Aviation Calling and Achievements
Towards the end of the XIXth Century and at the beginning of the XXth Century, aerostatic acitvities in airships and zepellins were accompanied by those of glider construction and flights. Otto Lilienthal, a German engineer, was the first man to study gliding flight. In 1889 he started to experiment with glideers. In 1890 the first trial of this kind of flight took place and in 1891 he carried out his first flights. Later, in 1895, he decided to increase the wing span of his gliders from 16 to 24 meters, to provide them with greater lift, and later he started building bi-planes. But Lilienthal’s death interrupted this work , the following year after a gliding crash in one of his flights. The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, North American bicycle manufacturers, started building different gliders with which they carried out almost one thousand flights. In 1902, with the experience they had gained, they strated building an engine which they installed in one of the gliders and started testing it in 1903. The first test was carried out in North Carolina, in Kitty Hawk, close to Norfolk on December 14th, 1903, using the Flyer 8, which was a bi-plane with a two propeller engine, but the Wright brothers were not completely successful. Three days later, on December 17, 1903, the Flyer 8 managed to take off, with Orville Wright in control of the plane which only flew for 12 seconds. On the same day and using the same plane, Wilbur Wright managed to fly for some 59 seconds covering a distance of 260 meters. In 1905, the Wright brothers accomplished a distance of almost 40 kilometers, flying at some 30 meters above the ground in their Flyer 8 plane.
Another great inventor, constructor and aviator who spent many of his adult years in France, and who greatly contributed to the newborn aviation activity was Alberto Santos Dumont, born in Brasil, on July 20, 1873. He built and flew the first zeppelins, showing that controlled flights were possible. On October 19, 1900, in Paris, he managed to win the “Deutsch de la Meurthe”, prize on a flight that rounded the Eiffel Tower, which made him one of the most famous people in the world during the early XXth Century. Santos Dumont also built a fixed wing aircraft, to which he ingeniously added an engine and thus, on October 23, 1906 in Paris, he made his first European official flight, which was publicly recognized. This flight was particular for, after take-off, he managed to make a controlled displacement of the plane and was then able to land it without any problems. The plane with which Santos Dumont made this flight was called the “14-bis” or “Bird of Prey”. Since then, Santos Dumont is considered in Brazil as the “Father of Aviation”. This flight of Santos Dumont and the flight of the Wright Brothers are still a controversial matter, for both are credited as the first ones to have achieved this feat. This matter will not be analyzed in this book.
These, and other victories which occurred in the early years of aviation, arose in many men the desire and enthusiasm to fly and to produce airplanes. In Europe, training of pilots and air, speed and altitude competitions started. Among the first names that began to appear were those of Gabriel Voisin, Louis Bleriot, Henri Farman and Hubert Latham. On January 13, 1908, Henri Farman commanding a modified Voisin plane, took off and flew a distance of one kilometer, after which he returned to the starting point and landed without any problems. On July 25, 1909, Louis Bleriot, born in France, air plane producer and aviator, build the Bleriot XI monoplane, propelled by a 25 HP Anzani engine, with which he crossed the English Channel from Calais (France) to Dover (England). The deed was made some few meters above the water, which was considered as a great feat and which news were disseminated throughout the world.
These events, related to the Aeronautic activity were published in the newspapers under great headlines, and they became the commentaries in the different spheres of the social world at the time. Given that many of these occurred in Europe, the young and daring Jorge Chavez became interested in them. As a sports lover, he started to consider the idea of getting involved in these kinds of air competitions that were starting to develop fast at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.
In 1909, Jorge Chavez, was already a professional, with a major in Engineering from the Ecole d’Electricité et Mécanique Violet of Paris. He had become increasingly interested in aviation so traveled to Reims, the capital city of the French Region of Champagne, to the East of Paris, to attend the “Great Aviation Week of Champagne,” which was held from August 19 to 22, 1909. During his stay in Reims, he met and made friends with the well-known French aviator Louis Paulhan, who held the Pilot License No10 and who had already participated in many competitions. Paulhan had been an air balloon pilot during his military service before becoming an airplane pilot.
During their conversations on the days of the competition, it emerged that Jorge Chavez was an engineer, a good sportsman, a car enthusiast and had a broad knowledge of engines and mechanics as well as an avid interest in planes. Paulhan recognized that the young engineer had the ideal characteristics to become an aviator, but before he had the chance to invite him to join his team, the young engineer requested that he become a member, as he was keen to become familiar with airplanes and begin flying.
