Jules Védrines, Chicago 1912
The People of Limoux, France, couldn't
believe it. In March 1912, just one week before they were going to
elect a deputy, a new candidate suddenly dropped from the sky: an
aviator named Jules Vedrines. A native of Saint-Denis who received
his pilot's license in 1910,
1911 was marked by
numerous air races, which were organised by newspapers. They were
generally long-distance, and as much a test of pilot stamina and
navigational skills as of the airworthiness of their aeroplanes.
Great numbers of competitors as well as spectators were attracted,
and some truly impressive performances were witnessed. French
pilots, being the most experienced in Europe, tended to take most of
The first such event to be organised
was the Paris - Madrid Air Race. It's beginning was not auspicious,
Among those watching the start at Issy-les-
Moulineux on 21 May 1911 was the French Minister of War, M.Berteaux. He
stepped in front of an aircraft and was killed. The rest of the
competition was put off to the following day.
The only pilot to succeed in
completing the course, which included a flight over or around the
Pyrennes, was Jules Védrines in his Morane-Borel.
He had decided to run for deputy so that
the world of aviation would have a voice in Parliament. In the end,
he lost by a few hundred votes to a well-known local industrialist,
but Vedrines kept of flying.
In late 1913, three
French teams attempted the route from Istanbul-Cairo . They all reached
Istanbul within days of each other and were received with great honour.
The first was Pierre Daucourt, who died a few days later when strong
winds blew his plane into the mountains in the treacherous Taurus range
in eastern Turkey.
succeeded in conquering the 11,500-foot Taurus peaks, and went on to
become the first pilot to land in Palestine, when he touched down in
Jaffa on December 27, 1913.
Anxious to advance to
the greater prize in Cairo, he rushed off with apologies for not
visiting Jerusalem. (Védrines eventually went on to become an ace in the
First World War, but died attempting a forced landing on a Paris-Rome
flight in 1919.)
On his tail were Marc
Bonnier and Joseph Barnier in a Nieuport monoplane. Learning that
Védrines had already beat them to Cairo, the pair decided to set their
own mark in history by being the first to fly to Jerusalem. They landed
on the plateau of what is today the Talpiot promenade.
In 1913, he flew from Paris to Cario in
10 stages. During World War I, he was charged with special missions,
and in 1919 he again demonstrated his prowess by landing on the roof
of the Galeries Lafayette department store. Three months later, on
April 21, 1919, he crashed during a Paris-Rome flight.