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Taking Flight in Texas

On this day 109 years ago, flight officially came to Texas when Frenchman Louis Paulhan became the first person to fly an aircraft in the Lone Star state.  Having taught himself to fly in 1909 he participated in a number of European air meets before coming to the U.S. in January 1910 to take part in the Los Angeles International Air Meet.  Paulhan won all the prizes and flew away with $19,000 in prize money.  He next embarked on a U.S. tour, which took him to Salt Lake City, New Orleans and Houston.  On February 18, 1910, he demonstrated his Farman biplane with from a field south of Houston, where a crowd of over 1000 people paid $2.00 each to observe the spectacle of the first powered flight in Texas.


After his Houston demonstration, he immediately cancelled his U.S. tour and left for New York to fight a law suit brought on by the Wright brothers.  The Wright’s claimed that Paulhan and other aviators were violating their patents and demanded $25,000 for every display that Paulhan performed.  While the case dragged on for many years, Paulhan left the U.S. and returned to France where he continued his flying, away from the jurisdiction of American courts.


Louis Paulhan served as a pilot with the French Army in World War I, and commanded a squadron of Farman biplanes on the Serbian front.  While there, he was credited with the world’s first medevac flight when he flew another aviator who was seriously ill to a hospital.  After the war, he remained in France to work in aircraft manufacturing until his death in 1963.

 

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