Louis Paulhan willingly accepted young Chavez’s request and so the young engineer worked alongside the pilot, attended his shows traveling to the various competition locations. Later, when Louis Paulhan entered into partnership with Henri Farman, Jorge Chavez joined him. This partnership allowed him to enter the Farman Flight School, in Mourmelon le Grand, as a student pilot, for which he signed a contract to purchase an airplane designed and built by the Farman Company and also, to participate for some time in air competitions with this plane.
On February 5th, 1910, Jorge Chavez made his maiden flight in a Voisin bi-plane at the Farman School. His dream had become true, he was flying. Thus, began Jorge Chavez’s bright but short-lived career. Nevertheless, his memory lives on, as he took his place in history as a pioneer of the early days of modern aviation and is a source of pride to all Peruvians. After his first flight on February 10th 1910, he flew 10 kilometers in 10 minutes at an average speed of 60 kilometers per hour, and on February 15th, 1910, he received his International Pilot License, Nº 32. Later, on February 28th, of the same year, he flew for one hour and 47 minutes to complete the Mourmelon-Louverly-Bouy-Mourmelon circuit in the Champagne Region of France. On March 2nd, 1910 he flew up to an altitude of 510 meters, emulating the two great pilots of the time: Hubert Latham and Louis Paulhan.
Aviator Louis Paulhan had recognized the potential in his friend Jorge Chavez, when he met him in Reims, and the extraordinary progress made by the young Peruvian aviator proved him right.
Jorge Chavez, who had very little experience as a pilot, but plenty of self confidence, decided to participate in the aviation competitions that were being held at the time. These events had awakened great expectation amongst the public that attended them and received much press coverage. They included various competitions, which focused on different aspects such as distance, speed, endurance in the air and altitude. Jorge Chavez signed up for the Biarritz competition, southeast of France; followed by the Nice competition in the region of Provence-Alps-Cote d’Azur of France; and continued participating in the Tours Week, in the center of France; in the Great Lyonnais Week, East of France; in Verona, North of Italy; in Budapest, Hungary; in Rouen, Northeast of France; in the Great Champagne Week, Northeast of France; in Blackpool, in England, and in Lanark, in Scotland, all of which were held between March 28th and August 13th, 1910. Jorge Chavez, attended a total of 94 days of aviation competitions in his first five months of involvement in such events. The young Chavez excelled at these air shows and lengthy articles appeared in the most important newspapers of the time, highlighting his triumphs and rankings, compared to the more experienced, pilots in the competitions.
It is also worth mentioning that another Peruvian aviator, Juan Bielovucic, born in Lima on July 30th, 1889, completed his education as a pilot in the school, which the Vosin brothers, Gabriel and Carlos, had opened in Reims. After passing the tests on June 10th, 1910 Juan Bielovucic was given license number 87. He decided to participate in competitions, and undertook a remarkable flight on August 27th, 1910. He took off from Issy, flew around the Eiffel Tower in Paris and back to the starting point. After this, he performed flights from Chateau to Angouleme in a record time of less than 2 hours, and from Angouleme to Bordeaux in only 1 hour and 46 minutes, magnificent feats for the airplanes of that time. Jorge Chavez, on the other hand engaged in altitude competitions and was fiercely passionate about them.
Next, we will describe some of the main aspects of the most relevant air competitions in which Peruvian Jorge Chavez took part after obtaining his pilot license.
The Biarritz air competition took place on March 28, to April 4, 1910, in Biarritz, Southwest of France, in the department of the Atlantic Pyrenees, in the Basque Coast, not far from the border with Spain. Here Chavez participated for the first time in an air competition with the Voisin bi-plane aircraft. His debut was next to well known aviators of that time among which we can mention Alfred Leblanc, Louis Bleriot, Arthur Duray and Burgeat. This competition was attended by King Edward VII of England. Chavez’s Voisin had some technical problems which caused a delay in his presentation. He appeared on April 2, and made a 45-minute flight, reaching an altitude of 300 meters, and a distance of 45 kilometers, for which he received a prize of 6 000 francs. Young Chavez’s presentation arouses the admiration and enthusiasm of the attendants to the air show.
The Nice air competition was held on April 10 to 25, 1910, in Nice, a French town located in the Maritime Alps department. Jorge Chavez showed up with his Farman bi-plane. He competed against different aviators such as Michel Effimoff, Van den Born, Rene Metrot and Hubert Lathan. The competition started on April 15 due to the bad weather conditions of the five first days, with very strong winds which prevented or impaired the flight of the weak airplanes of that time.
