University celebrates centenary of world’s first air race

The University of Liverpool has celebrated the centenary of the world’s first aviation competition with a `simulated’ re-run of the 1909 Reims air race.

Visitors were invited to the University’s Department of Engineering on Wednesday, 26 August to watch a recreation of the pioneering aviation event at Reims in August 1909.  Using high-fidelity flight simulators, test pilots – who are familiar with flying vintage aircraft – will fly the `virtual’ aircraft that took part in the races.  They played the role of notable pilots of the day such as Louis Bleriot who crashed during the race but not before achieving the fastest time for one circuit. 

Gareth Padfield, Professor of Aerospace Engineering said: “The Reims air race was the first organised international air meeting, attracting the cream of European society from royalty to politicians as well as the public.  

“The skies above the city of Reims, in the champagne region of France, were filled with aircraft from the most noted designers of the day including the Wright brothers and Glen Curtiss.  They were all competing to have their aircraft crowned as the best in the world.  The highlight of the week was the prestigious Gordon Bennett trophy for the fastest aeroplane over a 20km course.”

“The Reims event, perhaps more than any other in that first decade of the twentieth century, highlighted the huge potential of aviation and as a consequence the development of new aircraft accelerated very quickly following this event.”

The centenary day will also included a series of talks about the pilots and aircraft which took part at Reims and a lecture by the well-known aviation historian, Philip Jarrett, on British Aviation in 1909.

Notes to editors:

1.  The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £93 million annually.

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