Semana de Aviación de Sevilla
Sevilla, Spain, April 1st - 10th, 1910

The first air race meeting in Spain - or a Blériot marketing event?

The four flyers posing for a photo while a mechanic works on the Anzani engine of one of the team's Blériots. From left to right: Louis Kuhling, René Barrier, Jan Olieslagers and Jules Tyck. (3)
Good photos from the Sevilla meeting are hard to find and if you know of any, please let us know! This is stated to be Olieslagers, flying above the trees that bordered the Guadalquivir on the north side of the airfield. In the background La Giralda, the tower of the cathedral of Sevilla. (2)
Kuhling's crash in the afternoon before the opening day. It's obvious from the light damage that it was a low-speed accident. (2)
Tyck in full flight. (2)
Barrier's #3 Blériot after his crash on Thursday April 6th. It took four days to repair the plane. (2)
Tycks's #2 Blériot after his crash on the last day of the meeting. He escaped with an injured leg after having been trapped below the inverted plane. (1)
Tycks's plane being righted. (2)
Borel et Cie's team: From left to right: Kuhling, A. Borel, Barrier, Olieslagers, G. Borel, Tyck, unknown. (3)

Like everywhere else in the world, aviation interest started to grow in Spain. During 1909 discussions about an aviation event started in Seville, then as now Spain's fourth biggest town, with a long history from Roman and Moorish times. In 1910 it had around 155,000 inhabitants and a healthy trade in agricultural produce and ores, thanks to the harbour on the Guadalquivir river, which although 87 kilometres from the sea still could handle large ships. Important industries included the big tobacco factories, which employed no less than 5,000 women.

The tourist industry wanted to develop a "winter season" and during the winter plans were drawn up for an aviation week in the beginning of April, as part of the town's spring festival. The decision to go ahead was given by the city council on January 10th. This started an intense procedure of finding a partner who could stage the events and contract the right flyers.

After several contacts and investigations an agreement was finally made in the end of January with a consortium including Gabriel Borel & Cie, the Blériot agents with exclusive rights for Spain, and the newly formed Sociedad Española de Aviación. The consortium would guarantee the participation of four competent Blériot pilots and manage the entire event. The city would not take any financial risks, but undertook to make the airfield available. There would not be cash prizes, but trophies of different kinds for four different contests.

When the first program was printed the pilots were announced as Claude Grahame-White, Jacques de Lesseps and the mysterious "Carrier" and "Planchat", who might have been erroneously named since no pilots of these names are known. In the event none of these would turn up. The actual competitors would be Belgians Jan Olieslagers and Jules Tyck and Frenchmen Louis Kuhling and René Barrier. Olieslagers was the most experienced of the pilots, having participated in the Antwerp meeting, but none of them had yet qualified for their licenses.

The site chosen was the Tablada fields, which were owned by the city and apart from pasture used for activities like bullfights, horse racing and football.

The aviators arrived by train on the morning of March 26th. After visiting the mayor they inspected the airfield, which they found perfect, covered with short, dense grass which allowed take-offs and landings in all directions. On the following day the three huge crates (7.3 by 2.3 by 2 meters) containing the airplanes were transported to the airfield with the help of mules. The planes were assembled and ready to fly on March 28th, and in the late afternoon Olieslagers made the first flight. This three-minute flight was followed by a second of eighteen minutes, during which he reached a height of 100 metres.

The day before the meeting there was private invitation event for the press and authorities. Kuhling made a demonstration flight across the river to the nearby village of San Juan de Aznalfarache and back. When landing he had to pass below some telephone lines and after landing he ran into a hole in the ground, which put the plane on its nose. Kuhling was not injured and the plane was only lightly damaged. The reason why he didn't spot the hole was that some children had stolen the flags that marked it. The organizers immediately decided that they would increase the security around the airfield by an additional squadron of cavalry.

Friday April 1st
The morning of the first day started with strong winds, but white flags still optimistically indicated that flights were probable. At half past three, when flying was supposed to start and large crowds had gathered, the weather hadn't improved. It would be a long windy afternoon without reward for the crowds. At half past five a blue flag was hoisted to signal that flights were postponed until the next day and the disappointed crowd started to leave. But when the field was almost empty the wind suddenly calmed down and Olieslagers grabbed the opportunity, making a flight of five minutes, reaching a height of sixty metres. After landing below the grandstands he impressed the few still remaining at the field by getting out of the stationary plane, pull the propeller himself to start the engine and then climb back into the rolling plane to taxi it back to the hangars.

Saturday April 2nd
The next day the announced time for the start of flying was postponed to four o'clock. The public was reminded to be patient with the flyers since flying was dependent on acceptable weather. It was announced that tickets for the first day would be valid also for the second. The day started better, but during the afternoon the strong winds from the south returned. The flags first turned white and then, at half past five, the blue flag was flown again. The spectators heard an engine run from hangars and believed that somebody would fly, but it was only an engine test, and in the disappointment some of them decided to invade the field in protest.

Sunday April 3rd
On the morning aviation enthusiasts were met by the tragic news that Hubert Le Blon had drowned after crashing into the sea during a display flight in San Sebastián in northern Spain, becoming the fifth pilot in the world to be killed in an accident.