On the first day, Jorge Chávez logró el segundo lugar en vuelo de distancia, totalizando los 105 kilómetros, luego, en el segundo día, él quedó tercero en el vuelo de distancia, totalizando 22 kilómetros. came out second on the distance flight, flying 105 kilometers. On the second day he came out third in the distance flight, with a total of 22 kilometers. During the third day, he came out second in the flight circuit, for he was forced to land in the shore when he ran out of fuel due to the fight against the strong winds that blew on the area. Fortunately, he came out unhurt in the forced landing. On the seventh day, he participated once again with his Farman plane, which had been recently repaired, and which he had not had time to test before the next flight. The haste with the plane was because this was a very important day for Chavez. The altitude competition had been scheduled for that day and he was very willing to have a good performance in it. The fight against his competitor, aviator Hubert Lathan, was tough and hard-fought, and attracted great interest among the spectators.
Finally, Chavez came out second, reaching an altitude of 644 meters, just 12 meters below Lathan, who came out first. This brilliant performance of Jorge Chavez earned him the public’s recognition and was also a proof of great generosity and comradeship by Hubert Lathan, who, after landing his Bleriot plane, approached Chavez, who was standing very calm next to his Farman bi-plane, he shook hands with him and told him: “I want you to know that there was no winner or loser, because a difference of twelve meters at such altitude is despicable”. This action by Lathan was well recognized and appreciated by young Chavez, who, at the time, had been a pilot for only two months, compared to the sixteen months of experience of his opponent. On the eighth day of the meet, Chavez participated in the distance competition, and came out third, reaching a distance of 81 kilometers. On the nineth day, he participated in the speed competition, where he came out sixth, with a record time of 20 minutes and 25 seconds for the 24 kilometers of flight. On the tenth day, Chavez took part in the distance competition and came out third, flying a distance of 27 kilometers. Chavez was awarded 15 000 francs as a prize for his second place in the altitude competition. At this point, it is important to mention that young Chavez had only obtained his license two months earlier; he was already competing with more experienced pilots, and was already ranking second among them.
The air competition of the Tours Week, in the center of France was scheduled from April 30 to May 5, 1910. Chavez took place in these competitions with the Farman plane. Weather conditions were really bad, with heavy rainfall and storms. Only the fourth day was a good one for flights. The competition took place over the field and Chavez came out second, flying a distance of 147 kilometers, after Dikson, who reached a distance of 226 kilometers, leaving Rene Metrot third, with 93 kilometers. The price awarded to Peruvian Chavez for this second place was 9 000 francs.
The air competition of the Great Lyonnais Week took place in Lyon, a city between Paris and Marseille, and it was scheduled from May 7 to 15, 1910. Chavez showed up in the competition with a Farman bi-plane. He competed against experienced aviators such as Hubert Lathan, Van den Born, Rene Metrot, Hauviette Michelin, Legagneaux and Louis Paulhan. Weather conditions were very unfavorable and many accidents occurred leaving some aircraft destroyed or severely damaged. As a result, there was one pilot injured, Rene Metrot, and another one, Hauvette Michelin died. The death of the latter one put the competition into mourning on the evening of the seventh day. The final result of the competition placed Chavez in a position which granted him a 30 000 francs prize, besides excellent comments regarding his performance among the public and newspaper men, who stressed the boldness of the young aviator in each one of his flights, especially in the altitude competition, where he came out second after reaching an altitude of 450 meters. He also came out third in three competitions: endurance in the air, with a total time of 5 hours and 17 minutes; speed competition after reaching 93,5 kilometers per hour, and finally another prize in the distance competition where he flew over a distance of 41 kilometers. The young Peruvian airman managed to classify in all the competitions with his Farman bi-plane, showing his excellent airman qualities.
