PIERRE PRIER’S APRIL 19, 1911, FLIGHT was the first non-stop from London to Paris. I’ve only recently learned of the achievement; this, in reading a 70-year-old magazine. Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits gleaned from The Aeroplane, July 28, 1950, together with my usual Internet sleuthing.
Bio Notes. The websiteearlyaviators.com offers biographical details from Prier’s daughter Janine, composed in 2006: “My father did his classical studies at the Lycée Corneille in Rouen, and then in Paris at the Ecole Violet (electricity). After the war of 14-18, he directed a company liquidating aviation stocks.”
“In 1927 (the year of my birth),” Janine continues, “he was one of the founders of the Socièté Continentale Parker.” This was the European branch of the American company Parker Westproof, a Detroit firm patenting the Parkerization rust-prevention process. Janine notes, “He led the company until his death in 1950.”
French Aviator License #169. Dave Lam, another contributor to Early Aviators, writes that Prier earned French license #169 on August 9, 1910, in a Blériot. (Louis Blériot, by the way, had license #1.)
The Aeroplane, July 28, 1950, described, “In 1911, soon after Claude Grahame-White opened Hendon as the ‘London Aerodrome,’ Blériot established a flying school there with Norbert Chereau as manager and Pierre Prier as chief instructor.”
“They prepared for a non-stop flight to Paris very thoroughly,” The Aeroplane said, “and Prier carried a strip map of the route on rollers.” (See SimanaitisSays“Jenks’ Box of Magic” for a land-travel version of such a device in 1955.)
Non-Stop the Big Deal.The Aeroplane noted that the first London/Paris flight had already been made “by an American, J.B. Moisant in August and September 1910, who took 22 days to cover the distance, with many forced landings because of mechanical trouble and weather.”
Prier’s Flight.The Aeroplane described that Prier “left London at 1.37 p.m. on April 19, 1911, and flew over the Northern outskirts of London round to Chatham and crossed the Straits of Dover from Dover to Cape Grisnez. He flew down the French coast to Boulogne as he knew the country from that point to Paris fairly well. He passed over Abbeville and Beauvais, but when he reached Paris it was covered in mist. But knowing the city well Prior followed the streets and landed at 5.33 p.m.”
No Official Record.The Aeroplane observed, “The F.A.I. did not recognize Distance in a Straight Line as a World Record until 1925, so the flight was not officially a ‘record.’ But like most pioneer flights it pointed the way to what aviation would do in days to come.”
Gee, this might be an interesting adventure with my GMax Blériot Type XI in Microsoft Flight Sim.
Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll read more from The Aeroplane, July 28, 1950, as well as reports from The St. Louis Post Dispatch, April 12, 1911, and The New York Times, April 13, 1911. ds
History is full of achievements, often overshadowed by more important or creative similar feats … it largely depends on who makes best use of the adjectives and modifiers and plays the media the best.
Bleriot not only flew across a dangerous body of water, but in crossing the English Channel earlier, he destroyed the mystery of that separation of the British Isles and mainland Europe.
Yet, in reality, flying between major cities was far more important, but not well exploited by Prier.
By contrast, few remember that Charles Lindbergh was not the first to fly the Atlantic. In fact, over EIGHTY people had made the air crossing previously.
However, they usually only flew between backwater locations like Ireland and Newfoundland. Lindbergh connected the major cities of New York and Paris. and as these were well known to the general public, the feat was so much more noteworthy and promotable.
Also note that Paul MacCready’s team achieved the first one mile man powered flight in the California Desert, but received major acclaim when the same crew improved the design and flew the English Channel, replicating Bleriot’s flight.
But then as an indication of how times have changed, they built the Solar Challenger soon after with solar/electric self sustaining power and flew from Paris to London in 1981 with little notice or acclaim.
The Green New Deal was not invented yet.