Tag Archives: Eugène Adrien Roland Georges Garros

23 September 1913

Roland Garros' Morane-Saulnier G monoplane.
Roland Garros’ Morane-Saulnier G monoplane.

23 September 1913: Pioneering aviator Eugène Adrien Roland Georges Garros (6 October 1888–5 October 1918) was the first pilot to fly across the Mediterranean Sea.

At 5:47 a.m., he departed Fréjus, Côte d’Azur, France, in a Morane-Saulnier G and flew to Bizerte, Tunisia, 470 miles (756 kilometers) to the south-southeast. He arrived at 1:40 p.m., having been airborne 7 hours, 53 minutes.

PR 90364 ©musée de l’Air et de l’espace – Le Bourget
PR 90364 © musée de l’Air et de l’espace – Le Bourget

Reportedly, the airplane carried sufficient fuel for just 8 hours of flight. According to a contemporary report, only 5 liters (1.32 U.S. gallons) of fuel remained when he landed.

Roland Garros’ flight. (Lycée Roland Garros)

Garros flew on to Kassar Said Aerodrome the following day. His airplane was then dismantled and shipped back to France.

On 15 October 1913, Roland Garros was appointed Chevalier de la légion d’honneur.

Roland G. Garros standing in the cockpit of his Morane-Saulnier G at Bizerte, Tunisia, 23 September 1913. (Sheila Terry/Science Source)

The Aéroplanes Morane-Saulnier Type G was a two-place, single-engine monoplane, which had first flown in 1912. The airplane used wing-warping for roll control. It’s landing gear consisted of two wheels and a tail skid. The wooden framework was primarily ash and was covered in fabric. The airplane was 21 feet, 6 inches (6.553 meters) long with a wingspan of 30 feet, 6 inches (9.296 meters). The wing had a chord of 6 feet, 0 inches (1.829 meters), no dihedral, and the wingtips were swept. The airplane had an empty weight of 680 pounds ( 308 kilograms) and a maximum weight of 1,166 pounds (529 kilograms).

The pilot’s instrument panel had a revolution indicator (tachometer), a barograph, and a compass.

—FLIGHT, No. 230 (No. 21, Vol. V., 24 May 1913 at Page 562
—FLIGHT, No. 230, No. 21, Vol. V., 24 May 1913 at Page 562

The Morane-Saulnier G was powered by an air-cooled 11.835 liter (722.22 cubic inches) Société des Moteurs Gnome Lamda seven-cylinder rotary engine with a single Bosch magneto, with a nominal rating of 80 horsepower (one source indicates that the engine actually produced 67.5 horsepower at 1,250 r.p.m.), and driving a laminated walnut Chauvière Hélice Intégrale fixed-pitch propeller which had a diameter of 7 feet, 10 inches (2.570meters).

The airplane had a 14 gallon ¹ (63.65 liters) main fuel tank near the engine, and a second 8 gallon (36.37 liters) tank in the cockpit. Fuel had to be transferred forward by using a hand-operated pump. A 5 gallon (22.73 liters) tank for lubricating oil was adjacent to the main fuel tank.

Garros’ airplane maintained an average speed of 59.5 miles per hour (96 kilometers per hour) for this flight. The Morane-Saulnier G had a maximum speed of 76 miles per hour (122 kilometers per hour).

The Morane-Saulnier G was produced under license by Grahame-White Aviation Company, Hendon Aerodrome, London, England, and by Dux at Moscow, Russia. More than 150 Type Gs were built.

Roland Garros was born 6 October 1988 at Saint-Denis, Réunion (an island in the Indian Ocean). He was the son of Antoine Georges Garros and Maria Clara Emma Faure Garros. Garros was a racer and test pilot who had set many aviation records, including a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Altitude Record of 5,610 meters (18,406 feet), set 11 September 1912 at Saint-Brieuc, France. ²

Roland Garros
Sergent Roland Garros, l’escadrille 23, Aéronautique Militaire (Collection Ronan Furic)

Garros flew in World War I as a fighter pilot for France and shot down a total four enemy airplanes. Garros’ airplane went down behind enemy lines and he was captured, 18 April 1915. He escaped nearly three years later and returned to France. For his military service, he was promoted to Officier de la Légion d’honneur, 6 March 1917. He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre.

