Mülhausen im Elsass (nowadays better known in French
as Mulhouse) is a town in Alsace, which between the
Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 and the Treaty of
Versailles of 1919 belonged to the German Empire. It was
the industrial centre of Alsace, with important textile
factories, and before the German period it was sometimes
referred to as "the Manchester of France". Its
population had grown quickly during the industrialization
of the 19th century, and in 1910 the town had around
In December of 1909 Julius Spengler and Georges Chatel founded the Aviatik G.m.b.H. in Mülhausen. The company agreed a license to build Farman biplanes, which were equipped with German Adler engines. They produced the machines in Bourtzwiller in the north part of the town, and they built a couple of hangars and established an airfield at the military exercise grounds that were located on the border between the neighbouring communes of Habsheim and Rixheim, some 10 kilometres east of the centre of the town.
In the spring of 1910 Aviatik decided to organize an aviation meeting, in cooperation with the Strasbourg section of the Oberrheinischen Verein für Luftschifffahrt. The meeting was scheduled for three days in the beginning of July, a prize fund of 30,000 Mark was raised and entries for seven pilots were received. Five of them had participated in other German meetings earlier in the year: Emil Jeannin (Aviatik), Robert Thelen (Wright), Ellery von Gorrissen (Euler), Adolf Behrend (Schultze-Herfort) and Stefano Amerigo (Sommer). René Barrier on a Blériot had participated in the meetings of Sevilla, Barcelona and Mondorf, while the last entrant was an unknown pilot by the name of "Haeffely" on a Voisin (possibly August Haefeli of Switzerland?), who had injured an arm the day before the meeting and couldn't participate. Jeannin was Aviatik's factory pilot and the local favourite, according to the reporter from "Express" always surrounded by a swarm of pretty women. Von Gorrissen had ridden around the Habsheim field on horseback less than a year before as a Leutnant of the "Jäger-zu-Pferde-Regiment Nr. 5", before his military career ended.
Saturday 2 July
The weather on the first day of the meeting was sunny and bright, but a strong wind was blowing from the west. The at least 10,000 visitors had to wait a long time before any of the flyers ventured out of their hangars, but they were patient and there were bars on every two hundred metres around the field, as well as a "first class" restaurant by the grandstand, operated by the Wiesberger Zentralhotel. A military orchestra was also doing its best to entertain the visitors, although according to the reporter from the "Straßburger Neue Zeitung" it played too loud.
The wind decreased during the late afternoon, and the flying could start. Jeannin could claim the first daily "Frühpreis", for the first flight of two laps on each day. He made three flights of in total 40 minutes during the afternoon, the longest lasting for almost 26 minutes. He also reached a height of 160 metres, which would eventually win him the altitude prize. The only other pilot to make any significant flight was von Gorrissen, who made a flight of ten minutes. Thelen had engine troubles that kept him grounded, except for a short test that ended in the middle of the field when the engine stopped. Behrend also made a short test, but immediately noticed some problems with his controls, which needed repairs. The machines of Amerigo and Barrier hadn't arrived in time to be readied for flight during the first day.
Sunday 3 July
The weather wasn't ideal on the second day either, with rain clouds threatening over the hills and a wind of 7 m/s on the ground. Between 20,000 and 30,000 visitors, including 5,000 children from the schools of the neighbourhood, had gathered at the airfield, where the orchestra of the fire brigade and the "Orpheon Musical" delivered the day's musical entertainment.
The flying was planned to start at five o'clock, and this fortunately coincided with calmer weather. Jeannin, who had described his machine for some of the schoolchildren, took off, but only for a short test. Then Thelen made a flight of some ten minutes, claiming the day's "Frühpreis". When he had landed the wind increased again, so there was another quiet interval. At a quarter past six Thelen again took off, this time for a flight of nine minutes, and after another fifteen minutes he made a third flight. Then the other flyers, one after one, got into the action, first Barrier, then Behrend, then von Gorrissen and finally Jeannin. Neither of them made any particularly long flights, but at one time there were five planes in the air at the same time, and the last flight only ended shortly before nine o'clock. Behrend had to abandon an effort for the speed prize when the field was invaded by spectators who were going to catch a train.
When the results were announced, Jeannin had made the day's longest flight, of 18:30, while Thelen, accompanied by a Leutnant Oppen of the 5. Jägerregiment, won the passenger prize. In the totalisation prize, Jeannin (1 h 27:05) lead over Thelen (58:26), with von Gorrissen third.
The day's excitement had apparently been too much for Herr Golder, Gemeinderat (municipal councillor) of Mülhausen, who suffered a stroke at the airfield and passed away at eight o'clock in the evening.
After the end of the day's flights, the crowds made their way out of the airfield into Mülhausen and the villages of Rixheim and Habsheim, where, according to the reporter from "Straßburger Neue Zeitung", celebrations went on until late after midnight, leading him to expect that many aviation enthusiasts would skip work on the Monday to watch the last day of the meeting…
Monday 4 July
Those who had skipped work were in for a disappointment, because it rained heavily all through the morning, and when the rain stopped, the wind increased. Further gloom was added when the airfield was reached by the news that Antoinette pilot Charles Wachter had crashed to his death the day before, on the opening day of the Reims meeting, becoming the world's eighth pilot to die in an accident. The local police had forbidden all flying in winds above 4 m/s, a regulation that was now suddenly enforced, but according to the reporter from "Express" in a rather elastic manner.
The impatient crowds had to wait until seven o'clock before the first machine was rolled out, Thelen's Wright. He gave up already after a lap and a half, not enough to qualify for the "Frühpreis". His flight was followed by another rain shower and increased winds.
Towards eight o'clock the weather improved somewhat, and Thelen brought his machine out again. This time he managed three laps, winning a rather late "Frühpreis". He was followed by Jeannin, who made a cautious flight of a lap and a half. Thelen took off again, followed by Behrend and by Barrier, who landed almost immediately. Von Gorrissen and Amerigo made short flights. The rain returned and everybody landed except Thelen and Behrend. Thelen again suffered from engine problems and was forced down, but soon took off again and made a flight of some five laps, winning the prize for the day's longest flight. Jeannin apparently felt his lead in the total endurance contest was safe, so he stayed on the ground.
Behrend won the speed prize with a time of around 10 minutes over the four 2,5-kilometre laps. The weather didn't allow any efforts for the altitude prize, so Jeannin's result of the day before remained unbeaten. Despite trying hard and getting almost within three minutes, Thelen couldn't threaten Jeannin's win in the total endurance prize with a total time of 1 h 32:09. Soon after eight, the weather turned worse again and put an end to the meeting.
The weather was not kind to Georges Châtel and his fellow organizers, and on the Saturday and Monday many spectators left disappointed. Despite this, the arrangement were considered a success. There had been no accidents and the meeting left a tidy profit - it had cost 30,000 Mark to arrange and the income was around 50,000. Aviatik sold a couple of machines during the meeting, each for 25,000 Mark, and thanks to the success of the meeting they could make an agreement with the military that they could use the grounds for a flying school.