouds, and the crowds were not as numerous as the previous days. The reports in the local newspapers were not so enthusiastic anymore and some remarked that the endless flying was not very interesting. Immediately after the official start at one o'clock Efimoff was in the air, flying four fast laps for the "Tour de Piste" contest, followed by a flight of some 50 km. Chávez, Latham, Van den Born and Rolls followed the same agenda. Efimoff was far ahead in the total distance contest, but the others were still fighting for positions.
Soon after two o'clock Latham made an effort for the "Prix de tour de piste", easily beating the previously best time of Efimoff. Around three o'clock Efimoff made his daily efforts for the take-off prizes, as usual winning both. Then he made a second effort at the "Tour de Piste", but the result was no improvement. Afterwards he returned to the hangar to let his mechanics check the engine, which he felt didn't perform well, perhaps an effect of the propeller incident the day before. Grade in his "flying hammock" made several short flights in the hard wind, obviously taking no risks. Around 15:15 several pilots made new efforts for the "Prix de tour de piste". Van den Born was first and took the lead. He was followed by Duray, who beat him by four tenths of a second. Then Latham, despite the presence of three other planes around the course, posted a time of 5:41.8, way beyond the capability of the Farmans. Rolls also flew the four laps, even though his Wright had no chance in a speed contest.
At 17:20 Efimoff took off for his promised attack on the world altitude record, held at 1,269 metres by Louis Paulhan since the January Los Angeles meeting. He climbed quickly in large circles to an altitude of 250 metres, followed by everybody's eyes, but then his engine started to miss and suddenly stopped. He was far out over the sea when it failed, but managed to restart the engine a couple of times and glide down to a safe landing on the beach, only metres from the waterline. If the failure had occurred just seconds earlier he had been in for a bath. This put an end to his flying for the day, but the 887 kilometres that he had flown during the eight days had already secured the win in the "Prix de totalisation" by a broad margin.
Latham and Van den Born were still flying lap after lap, the latter covering a total of 151 km during the day, which put him in a safe second place. Latham's 91 km was not enough to demote Chávez from the third place, but forced him to make an extra flight during the last half hour of the day. This was made with one of his mechanics as passenger and his times over 15 km (16:31.0) and 25 km (25:26.4) were claimed as speed records with passenger.
Saturday 23 April
The big event of the day was the "cruise" from the airfield across the Baie des Anges, around the lighthouse on Cap-Ferrat around six kilometres south-east of the centre of Nice and back. It was, somewhat questionably, announced as the first race of its kind, perhaps based on the fact that the similar race held at Cannes three weeks earlier attracted only one competitor. In order to ensure that all flying around the course was made in the normal anti-clockwise direction the flyers had to cross the start/finish line and then round all three pylons before turning towards the sea. At the finish they also had to round all three pylons before crossing the line. Flights were allowed between three o'clock and half past six.
Eight of the flyers announced that they would participate, while Olieslagers, Grade and Rawlinson wouldn't. Olieslagers didn't think his light low-powered Blériot would have a chance. Grade's propeller shaft had been bent during his crash in the Var, which made the bearings overheat and limited him to short flights. Rawlinson had found out that some of his struts had warped as a result of being dipped in the water during his crash, and his arm was still in a sling.
The destroyer "Carabinier" and four French navy torpedo boats would be stationed along the course, and several other steamers and motorboats would also be ready to quickly help flyers who had to ditch. Efimoff, Chávez and Rolls had made a reconnaissance cruise along the course aboard the "Carabinier" during the morning. Rolls and Van Riemsdijk had fitted flotation bags to their planes. At noon M. Sauvan, mayor of Nice, offered a five-course luncheon to the race committee and all the stewards. Crowds estimated at 60,000 to 100,000 spectators lined the airfield and the beaches and quays.
The first flyer to take off was Duray, but since he would have jumped the gun he was flagged down by his mechanics for a new start. Therefore it was Van den Born who was first out on the course at 15:01, followed exactly one minute later by Duray. They were followed by Latham at 15:13, visibly faster, and twenty seconds later by Rolls, who flew much higher than the others. Chávez started at 15:18 and also flew very high. He had flown an extra lap around the course before starting in order to climb to an altitude where he felt he would be able to safely glide close to a ship if his engine failed over sea.
Duray, in his faster machine, overtook Van den Born at the end of the first leg. Even after losing time with a wide turn at the lighthouse he was ahead coming back to the airfield, but he made another bad turn returning to the airfield and at 15:20 the planes crossed the line almost at the same time. They both said that there had been no problems, except that on the return leg, flying towards the sun, the haze had made it difficult to see ahead. At 15:30 Latham landed, easily beating the two Farman pilots with a flight averaging 86 km/h. He was followed almost five minutes later by Rolls, who declared that he would make a second effort when the wind decreased. Chavez landed at 15:35, but his time was only good enough to beat Rolls. Efimoff was next to start at 15:46. He narrowly beat Chávez but was not satisfied with his time. Métrot made his start at 16:20. His Voisin didn't have the speed to compete for the price money and he flew high and close to the coastline. At 17:08 Efimoff started a second effort, but he had to turn back halfway on the first leg when his engine started missing.
