Friday, September 7, 2018

When New Yorkers Cheered Dixie

On October 31, 1910—seven years after the Wright Brother’s first airplane flight of less than a minute—seventy-five thousand spectators gathered at Belmont Park to watch a day of competition among pioneering aviators. Events culminated with a thirty-six mile round trip race between Belmont Park to the Statue of Liberty. Only three aviators attempted the trip, which had about one million spectators as they crossed the densely populated borough of Brooklyn. One competitor was British, a second was French and the third was a wealthy American dilettante and adventurer, John Moisant. The three were to take-off in a British-French-American sequence. The winner would be the pilot with the swiftest time, not the first across the finish line.

The British and French planes were in the sky shortly after three o’clock in the afternoon. Despite his best efforts, however, Moisant could not get his engine started. As a result, his brother bought another plane on the spot for $10,000. It had been used by a contestant in earlier events. As Moisant was continuing his pre-flight preparations his two competitors returned.

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