1909: The First Major International Flying Meet

Posted on Mon, August 22, 2016

On this day in 1909, some of the world's leading aviators met at a racetrack in Reims, France, to compete in the first organized international air meet.  Between August 22 and August 29, the “great aviation week,” as it was called, featured many contests, including those for the best flights of distance, altitude, and speed. Many famous early pilots, including Louis Blériot, were present. However, to the disappointment of organizers, the Wright brothers did not participate.

Black and white photo of Hubert Latham sitting at the controls of his aircraft.

Hubert Latham at the controls of his "Antoinette IV" at the Grande Semaine de l'Aviation de la Champagne, Reims, after winning the altitude prize.


Early Exhibition Flying

Early exhibition flying at Reims, France.

The first of its kind, the Reims air meet was the grandest aviation event of its time with more than 200,000 spectators in attendance during the week. A miniature city was created for the event including a 600-seat restaurant and even a barbershop. In total, 38 airplanes registered for the meet, but only 23 made flights.

Associate Director for Collections and Curatorial Affairs Peter Jakabs gave a Ask an Expert gallery talk on the subject in 2009.