Lieutenant d’infantrie Eugène Adrien Roland Georges Garros, Officier de la Légion d’honneur, Aéronautique Militaire, flying a SPAD S.XIII C.1, Nº. 15403, was shot down by the German ace, Leutnant Hermann Habich, near Vouziers, France, 5 October 1918. He was killed one day before his 30th birthday.

Stade Roland Garros in Paris, the tennis stadium where the French Open is held, was named in honor the pioneering aviator.

Garros in Tunisia, 1913. (The New York Times/Agence France-Presse—Getty Images)

¹ Fuel and oil capacities from a British publication, so quantities are presumably Imperial gallons.

² FAI Record File Number 15888

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

21 May–27 May 1911

An illustration depicts Jules Védrines flying his Morane monoplane across the Pyrenees. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

The Paris–Madrid Race began at Issy-les-Moulineaux, in the southwest of Paris, France, 21 May 1911. The race was sponsored by Le Petit Parisien, a French newspaper. More than 300,000 spectators had arrived to watch the event.

The first competitor, “Andre Beaumont” (a pseudonym for Lieutenant Jean Louis Conneau of the French Navy), took off at 5:10 a.m. in a Blériot-Gnome. Roland Garros, also flying a Blériot-Gnome, followed at 5:15 a.m. Several more airplanes departed, at approximately 5-minute intervals.

Jules Charles Toussaint Védrines, flying a Morane monoplane, took off at 6:20 a.m. He was unable to control the airplane and had to lay down on a wing to steer it away from the crowds. He landed but the airplane was damaged. Rather than repair the Morane, he decided to fly the race with another airplane of the same type, as the rules allowed.

At 6:30 a.m., Louis Émile Train, with a passenger, M. Bonnier, took off in an airplane of his own design. The airplane’s Gnome rotary engine was not operating properly and Train immediately turned back toward the area specified as the airfield. (This open area was surrounded by a massive crowd of spectators who continually encroached on the open space.)

As he was about to land, a troop of French cavalry (cuirrassiers) crossed directly in front of him. Train pulled up, but his engine failed. The airplane stalled and crashed just beyond the cavalry. Unseen by Train, a group of officials was on the other side of the troop, and a number of them were struck by the airplane.

M. Henri Maurice Berteaux, France’s Minister of War, was killed. Prime Minister Antoine Emmanuel Ernest Monis, Henri Deutsch de le Muerthe and several others were severely injured.

Wreckage of the Train monoplane at Issy-de-Moulineax, France, 21 May 1911. (Leo Lefebvre/L’Illustration)

A judicial inquiry was immediately held. Train was completely exonerated. Witnesses later said that just prior to the crash, M. Berteaux had commented that the group had moved too far into the field and suggested that they should move back for safety.

Because of the accident, further flights were cancelled, with starts to resume to following day. Only Roland Garros completed the first leg of the race the first day, 400 kilometers (249 miles), with his Blériot XI, arriving at Angoulême after a flight of 4 hours, 52 minutes. Other racers stopped at intermediate points.  One of these airplanes was damaged on takeoff, another delayed by weather, and a third withdrew from the race when he learned of the accident at Issy.

On the second day of the Paris-Madrid Race, Jules  Védrines, flying Morane No. 14, was the first to take off. Airborne at 4:11 a.m., he arrived at Angoulême at 7:54:16 a.m. after a flight of 3 hours, 43 minutes. His official time, however, included the actual flight time for his first attempt on Sunday, and a 30 minute penalty for not successfully starting on the first day of the race. His official time was 4 hours, 24 minutes, 7 seconds, which was still faster than Garros’ time. In third place was M. Gibert, who had remained at Pont Levoy overnight. He arrived at Angoulême at 10:54:58 a.m., Monday, for an official time of 29 hours, 24 minutes, 53 seconds.