Both the race committee and his friends tried to discourage Van Riemsdijk from flying over the sea, since his engine didn't run well, but the young Dutchmen didn't want to listen and at 17:18 he made his start. Already after four kilometres, two kilometres from the beach, he was in trouble. The engine ran very irregularly and the machine flew erratically, even touching the water a couple of times. The "Carabinier" and one of the torpedo boats speeded towards the crippled plane and when it finally ditched they were able to quickly rescue the Van Riemsdijk, who was waving to signal that he was all right. Two boats were launched and fished him out of the water. Well on board one of the torpedo boats he shouted instructions to the seamen that they should tie ropes to the engine of the plane, so that the fragile airframe wouldn't be damaged. The whole rescue operation took less than four minutes and the tug "Polyphème" retrieved the damaged plane soon afterwards. Van Riemsdijk was bought to the harbour of Nice, where he thanked his rescuers. He calmly asked for a cigarette and declared that he wanted to take another bath, unforced this time, and change clothes, so that he could return those that the captain of torpedo boat No. 203 had lent him.
At 17:30 Rolls made his second effort and the lighter wind and his experience of the course enabled him to improve his time by some four minutes and beat Duray to the second prize - it seemed... The next day the race committee announced that there had been an error in the timing and that his time was two minutes longer than originally announced, only good enough for fourth. While all this was going on, Grade, Olieslagers and Duray made some short flights around the airfield. Van den Born sold five passenger flights around the course for 100 francs each, donating the money to a local campaign for a monument over the late Ferdinand Ferber, who made several of his flying experiments very close to the airfield.
It was announced that the meeting would be extended by one day. On the Monday the pilots could compete for additional prizes for altitude and total distance, and the ticket prices would be halved. It was declared a holiday for the 2,000 children of the schools of Nice and special trains would carry them to the airfield free of charge.
Sunday 24 April
This last day of the official meeting dawn beautifully, with clear sky, a light mist over the sea and almost no wind. The event of the day would be the over-water race from the airport to the Garoupe lighthouse at Antibes and back. When the program for the meeting was first published it included the option of extending this race to Cannes and back, but in the end the shorter distance was chosen. Duray and Van den Born had taken the precaution of making a car trip to Antibes in order to have a look at the turning point. A second destroyer, the "Mousqueton", had joined the fleet of different craft patrolling.
From the hangars came the news that Efimoff's mechanics had replaced his all but worn out Gnôme rotary with a stronger 60 hp ENV V-8. Van den Born had decided not to participate in the race, since he reckoned he would have no chance against Latham's Antoinette and the Farmans with stronger engines than his Gnôme, and he had other plans, which he didn't announce yet... The King of Denmark had arrived and joined his Swedish colleague in the reserved grandstand.
When the official flying started the pilots wasted no time. Rolls had flown a couple of laps around the course waiting for the cannon that announced the start and cut the start line five seconds past three. He was followed 5 seconds later by Chávez and after 20 more seconds by Latham. En route to Antibes Latham passed both Chávez and Rolls, thereby winning the prize offered by the town of Antibes to the flyer who would first turn around the lighthouse. He passed it at around sixty meters, waving to the spectators, before disappearing into the mist again. Rolls won the second prize over Chávez by only five seconds.
Latham returned to the airfield taking a slight detour along the coast, posting a time of 20:16.0, which would stand as the best of the day. Chávez overtook Rolls on the way home and both landed safely. Latham didn't land but flew a lap of the course and then immediately set out on a second flight to Antibes. The second time was no improvement, but after landing the celebrations were enormous and he and his mother were taken to the official tribune, where he was presented to the kings of Sweden and Denmark.
At 15:40 Métrot took off in his Voisin. He knew that all the other planes were faster, so he flew a wide high course and returned safely to the airfield, posting the slowest time. He was probably looking forward to the Tours meeting the next weekend, where he would fly the new "racing type" Voisin. Duray took off at four o'clock and posted the second best time, of 21:40.4, as usual flying at minimum altitude. During the afternoon Olieslagers flew several laps around the airfield and at five o'clock decided to give the citizens of Nice something to look at by making a long flight over the city centre, passing the promenade and the Casino and circling the Place Massena.
