Today in Transportation History – 1910: French Aviator Wins England’s First Long-Distance Plane Race

A pioneering aviation event in England came to an end when Louis Paulhan finished first in a two-man London-to-Manchester plane race. The French aviator landed in Manchester early in the morning after he had begun his 186-mile flight from London. His competitor, an Englishman named Claude Grahame-White, had been hampered by everything from engine problems to high winds en route.

This event, which was sponsored by the London-based Daily Mail newspaper, had the distinction of being the first long-distance plane race in England. In addition, the race marked both the first takeoffs of heavier-than-air machines at night and the first powered flight into Manchester from outside the city. The event also helped further establish the 46-year-old Paulhan as one of the most famous and accomplished aviators of the era.

“Nearly all of the conditions of the race favored Paulhan,” reported the United Press (UP) on the day he won the competition. “Not only is he far more experienced aviator than White, but he got a start of 72 minutes on the Englishman.” The UP account added, “His machine was in better shape, White’s having just come from the hands of the repairmen.”

In April 1950, Paulhan commemorated the 40th anniversary of his victory by flying from London to Manchester as a passenger on board a Gloster Meteor T7 jet plane. “C’était magnifique,” he commented about traveling on this aircraft. “It was all I ever dreamed of in aviation – no propellers, no vibration.” Paulhan’s return visit to England for the 40th anniversary also allowed him to enjoy a reunion in London with Claude Grahame-White.

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