On Tuesday, Gibert took off at 5:12 a.m., with Garros following at 5:19:02 a.m. Védrines, who should have started at 5:00 a.m., waited more than two hours for mist to clear. Even so, Védrines was the first to complete the second leg, arriving at San Sebastián on the shore of the Bay of Biscay at 10:56:15 a.m., having flown the 353 kilometers (219 miles) non-stop in 3 hours, 41 minutes, 57 seconds.

Roland Garros made an intermediate fueling stop and was delayed more than two hours. He arrived at San Sebastián at 11:25:36 a.m. Gibert had been delayed by engine trouble at Bayonne, and did not land at San Sebastián until 6:52:22 p.m., Tuesday evening.

Jules Charles Toussaint Védrines at San Sebastián, Spain, 23 May 1911. (NASM)

The aviators rested at San Sebastián, continuing the final leg of the race on Thursday.

The start for the third leg was scheduled for 5:00 a.m., but weather caused another delay. Gibert took off at 6:24 a.m. and crossed the start line at 6:28:35 a.m. He flew out over the Bay of Biscay and quickly disappeared from sight. Garros took off at 7:12 a.m., and Védrines at 7:17 a.m.

Védrines landed at Quintanapalla, but because of the rough field, slightly damaged his Morane. Temporary repairs were made and he flew the 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) to Burgos. He requested permission for the race committee to wait until Friday morning before continuing to allow time for permanent repairs to be made. His request was granted.

Shortly after departing San Sebastián, Garros’ Blériot-Gnome suffered engine trouble, forcing him to land at Usurbil. He took off, but was forced to land again at Andoain. He then returned to San Sebastián. He also proposed restarting the following day after obtaining a new propeller.

Gibert landed at Olasagutia, damaging his airplane. He was also delayed until Friday.

Védrines flies through the Pyrenees Mountains. (FLIGHT, No. 127 (Vol. III, No. 22), 3 June 1911, Page 477, Column 2)

At 5:20 a.m., Friday, Védrines took off from Burgos. He crossed the Sierra de Guadarrama. one of the mountain ranges of the Pyrenees, flying through Somosierra Pass. (The pass has an elevation of 1,434 meters/4,705 feet.) It was here that his Morane was repeatedly attacked by an eagle, forcing to take evasive maneuvers. The duel in the air went of for more than five minutes before the airplane escaped. (Gibert had a similar encounter.)

At 8:06 a.m., Védrines landed at Getafe Aerodrome. He was met by representatives of the Real Aero Club de España and Señor de la Torre, Governor of Madrid. Védrines was commanded to attend King Alfonso at the Palace, where he was engaged in a lengthy conversation with the monarch. He was awarded the Cross of the Order of Alfonso XII.

Jules Védrines’ official time for the 462 kilometers (287 miles) from San Sebastián to Madrid was 27 hours, 5 minutes 41 seconds. This resulted in a race total of 37 hours, 26 minutes, 12 seconds.

The prize for the winner was 100,000 francs. The second place finisher won 30,000 francs, and third, 15,000 francs (approximately equivalent to £4,000, £1,200 and £600.)

Jules Védrines’ Morane monoplane was 22 feet, 0 inches (6.706 meters) long with a wing span of 30 feet, 8 inches (9.347 meters). Its empty weight was 440 pounds (200 kilograms), and gross weight, 770 pounds (349 kilograms). Wing warping was used for roll control. The landing gear consisted of wheels and skids, with a rubber cord suspension. The airplane was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated,  11.150 liter (680.385-cubic-inch-displacement) Société des Moteurs Gnome Omega 7-cylinder rotary engine. The direct-drive engine turned a two-blade fixed pitch Integrale propeller with diameter 9 feet, 3  inches (2.819 meters) and pitch of 5 feet, 11 inches (1.803 meters).

With the engine turning 1,200 r.p.m., the speed of the Morane was 77 miles per hour (124 kilometers per hour).

Jules Charles Toussaint Védrines, 1916

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes