Semaine d'Aviation de Vichy
Vichy, France, July 18th - 25th 1909

The Vichy/Abrest airfield

An artist's impression of the airfield (1)

During the spring of 1909 a syndicate, including the French Wright producers Ariel, started to build an airfield. The airfield was situated near Abrest, one kilometre from Vichy, on a peninsula that was formed by a big bend in the river Allier.

The constructions included grandstands and four hangars, which were arranged so that their entrance was seen from the grandstands. A course of 1.666 km was laid out, presumably alomg the hardened roads. The total cost of the works was estimated to 27,000 francs.

The airfield was heavily criticised during the meeting. The peninsula was regularly flooded during wintertime and was rather uneven, with areas at different levels. These were connected by 40 metre wide roads, and it was intended that a flyer who landed outside the level areas would only have to travel a short way on these roads in order to find what was called "perfect conditions for takeoff". The competitors running wheeled airplanes complained that only two places were flat enough for a takeoff. One was in front of the grandstands, where you had to make a sharp turn immediately in order not to hit them. The other ended in earth mounds, but was preferred by most since it was in line with the course.

The airfield was in continuous use until the outbreak of WW1, hosting several meetings, for example in 1912, when 12,000 people gathered to see Roland Garros flying. It was not used during the war, but the Aéro-Club started using it again in 1923. It was in use until 1929, when a new airfield was built at Rhue, six kilometres to the north. This was in turn replaced by the current Aéroport de Vichy-Charmeil, a further kilometre to the north, on the west side of the Allier.

A map of the airfield in 1909. The map is inverted, north is at around seven o'clock. (2)
A: Administration
B: Buffet
C: First class grandstands
D: Second class grandstands
E: Entrance for second and third classes
F: Entrance to the buffet
G: Parking for automobiles
H: Hangars
P: Third class spectator lawns
A somewhat blurred Wright flying in front of the hangars and grandstands. It's obvious how uneven the field is. (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!