This morning you thought you’d like to go north to Santiago de Compostela for a few days. It’s simple, you sit down in front of your computer, go to an airline website and buy a ticket. Quick, easy and cheap. Since there are low-cost airlines, flying has become very popular. But a few years ago flying was a luxury, and before that it had been an adventure and even a circus show. In this post we will talk about the first flight in Mallorca.
In 1903 the Wright brothers made what is considered the first flight of an airplane in history in the United States. At the beginning of the 20th century the world was changing at full speed and any new invention, the car, the motorcycle, the telephone, and of course airplanes, evolved and expanded very quickly. It is considered that the Valencian Juan Olivert Serra was the one who made the first motor flight in Spain on September 5, 1909
We want to see it too.
By 1910 some airplane demonstrations had already been held in both Valencia and Barcelona, and the Mallorcan people were very curious about these new devices.
In the same year the Chamber of Commerce of Mallorca, wanting to promote the economy and tourism, organized for the month of June an exhibition of products from the Balearic Islands. In order to attract more people, the “Sports Week” was organized in parallel, which would include a very special event: presentation and flight of an airplane for the first time in Mallorca.
The pilot arrives
A brave pilot, Frenchman Julien Mamet, and his machine, a Blériot XI, arrived in Palma by boat from Barcelona. The inaugural flight was planned for June 28th, at the Hippodrome Balear (Finca Son Maciá – Pont D’Inca), in front of the local authorities, the press and a few guests. In the afternoon of the 28th, Mamet goes up to his machine and his mechanics help him start the engine. The plane takes off without any problem and flies briefly over the Pont D’Inca and surroundings. This amazes the attendees, as the Bleriot XI is nothing more than a set of wooden slats and fabrics, with some bicycle wheels and a rather rudimentary look.
First flight in Mallorca, the big day
The next day, June 29, another flight was scheduled for the general public and the whole area collapsed. People are very excited, the trains were crowded, the access road full of cars, carts, horse riders, people on foot or by bicycle… the important thing is to be able to see how the airplane is able to fly. At 6 o’clock Mamet takes the apparatus out of the hangar that has been installed in the racetrack and makes it go around the whole track, so that people can see it well. The expectation is enormous and the public is impatient.
When they reach the north side, the pilot climbs into the aircraft and his mechanics turn the wooden propeller. The engine starts, the propeller whistles, the moment approaches. The monoplane is running around the track and picking up speed. He runs more and more and after a few meters he rises above the ground… FLY! ¡FLY! The audience bursts with joy and excitement.
The airplane flies over Son Maciá, over the Pont D’Inca and passes over the racecourse throwing flowers over the crowd, which applauds fervently. Maybe it’s flying between 100 and 125 meters high. Already in the southern part he makes some manoeuvres to the left and right and gets closer to the track again. It won’t be long now, a few hundred metres, but the plane is descending rapidly and no longer flies very high. It has flown almost 10 minutes but suddenly disappears behind some trees, something has happened.
Several people approach and the scare is confirmed, the plane has crashed to the ground. It seems that the engine has been losing strength and when flying close to the trees some of the rudder cables have been hooked to a branch making the airplane to be hooded. The propeller has been completely destroyed and the plane has a lot of damage. Our hero, however, has been lucky, and has emerged unscathed from the accident.
A satisfied audience
Despite the mishap, the audience was satisfied and amazed by the device and the pilot’s bravery. At the end of the day, the big topic of conversation was the aerial exhibition and the feat of Julien Mamet.
The next day, June 30th, he returns to Barcelona with the promise of returning to Mallorca to give another exhibition. He never got around to it, but his feat has already gone down in our history.
If you are interested in the history of the first aviators, and of the first flying devices, you will be interested in our post about the Mallorcan precursor of the helicopter: