The prehistory of air racing

The Wright brothers made their first flights in 1903. It was natural that airplanes would eventually be used for competitive activities. During the first years of aviation many prizes were offered, but most were for different pioneering flights, such as the Archdeacon price for the first closed circle flight of one kilometre or the Daily Mail prize for the first crossing of the English Channel.

There was also soon a lucrative market for air displays. Several pilots toured the towns of Europe and the USA and people paid high admission prices to see them fly.

It was of course impossible to have races without competitors, but already as early as in 1904 it was attempted to organize the first air race! Below you will find a list of premature failed efforts to organize air races:

The June-September 1904 St Louis Air Race
The October 1907 St Louis Air Race
The December 1907 L'Auto race
The July 1908 Concours d'Aviation de Spa
The January-April 1909 Concours d'Aviation de Monaco

... but in 1909 there were finally enough planes around to organize competitions!