The Aerial Age Begins
1902-1907 1908 1909 1910 1910-1914 1932 1948
Competition and Exhibit
Competition and Exhibit Flying
The Wright brothers’ demonstrations in 1908 and 1909 would only whet the public’s appetite for what was shortly to come. Beginning in the summer of 1909, exhibitions, races, long-distance flights, and other forms of aerial competition were becoming a regular attraction across Europe and in the United States.
Early Exhibition Flying

Spectators came to the airfields by the thousands to the catch the excitement. These early aviators risked life and limb for the adoration of the crowds and large financial prizes. Similar to today’s sports figures, they were the great heroes of their day.
The world’s first major international flying meeting was held in the champagne growing region of France, near the historic cathedral city of Reims, from August 22 to 29, 1909. La Grand Semaine de l’Aviation de la Champagne, as it was formally called, drew 38 airplanes, 23 of which flew in various speed, distance, altitude, and passenger-carrying events.
The event was a great success, and many of the pilots became celebrities by the end of Reims week. Much to the disappointment of the organizers, the Wrights did not participate. The only American in the field was Glenn Curtiss. Total prize money was 200,000 francs. Upwards of a half-million spectators attended, from the wealthy elite to the average enthusiast.

Early Exhibition Flying

Exhibition Flying
With the growing number of meets and competitions organized after Reims, exhibition flying became quite profitable. Aerobatic displays by daredevil pilots began to supplement the races and other competitive events. Aircraft manufacturers were also drawn to exhibition flying to supplement meager aircraft sales resulting from the small market.
The Wright Fliers
The regular appearance of both groups at meets around the country grew into a popular rivalry. Spectators thrilled as the pilots pushed each other to ever more spectacular aerial feats. Inevitably, accidents occurred. Six of the nine members of the Wright exhibition team died in crashes. The brothers dissolved the team in December 1911.
Go to 1912: High-Flying Times >>
American Glenn Curtiss won the premier speed event at Reims, the Gordon Bennett Race, in his specially constructed Reims Racer.
artifact gallery  Belmont Park air meet tickets
Belmont Park air meet tickets, 1910.
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