This was "La Belle Epoque". There was peace in the
world, fortunes were built in industry and commerce, culture was
blooming, there were still nobility and emperors, ladies wore long
skirts and huge hats, labour was cheap and hardly anybody had ever
seen an aeroplane.
The Wright brothers had made the first controlled powered flights less than six years earlier. The first flight in Europe had been made in the autumn of 1906 by Alberto Santos-Dumont. A minor aviation industry had emerged on both sides of the Atlantic, around pioneer constructors such as the Wright brothers, the Voisin brothers, Léon Levavasseur's "Antoinette" company, Louis Blériot and Glenn Curtiss.
In 1909 the time was ripe for the world's first air races - there were finally enough planes around to organize competitions! More than a dozen air race meetings were held in Europe in 1909. The following year the number of meetings multiplied and spread to two more continents, North America and Africa. Flying was headline news, every town wanted to host a meeting and everybody wanted to see an aeroplane fly. 1910 was the peak year for air race meetings. In 1911 the number of big race meetings decreased and focus shifted to multi-stage cross-country air races and smaller local air display type events.
On this website you will find information about those first air races of 1909 and 1910. We have started from the beginning and will work our way through the meetings in chronological order, seeing how far we will get. The focus will be on competitive events, and not on meetings that only included display flights.
We welcome additions, corrections and other contributions from other researchers, both in written form and photos! If you have any other material, such as meeting programs or newspaper articles, we are also interested.
If you are interested in discussing the early air races or commenting the content of the site you are welcome to our forum. It is also used for informing about new pages and other changes here on the main website, so even if you don't want to participate actively on the forum it might be worth checking in once in a while.
...and in case you wonder what the three pennants and the French text means: At the early races such flags were hoisted on a signal mast at the airfield. Similar flags were often displayed also in nearby towns. The colour of the flag indicated whether there would be flights or not during the next hours. "On ne vole pas" means "They don't fly". "On volera probablement" means "They will probably fly". "On vole" means "They fly".