The wind blew hard all day and there was no action whatsoever on the airfield. Disappointed spectators who had seen no flying for three days protested to the mayor and the city council, who tried to find a solution together with the organizers. The offer that tickets would be valid on the next day stood, but was of course of no use to those who had to go to work on the Monday.

Monday April 4th - Tuesday April 5th
The continuing bad weather forced the cancellation of flying for two days. On the Tuesday it rained until sunset, but many people still came to see the airplanes in their hangars. The were finally rewarded when the wind temporarily calmed down towards the evening and Olieslagers, always eager to please the crowds, made three short flights in his #1 Blériot.

During the Tuesday afternoon the beleaguered city council and organizers made an agreement that the meeting would be extended by three days over the following weekend and that it would be possible to get a refund of the ticket price if you couldn't come on a following day. The organizers were not very pleased, but had to accept to set up a refund desk at the Gran Hotel de Oriente, where all members of the Sociedad Española de Aviación were staying.

Wednesday April 6th
The weather was still not very good, but the flyers decided to entertain the crowd as well as they could under the circumstances. First Olieslagers made a short flight, then it was Kuhling's turn in the #2 plane. He only made a short jump, reaching 12-15 metres before landing again. Olieslagers made a second flight, the day's longest at three minutes, reaching 50 metres. Tyck in the #3 machine also made a short flight.

Thursday April 7th
On the originally planned final day of the meeting good weather finally arrived, with sunshine and calm air. The first to fly was Tyck in the #2 machine, who flew a low lap around the course at around four o'clock. Then Olieslagers flew two laps and rose to 100 metres during a nine-minute flight. When landing after his first flight in the #3 plane Barrier was caught by a gust and fell to the right, breaking the right wing and the landing gear, but fortunately without injuring himself. Tyck, Olieslagers and Kuhling took turns to fly, to the applause of the public. Thanks to his daring turns and elegant landings Olieslagers was becoming the crowd favourite. Tyck was leading the contest for the "Copa de Sevilla" for the longest total flying time, while Olieslagers had made the highest number of flights.

Friday April 8th
The first of the extension days also offered good flying conditions, even though the wind was gusty. Barrier's plane was still being repaired, but he borrowed the #4 plane for a four-minute flight, interrupted by increasing winds. Tyck flew for four minutes, reaching a height of 60 metres. Kuhling improved to 110 metres, but Tyck soon improved the mark to 150 metres during a flight of 11:30, the day's longest flight and the highest altitude reached during the meeting. Olieslagers suffered from an overheating engine and retired from the day's action after three short test hops. The day ended with band music and a military parade.

Saturday April 9th
This was a hot day and in the late afternoon thousands of non-paying viewers lined the airfield on all sides. Kuhling and Tyck made a couple of short flights, but Olieslagers' engine still overheated and he could only make two short tests before the engine stopped, leaving his plane to be towed back to the hangar. The big star of the day was Tyck, who made three flights and increased his lead in the "Copa de Sevilla" and was admired for his "undulations". After the end of the day Tyck and Kuhling received ovations during a tour of the grandstands in a car, while Barrier and Olieslages were in their hangars working on their planes.

Sunday April 10th
This was another hot day and although it was quite windy flights were possible. Since it was a holiday the airfield and the surroundings were full of people and a local band kept them amused. Tyck in #2 was first to fly, weaving in the air and forced to land after a short flight. Barrier in the repaired #3 didn't manage to take off, but only taxied around the field. Tyck then made a second flight, still obviously troubled by the wind but reaching a considerable altitude. On landing the plane nosed over and flipped on its back, pinning the pilot below it. Parts of the crowd broke the barriers and rushed to wreckage. The Guardia Civil had some trouble clearing the scene, but finally managed to right the airplane. Tyck had injured his right leg and was transported to the doctors, who administered first aid. The accident was blamed on broken landing gear rigging. Kuhling tried to take off, but was forced to turn and immediately land in front of the grandstands. The last flight of the meeting was a short effort by Barrier.

During the ten days the four flyers had made some 30 flights, totalling perhaps one hour and twenty minutes. Jules Tyck had clocked the longest time in the air by a comfortable margin, but he abstained and the "Copa de Sevilla" was given to his friend Olieslagers. Kuhling was awarded the prize for the fastest lap, Barrier the prize for the quickest take-off and Tyck the "Concurso del viaje" for the "most perfect flight".

The next day all the flyers except the injured Tyck left with the morning train, Olieslagers to participate in the Nice meeting which started on April 10th and Kuhling and Barrier to Paris.

Nothing remarkable whatsoever was achieved during the meeting. Already during the event its competitive nature was questioned, since all the pilots were hired by the same organization and flew identical planes, serviced by the same team of mechanics. There were no officials or time-keepers, since there was no official organization in Spain to appoint them, and apparently no official list of results. It was also remarked as suspect that the four pilots each won one of the four contests.

Despite the troubles with high winds and cancelled flights the city of Sevilla came off easily, since they had had the foresight to subcontract the entire running of the event. Nevertheless, the 1910 Sevilla aviation week would not be repeated.