The air meet at Verona, North of Italy took place from May 22 to 29, 1910. In this competition which gathered pilots of the class of Henri Farman, Louis Bleriot, Antoinette, Arthur Duray and Jorge Chavez, among others, an event which could have resulted in tragedy occurred. During the distance competition, the plane piloted by Arthur Duray started the race to take off, and when it reached a speed of 50 kilometers per hour, the pilot, who had completely lost control of the machine, tried to turn off the engine, which caused him to be ejected from his seat and land on the ground, while the plane started to swirl without control. As a result of this incident, Duray was badly injured. The plane, without a pilot in the cockpit, continued to race without control with violent spins. When Jorge Chavez realized this, and aware that this could end up in a tragedy, he ran towards the aircraft and, with amazing agility, he jumped into it and managed to shut up the engine and to control the plane, getting rid of the threat. This brave action of the Peruvian pilot was recognized by the participants and by the public which had attended the meet. On his part, airman Arthur Duray suffered serious injuries which made him retire from the pilot career. The courage showed by Jorge Chavez marked the starting point of the friendship between Duray and Chavez, to the extent that Duray became the manager, advisor and fitter of Chavez during the future competitions where he participated, including the feat of the crossing of the Alps.
The Budapest air meet in Hungary took place from June 5 to 15, 1910. Chavez took part in his Farman bi-plane. Bad weather conditions affected the competition. Chavez came out fourth in the altitude competition, reaching 442 meters, beating Louis Wagner and Michel Effimoff.
The air meet at Rouen, the historical capital city of Normandy, Northwest of France, was programmed from June 19 to 26, 1910. Chavez participated with his Farman bi-plane and in the altitude competition he came out second, with a record of 496 meters, while the first place was awarded to Leon Morane, who reached 521 meters with a Bleriot monoplane. At the end of the competition, Jorge Chavez concluded that he had been unable to beat Morane, who piloted a Bleriot monoplane because the Farman plane he commanded was unable to fly higher, for the aircraft was not designed for this kind of flights. He therefore decided that he needed a monoplane, and given that the contract he had signed with Henri Farman to fly his planes had already expired, he decided to purchase a monoplane. Before he actually did this, he asked Leblanc to lend him his Bleriot plane and made some flights on it, to confirm the qualities provided by this machine.
The air meet of the “Great Champagne Week” (Champagne is a historic province Northwest of France) was held from July 3 to 10, 1910. This time, Chavez took part with the Bleriot monoplane which he had recently purchased, and he won the altitude competition, with a record of 1 150 meters, astonishing the spectators and the experts of that time. Here, Chavez showed his great airman skills and he confirmed that the bi-plane was not an adequate machine to perform altitude flights. The thing is that he showed happy and pleased with the Bleriot monoplane he had purchased and he made the following statement “I have finally found the elevator to reach the sky as I wanted to”.
The Blackpool air meet, in the city Northeast of England, in the Irish coast, was programmed from July 28 to August 8, 1910. Once again, Chavez took part in this air competition in his Bleriot monoplane, with which he participated in altitude competitions. On August 3, he reached 1 647 meters, and won the first prize beating his competitors: Douglas Graham, Claude G. White, Tetard and J. Armstrong Drexel. Besides this extraordinary first place, Chavez had also managed to beat his own record of 1 150 meters, beaten in the Champagne competition, where he had also come out first. It is worthwhile mentioning that Chavez received a special prize for this first place in the altitude competition, a golden matchbox keeper with the inscription of the triumph obtained. This golden match box came to the hands of the airman and President of the Peruvian Air History Academy, Gastón Garreaud Dapello, during one of his trips to Domodossola. Gaston Garreaud named this match box the Chavez Golden Passport, for Chavez had taken this match box keeper with him in the flight that linked Switzerland and Italy for the first time through the air, when he crossed the Alps on September 23, 1910.
The competition of Lanark, a small town located in the central mountain belt of Scotland, took place from August 6 to 13, 1910; therefore Chavez had to travel in haste from Blackpool, in England, to Lanark. Thus, on August 8, he participated in the altitude competition with his Bleriot monoplane, where he was awarded the second place after reaching an altitude of 1 575 meters.
As we have been able to see from the review of each one of the competitions in which Jorge Chavez participated, his performance as an airman was very good, achieving excellent records and good positions, for which he received significant economic prizes, besides the broad recognition by his fellow airmen, the public opinion and the domestic and international press.
After the Lanark meet, in Scotland, Jorge Chavez decided to put off his participation in other competitions to perform only altitude flights, for he believed that this practice would be very helpful to face the great challenge of the crossing of the Alps. Here we have to bear in mind that the Peruvian Jorge Chavez had already learned that there would be a competition involving the crossing of the great Alps. This included a flight between Brigue (Switzerland) and Milan (Italy), which was being put up by Arturo Mercanti, who was an organizer and host of these kinds of air meets, as a representative of the Italian Milan Air club.
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