The 1910 London to Manchester air race was the result of a heavier-than-air powered flight challenge proposed by the Daily Mail newspaper on November 17, 1906. The newspaper offered a £10,000 prize for anyone who could fly the 185 miles from London to Manchester in under 24 hours with no more than two stops. The challenge also specified that take-off and landing were to be at locations no more than five miles from the newspaper’s offices in those cities.
The first pilot to make the attempt was the 31 year old Claude Grahame-White of Hampshire, England. He took off from London on April 23, 1910, and made his first planned stop at Rugby. His biplane subsequently suffered engine problems, forcing him to land again, near Lichfield. High winds made it impossible for Grahame-White to continue his journey, and his aeroplane suffered further damage on the ground when it was blown over.
Then on April 27, 1910, while Grahame-White’s aeroplane was still being repaired in London, when Frenchman Louis Paulhan took off in his Farman III biplane and headed for Lichfield.
A few hours later Grahame-White was made aware of Paulhan’s departure, and immediately set off in pursuit.
The next morning, after an unprecedented night-time take-off, he almost caught up with Paulhan, but his aeroplane was overweight and he was forced to concede defeat.
Louis Paulhan, also flying in the dark in the early hours of April 28th, passed Stafford at 4:45 am, passed Crewe at 5:20 am, and finally reached Manchester at 5:32 am and landed at Baricroft Fields near Didsbury, within the five mile radius of the Manchester Daily Mail office.
Paulhan then took a train to a civic reception held by the Lord Mayor of Manchester where he claimed the prize money.
When Grahame-White was notified of Paulhan’s success, he reportedly shouted “Ladies and gentlemen, the £10,000 prize has been won by Louis Paulhan, the finest aviator that the world has ever seen. Compared with him I am only a novice. Three cheers for Paulhan!”
The event marked the first long-distance aeroplane race in England, the first take-off of a heavier-than-air machine at night, and the first powered flight into Manchester from outside the city.
Later, as a sign of respect, both aviators celebrated Paulhan’s victory at a special luncheon held at the Savoy Hotel in London.
Louis Paulhan repeated the flight in April of 1950, the fortieth anniversary of the original, this time as a passenger aboard a British jet fighter.
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