Monaco and the aviation pioneers
It is widely known that Monaco was a pioneer in the history of casinos. But it is much less known that Monaco was a key site that attracted numerous pioneers in the world of aviation.
In 1908, the Société des Bains de Mer and all of Monaco were in the hands of Camille Blanc, the founder’s son. He had the foresight that aviation was not just a craze taken up by a few daredevils, but in fact a business with a highly promising future. He therefore suggested to Prince Albert I of Monaco that they should organise a major flying competition in the Principality and offer a prize of 100,000 francs. The event did not take place due to a lack of participants, but the seeds had been sown.
In 1910, Henri Rougier come to carry out some trials in Monaco aboard his Voisin biplane. On 3 March, he completed the first-ever flight over the Mediterranean. On 9 March, he chalked up the first flight over ‘La Tête de Chien‘ (The Dog’s head), a mountain overlooking Monaco.
In 1911, Henri Fabre flew over the sea in his seaplane, putting on a unique show for the spectators who had flocked to the Casino terraces, before his plane unfortunately crashed on the rocks.
The first flying contests
In 1912, eight biplanes lined up for the first seaplane contest, which drew an impressive crowd.
In 1914, Monaco was the arrival point for the first air rally, inspired by automobile rallies. The 27 planes took off from Paris and flew to London, Brussels, Gotha, Madrid, Milan and Vienna. They made technical stopovers in Marseille and Genoa, swapping their landing gear for floats in order to land on the sea in the Port of Monaco. The winner became famous: his name was Roland Garros.
In 1921, Monaco held its last flying competition. Although the activity was then abandoned due to the lack of space to accommodate the ever-growing crowds of spectators, Monaco was proud to have played an important part of aviation history for a full decade.