Minor meetings at Port-Aviation
Port-Aviation (Juvisy), France, 30 May - 4 July 1909

30 May: Delagrange seen from below (1)
30 May: Delagrange about to fly over the grandstands (1)
July 4th: Blériot flying past one of the anchored balloons. (2)
July 4th: The fuselage of "de Rue's" Voisin is uncovered, probably because of the repair after his accident three weeks earlier. (3)
July 4th: Not often seen at an air race meeting - a race for Roman chariots! (2)
July 4th: The balloon ascension (3)
The Port-Aviation airfield operated more or less continuously after its opening in the spring of 1909. It was used for practice, testing and experiments by different companies and individuals. During the weekends many people came to visit the field and several minor competitions were held. Below you will find information about some of them - there might have been more.

The second Port-Aviation meeting
30 May 1909


The organisers at Port-Aviation had learned some lessons, which they put to use when La Société d'Encouragement à l'Aviation staged the next race, already the following weekend. The advertising was more low-key this time and the flying was not announced to start until 17:00. Those who had kept the tickets from the inauguration were given free entrance. Spectators were only allowed on the side of the field where they wouldn't have the sun in their eyes. There were of course no public announcement systems in these days, but the crowd was kept informed on the proceedings by automobiles carrying placards.

Just as the week before, Léon Delagrange, Henry Rougier and "F de Rue" (Ferdinand Ferber) entered, all in their more or less identical Voisins, powered by 50 hp Antoinette engines. During his first flight, Delagrange was carried towards the grandstands by a sudden gust of wind and had to make corrections in order to avoid hitting the fence. The time of this flight was 1:45.2. Shortly afterwards he posted the best time of the meeting, 1:40.6, followed soon after by two laps in a row at an altitude of up to 12 meters – the times were 1:50.6 and 2:18.0 respectively. After a couple of test flights by Rougier and "de Rue", Delagrange at 19:35 flew three consecutive laps at an altitude of 15 meters. Soon afterwards, at 19:45, Rougier flew two laps, timed at 1:53.6 and 1:59.8. At 19:50 "de Rue" flew two laps, the first at 1:41.6. The flying was concluded when Rougier, disappointed with his performance, flew a last lap at 20:45 PM. These were the final results:

  1. Delagrange 1:40.6
  2. "de Rue" 1:41.6
  3. Rougier 1:53.4

Prix Stern, 31 May - 3 June 1909

This contest was named after its sponsor Charles Stern. The prize money, a 1,000 francs first prize and a 500 francs second prize would be given to the pilots who by June 3rd had covered one lap of a 1 kilometre course in the shortest time. Delagrange and "de Rue" continued racing. The pilots had complained that the two-pylon course had been too tight and difficult, so the race committee had marked up a new four-pylon 1 km course with equal-length 250 meter sides. Delagrange made four flights and "de Rue" two on May 31st, with the following best results:
  1. Delagrange 1:18.6
  2. "de Rue" 1:24.0
Delagrange flew at an altitude of around 15 meters, while "de Rue" stayed at a lower 8 to 10 meters. The new course made the actual flying distance much shorter and the turning radius bigger, which explains the much improved speeds. It was observed that since the aircraft were so closely matched the competition was decided by who could fly the neatest turns, closest to the pylons. Rougier made two efforts, but he had problems and never managed to complete the distance.

After the weekend Delagrange dismantled his plane in order to transport it to Argentan for demonstration flights starting on June 7th. Despite several efforts by "de Rue" during the next couple of days he didn't manage any further improvements, so Delagrange won the first prize. "De Rue" offered his prize money for his second place to his mechanics.

Prix Rolland Gosselin, 13 June 1909

On Sunday June 13th Rolland Gosselin offered a prize of 1,000 francs for the best time for 5 kilometres, three laps around the six-pylon 1.666 km course. Apparently there was only one entrant, “F de Rue” in his Voisin. Despite an 8 m/s wind blowing he took off at around 19:30 and covered four laps at an altitude of around 10 metres, the best three laps taking 5:34. After completing the distance he cut the ignition, intending to glide down towards his hangar. However, while manipulating the rudder his elbow caught the ignition lever, causing the engine to start again. Before he had time to react the plane veered and hit the balustrade in front of the members' bar of the Société d'Encouragement à l'Aviation at almost full speed. “De Rue” thankfully escaped injury, but the elevators and front fuselage of the plane were destroyed and the propeller bent.

Fête Aéronautique au Profit des Sinistrés du Midi, 4 July 1909

After those more low-key meetings the Société d'Encouragement à l'Aviation organised a meeting on July 4th in order to collect money for the victims of the recent floods in southern France. There were two events. The second Prix Lagatinerie (2,500 francs) was for the fastest two laps around the 1,5 kilometre course, during which the competitors had to fly above a line of balloons, fixed at 15 metres above the ground. The Prix Mme. Edmond Archdeacon (1,000 francs) was for the longest distance flown during the day.

The weather started rainy, but improved during the day. The organizers had thought of alternative entertainment for the crowds in case the weather didn't allow flights. The program started with an automobile gymkhana event, won by M. Guyot, winner of the previous years' "Grand Prix des Voiturettes". This was followed by a race for horse-drawn Roman chariots, which despite being held during the worst downpour was considered a success.

At around 17:00 the weather finally improved and Louis Blériot made a test lap in his type XI. He then set off on a long flight, while the rainbow caused by the recent rains was still visible. He started by posting a time of 3:59.4 for the Prix Lagatinerie and then continued to fly in by now calm weather. After 50 minutes at between 20 and 40 metres height he ran out of fuel and had to land. This flight won him the Prix Mme. Edmond Archdeacon. “De Rue” made some short flights and posted a time of 3:47.0, thereby beating Blériot to the Prix Lagatinerie by twelve seconds. “De Rue's” precision turns decided a tight race between two different but well-matched planes.

The Bonnet-Labranche brothers demonstrated an automobile-drawn glider and then the program was finished by an ascension by a hot-air balloon, piloted by Alfred Boulanger, a youth of 16 years. In the dead calm of the evening it took the balloon 30 minutes to travel 600 meters across the airfield, at an altitude of up to 500 metres.

During this meeting the crowd, estimated at more than 10,000 people, certainly had had lots to look at!