Bedei, Francis - Histoire de Port-Aviation (1993) (Original edition)
Histoire de Port-Aviation
Francis Bedei and Max Joy
Editions Amatteis, 1993.
The history of the world's first airfield
In 1909, Viry-Châtillon was still only a village when the "Société d'Encouragement à l'Aviation" installed an airfield of about 100 hectares, Port-Aviation, the first airfield in the history of aeronautics. The Parisians were enthusiastic. Everything had been planned (hangars, workshops, stands, restaurant, car park...) for this place which was at the same time a learning, training and demonstration centre. Several meetings took place there and many pilots trained there, especially during the First World War.
Port-Aviation was not an airfield in the modern sense, but a racetrack for aircraft, like a racetrack for horses. The aeroplanes flew around the round field in front of a large number of spectators, who were either seated in the stands or scattered around the field. Aviation was then considered a sport for "enlightened people", taking place in a huge circus where pilots flew their aeroplanes (Wright, Delagrange, Blériot, Paulhan, Comte de Lambert, Roland Garros, etc.).
While the tests were done on the racecourses of the Paris area, like Issy-les-Moulineaux or Bagatelle, the presence of a ground specially reserved for aviation excited the aviators and the manufacturers but especially the Parisians who flocked in mass, on the occasion of the first air shows.
Port-Aviation saw many aviation meetings and especially the "Grande quinzaine" of October 1909 where exploits followed one another leading to records like the one of the count of Lambert who, on his Wright No. 20 starting from Port-Aviation, flew around the Eiffel Tower before coming back to land at his starting point, guiding himself with the silver ribbon of the Seine on his return. For the first time a pilot flies over a city, without possibility to land in case of danger.
In 1911, Port-Aviation hosted the start of the Paris-Rome aeroplane race. The winner, the aviator André Beaumont, received the blessing of Pius X.
The airfield was used during the First World War, with a succession of aviation schools training a large number of pilots, as Northern France and Belgium were occupied by the German army. But, subject to repeated floods and to the narrowness of the ground bordered by hillsides, the bad situation of Port-Aviation leads to its closure in 1919. In 1917, the Americans set up an airfield on the plateau located further north, near Orly. All that remains today is the Grand Hôtel, a half-timbered building that welcomed the most prestigious pilots of the time.
This book contains 238 b&w illustrations including photographs, reproductions of old postcards representing planes, aeroplanes, aircraft, biplanes, monoplanes, characters, famous aviators, workshops, meetings...
Paperback, 222 pages, in French, size 16 x 24, ISBN 2 86849 124 3