The crossing of the Alps: Attaining the altitude record
After his last competition in Lanark, Scotland, Airman Jorge Chavez decided to put off his participation in other air meets, to spend time training for altitude flights needed to cross the Alps. Thus, the young Peruvian aviator started to get ready for the great crossing of the Alps, following the Brigue route, taking off from the Swiss town of the Valais Canton, to the end point, in Milan, Italy, with a stop in Domodossola, an Italian city in the region of Piedmont. On September 8, 1910 Chavez performed an altitude flight over Issy-Les-Moulineaux, near Paris, in the Bleriot XI monoplane which he had recently bought and modified. This time, he beat the world altitude record, registering the extraordinary height of 2 652 meters, an impressive altitude for that time. This record was officially registered and Chavez was highly recognized.
The Paris newspapers announced in large headlines that on September 8, 1910 Peruvian aviator Jorge Chavez had beaten the world altitude record in a magnificent flight, recording an altitude of 2 652 meters over the capital city of France, on board of his new Bleriot XI plane and as a result of a test flight. When Chavez attained this altitude, he beat the record that Leon Morane had beaten five days before, on September 3, 1910, also on board of a Bleriot plane, registering an altitude of 2,582 meters.
This is the story told by Jorge Chavez after he attained the world altitude record, when he was getting ready for the crossing of the Alps.
“After studying the crossing of the Alps, a competition which I have signed up to, I have decided that it is necessary for me to get ready to climb to great altitudes, because the topmost point of the flight will be 2 100 meters and I have only climbed up to 1 764 (he was referring to the crossing of the Alps), therefore, I have thought that the best training for me is to beat the altitude record which Morane attained in Deauville.
On Sunday, I tried my new Bleriot, and given that yesterday the weather was nice, I found the perfect time to take my warm clothes and my recording barometer with me beyond the tip of the birds. At four thirty the wind was blowing with extraordinary speed, but between two large masses of clouds, I could see a beautiful blue spot, and beyond that, the immensity of the sky. Arturo (Arturo Duray, the former racing pilot) told me: ‘Son, we have to profit from this lovely weather”, and he had the plane taken to an area near Mazeran. There, my fitter poured some gasoline, cranked the blade twice and the engine sounded like a turbine. He lifted his arms, which is the aviation symbol for “let go” and I headed towards the sky. It was four and forty-one.
I flew one or two great turns over Issy; then, as the beautiful blue spot flew to the mercy of the wind towards Versailles, I started to follow it. I reached that height quickly; I climbed even higher.
It was intensely cold. I was at 2 500 m. Some more engine turns and I would have defeated Morane’s record. I felt the tip of my nose somewhat wet; I was afraid for a moment, because I had never climbed on a balloon and I ignored what the feeling is when flying over high regions. Had it been convenient to bring an oxygen bottle with me? I remembered that when Morane climbed up to 2500 meters he bled from the nose. But fortunately, this was not blood! It was just a flu, which had become more serious during the climb. Doubtlessly, the result of a wind current, when I crossed the beautiful blue spot. Uff! At last I felt safe.
I also felt happy because my barometer recorded over 2 600 m. I had beaten the record! Exactly thirty six minutes had passed since I left the ground and crossed through the great blue spot, which was already my friend but unfortunately I could see very little below me. The Palace of the Sun King. I thought I was flying over the Ville d’Avray. I descended quickly, over Naudon and I noticed an army zeppelin, which was just about to take off. I saw the soldiers waiving their arms happily, and six minutes after I had beaten the record, forty two minutes after my departure, I landed on Issy, surrounded by strong whirlwinds, after having floated up there in the most absolute calmness.”
As a result of the great progress that was occurring in the air activity, the commissioners of the passage of the Alps proposed some of the champion airmen that had participated in the different competitions, to carry out the land trip, in order to set the requirements for the organization of the great event of the Alps. Chavez did not hesitate and immediately responded accepting the invitation of the commissioners, with which he reaffirmed his decision to take part of this great passage.
Jorge Chavez and Juan Bielovucic both Peruvian aviatos had earned several triumphs in Europe, generating great pride in Peru. The Lima newspapers deployed large headlines, highlighting the achievements of the young Peruvian pilots in Europe, which triumphs put the name of Peru in a very high status and ranked it as one of the pioneer countries in the recent world aviation activity.
The legislative chambers of Peru sent both pilots warm expressions of encouragement and congratulations, and the Lima La Prensa newspaper sent Chavez a congratulation telegram to which he immediately responded:
“La Prensa. Lima, September 10, 1910. “Thank you fellow citizens. Hope aviation services will serve country. Signed, Chavez
Multimedia Archive: The crossing of the Alps