At 16:20 Efimoff flew several laps of the course in order to verify that his new engine installation was in order. He was followed five minutes later by Chávez, who made his second cruise. This time Chávez, probably realizing that he too had no chance of beating Latham or the ENV-engined Farmans, went for high altitudes. He passed the lighthouse at 350 metres before climbing to an estimated 600 metres during the return leg. After some adjustments Efimoff finally set off at 17:10. He beat Duray's time by some nine seconds.
Van den Born did not participate in the contest, but at 17:15 he declared that he would instead fly to Monaco and back. The race committee tried to discourage him, pointing out that his flight would be in the opposite direction of the race and that there would be no boats patrolling his course to pick him up if he fell into the sea. Van den Born refused to change his plans and set off, while telephone calls were made to places along his way to try to find people who could offer help if he was forced down. After a flight of 38:30 he was back, to the relief of his wife and everybody else. He stated that he had had no problems and that he had turned back at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, where there had been some turbulence.
At 17:22 Rolls made a second effort around the Garoupe, without improvement, and without landing set off for a third effort, this time improving his time somewhat. At six o'clock Efimoff made a second effort. This time his engine was running better and he came within 28 seconds of Latham's time, beating Duray to the second place.
At six o'clock Latham took off for a third attempt at the "cruise". When he hadn't been spotted from the airfield after fifteen minutes and it was noted that the two destroyers had turned towards Antibes at full steam it was realized that he had ditched. Around 400 metres from the lighthouse his propeller had broken, forcing him to glide to a safe but wet landing. One of the torpedo boats was first to reach Latham's floating plane and found him calmly smoking a cigarette, unharmed but wet to the knees. A dinghy picked him up, but he gave instructions to tow the plane to the Antibes harbour rather than try to lift it aboard. The rescue was signalled to the airfield, where Latham's mother was relieved to get the news. Including his two failed attempts to cross the English Channel this was the third time he had ditched a plane!
Towards the end of the day Duray, Chávez and Efimoff made several passenger flights, giving a general, some V.I.P.s and reporters and a couple of Russians royalties their first flights. The day was finished with a six-course dinner with fine wines, offered to the flyers by the city of Nice.
Monday 25 April
Two contests, for total flying time and for altitude, had been announced for this extra day, which started by a luncheon at the Roux restaurant for the race committee and several V.I.P.s together with three of the flyers. However, the feared mistral struck with winds of up to 20 m/s. No flights were possible and all the school-children who had been granted a day off to visit the races had to go home disappointed, having only seen some planes in their hangars. They particularly didn't get to see their hero Latham or his plane, since the Antoinette was disassembled for shipping at Antibes. Rawlinson and Efimoff kept their machines ready until the end of the day in case weather improved, but to no avail.
Latham and the "Club Nautique de Nice" had planned to use the Monday for making the experiment of using an airplane for reconnaissance over the sea. Latham would be sent out to look for an "enemy" ship (the "Carabinier") and signal its position by dropping a coloured sheet of paper. A red paper would indicate that the enemy ship was to the west and a blue paper that it was to the east. A white paper would indicate that the enemy was already in the bay, and in that case Latham would indicate the direction by pointing his plane in that direction. This "very interesting" experiment was of course stopped by the wind and by Latham's accident the day before.
Although Efimoff stayed for another day of several passenger flights the travelling circus quickly packed their planes to go to the next event - Chávez, Métrot and Duray to Tours, Latham and Van den Born to Lyon, Olieslagers to Barcelona, Van Riemsdijk to Palermo and Grade to Berlin.
The 1910 Nice meeting was a complete success, thanks to the combination of good weather, competent organization and several pilots who really wanted to fly as much as possible. The total distance of the officially recorded flights was announced as 3,265 kilometres, which by quite a margin beat the previous highest distance flown during a meeting, the 2,462 kilometres flown during the 1909 Reims meeting.
Efimoff had flown a total of 960 official kilometres, which at 60 km/h corresponds to a total flying time of sixteen hours - not counting his many unofficial flights. The ever-smiling Russian with his amusing, enthusiastic but very broken French was the surprise hero of the meeting, while Latham, the "king of the air", didn't disappoint his many followers. Van den Born and Chávez also marked themselves out as competent pilots, the latter building his reputation as an high-altitude expert. The dozens of passenger flights performed during the meeting without incident was also remarkable.
The small airfield with its short 1.5 kilometre course with a hairpin turn at one end was criticised by some pilots and certainly handicapped planes that weren't manoeuverable enough. Despite the large amounts of money invested in preparing the airfield it was wet and uneven in many places. The proximity to the sea was of course exciting and provided a good view for the spectators, but six planes ditched and it was lucky that only two pilots were lightly injured.
The meeting cost enormous sums to organize, and already while it was going on was predicted that the losses would be big, but since the Californie airfield is still in operation it was perhaps a wise decision by the town of Nice to invest the money.