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Dover History Scrapbook
Kathleen Hollingsbee

Interesting Dover items ….
  From the old newspapers
and other records


  In 1909 John Moisant, a wealthy plantation owner, became interested in aviation after watching the 1909 Reims Air Meet in France.   He built his own plane, the first with an all-metal frame; it flew only a short distance. Moisant took lessons at Louis Blériot's flying school to learn to fly and, after only four lessons, he bought his own Blériot plane, In August 1910, he flew the first passenger flight across the English Channel, carrying his mechanic Albert Fileux.

The channel flight was an incident in the aerial voyage from Paris to London. Moisant left Issy and reached Amiens in two hours.  The next day he left Amiens early, and headed for Calais.  Albert Fileux, his mechanic, took his place in the machine when the motor was set in motion for the dash across the channel.  Amazed spectators  - thousands who had gathered to watch the daring aviator - urged him to discontinue the attempt in the half gale that was blowing. Moissant cared nothing for the warnings and even the fact there was only a slow moving tug to follow him, did not put him off.  The trip was made in 37 minutes. When he descended, his eyes were bloodshot and  inflamed from the effects of the rain storm into which they drove, approaching England.   The rain beat into their faces like hail and almost blinded them.
   Between 300 and 400 feet average height was maintained over the water.  Moisant expected to land at Dover but was forced by the wind to land at Tilmanstone, a few miles north.    Both he and Fileux were benumbed with cold, but Moissant seemed to take his achievement as though it were a daily occurrence.  When he revived he said: 'This is my first visit to England.'  and  'This is only my sixth flight in an aeroplane. I did not know the way from Paris to Calais when I started and I do not know the way to London. I shall have to rely on the compass. I would like to land in Hyde Park if I can find it."
   Moisant's arrival in England was reported as follows: Two-man flight across channel, young American aviator surpasses all feats, flying with a passenger from Paris to British coast. Today, he will attempt to win prize by continuing his flight to London.
   REPORTED ON AUGUST 27, 1910. “PARIS TO LONDON" BY AEROPLANE: We were just able to give details in our last issue regarding Mr. John B. Moisant's flight from Paris to his landing on British soil at Tilmanstone........  It is a little curious that during the first three stages, up to his landing, everything went off without a hitch, but as soon as the aviator landed in Great Britain, his troubles began in the shape of wind and rain. All day on Wednesday he remained at Tilmanstone waiting for the weather to moderate, and eventually he decided to postpone his departure till the following morning. The sun was shining brilliantly on Thursday morning, when shortly before 5 o'clock the machine was wheeled out, and in a few minutes ........  it was in the air, and heading for London. Canterbury was soon passed, and good progress made until Sittingbourne was sighted, when a broken valve-rod necessitated a stop after a flight of 1 hour 5 mins..... A local mechanic effected a repair, and at half past nine the machine once more rose...... Only a short distance had been covered, however, when the engine stopped again ..... a sudden descent at Upchurch, near Rainham, 7 mins. after leaving Sittingbourne. allotment garden ........ and the machine sank into the soft soil.......  the propeller was done for and the chassis damaged. Mr. Moisant sought the assistance of Messrs. Short Bros., whilst Capt. Hordern, R.E., of Chatham, rendered valuable aid, repairs being effected very quickly...... A new propellor was wired for, but this did not arrive from Paris until Friday morning. It was soon fitted, but then the strong wind rendered it advisable to postpone the start. On Saturday morning Moisant made another trial, but could only advance by between two and three miles...... landed at Gillingham.   
On August 17, 1910  John B. Moisant, an American citizen of Chicago, flew across the English channel from Calais to Tilmanstone with a passenger and, by this achievement could be said to have surpassed the feats of Bleriot, De Lesseps and the unfortunate English aviator Rolls, who met his death at Bournemouth.
JJohn B. Moisant with two local people at Tilmanstone
John B. Moisant with two local people at Tilmanstone
   International Aviators:   He and his brother, Alfred, formed the Moisant International Aviators, a flying circus which went around the United States. On October 30, 1910,  he competed in the race to fly around the Statue of Liberty. On December 30, 1910 in New Orleans, he raced his Blériot monoplane five miles against a Packard automobile, but lost.  
    Moisant died on December 31, 1910 in Kenner, Louisiana in an air crash while making a preparatory flight in his attempt to win the Michelin Cup.  Caught in a gust of wind  he attempted to land and was thrown from his Bleriot monoplane landing on his head; he was not wearing a seat belt.  He left an estate valued at $125,000. He was buried at Meterie Cemetery in New Orleans directly following his death. His sisters Matilde and Louise, had him relocated to Pierce Brother Valhalla Cemetery's “Portal of the Folded Wings”, which is a rotunda building on the cemetery property. John's remains are in a grave under the dome, next to the grave of his sisters, who are buried together.
    The international airport of New Orleans, Louisiana was originally named Moisant Field in his honor, though since renamed Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.  But the airport retains its "MSY" identifier, derived from the airport's origins as "Moisant Stock Yards" the name given to the land where Moisant's fatal airplane crash occurred, where the airport was later built.
There he was forced to remain during Sunday. He was early astir on Monday, and was in the air at 4.29, with the intention of going to the Crystal Palace. He, however, found the wind a very fierce one, and at the end of 58 mins. he had been driven considerably off his course..... petrol supply then getting rather low he determined to descend, and landed at Wrotham............. The petrol tank was replenished,    and another start made after a stop of half an hour.  The Paris to London flight ended on 26th August 1910 in London !
John B. Moisant
Bi-plane over parade ground, c.1912             (Dover Express
Bi-plane over parade ground, c.1912
            (Dover Express
Big Bi-plane
Jacques De Lesseps
R101 airship