Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Des Moines Aviation Meet Thrills Crowds in 1911

Rene Barrier seated in John B. Moisants Number 17
Monoplane. He flew the plane during an exposition at
Des Moines Hyperion Field in 1911.
(Des Moines Register. May 28, 1911)
Des Moines experienced its first Aviation Meet during the final days of May 1911 as French Aviators Rene Simon and Rene Barrier showed off their aeroplanes in a four-day exposition at the Hyperion Field and Motor Grounds. Tickets to the event cost fifty cents.

Barrier told the Des Moines Register he "wanted his monoplane entirely overhauled before the opening of the meet. The delicate mechanism is very sensitive to long and hard flights such as the noted altitude and cross country flyer has subjected it to and it is his desire to have it in the very tiptop condition for his altitude, cross country, and speed work here."

The paper went on to say Barrier had recently installed the new Gnome motor in his plane while flying at Sioux City and that "it is working like a charm."

Spectators watching the aviation exposition (top photo).
Rene Barrier Flying (small inset), and Rene Simon at 
the wheel (bottom picture).
(Des Moines Register. June 2, 1911)
Barrier would be flying the same plane aviator John B. Moisant flew when he circled the Statue of Liberty in New York. Moisant died not long after that during his attempt to capture the Michelin Cup. 

"The work of Rene Simon was nothing short of marvelous," said P. L. Young, manager for the International Aviators Club. "You can't find a man making circles in his monoplane like he did tonight. His work was record breaking." 

On the final day, just as the pilots were getting ready to challenge each other, Barrier's engine refused to start. 

"No one can tell just why a gasoline engine stops sometimes," said the reporter. "It just seems to get tired and ask for a nap. The mechanics tired themselves out turning the propeller over. They couldn't get a cylinder to explode."

Simon waited, chomping at the bit to take off. Finally, he shut his engine down.

"After a little rest, Barrier's engine went off like it had never missed an explosion in its young life. Then Simon was dead. By the time his engine was making smoke, Barrier was climbing."

Moments later, Simon was careening down the field, then he skidded on some sand. "The machine turned half-way around, and for a flash looked like it was going to upset, but the pilot righted her by quick warping of the planes and twisting of his body." 

From an advertisement for Goldman-Cobacker Co. in the Des Moines Tribune. May 31, 1911.

The danger didn't seem to phase him. Once in the air, Simon put on a show such as no one had ever seen.

He dipped and dived, "turning in such short circles at times that it seemed certain he would slip to the ground, so sharply did he bank. His work during the second flight was even better than his first. he took more chances. Not once, but a dozen times, yes, two dozen, and that is hardly enough. he cut short circles around the hangar, tempting the air to turn his car over under him."

No one had any doubt that the spectators got what they paid for - A day filled with death defying thrills.

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