Aero of 7 September 1909:
Swiftly [Latham's Antoinette] rose and swept round close to the balloon, veered round to the hangers, and out over to the Rheims road. Back it came high over the stands, the people craning their necks as the shrill cry of the engine drew nearer and nearer behind the stands. Then of a sudden, the little form appeared way up in the twilight blue vault of the sky, heading straight as an arrow for the anchored balloon. Over it, and high, high above it went the Antoinette, seemingly higher by many feet than the Farman machine. Then, wheeling in a sweep to the left, Latham steered his machine round past the stands, where the people, their nerve-tension released on seeing the machine descending from its perilous height of 500 feet, shouted their frenzied acclamations to the hero of the meeting.
For certainly "Le Tham" as the French call him was the popular hero.* He always flew high, he always flew well, and his machine was a joy to the eye, either afar off or at close quarters. The public feeling for Blériot is different. Blériot, in the popular estimation, is the man who fights against odds, who meets the adverse fates calmly and with good courage, and to whom good luck comes once in a while as a reward for much labour and anguish, bodily and mental. Latham is the darling of the Gods, to whom Fate has only been unkind in the matters of the Channel flight, and only then because the honour belonged to Blériot.
Next to these two, the public loved most Lefebvre, the joyous, the gymnastic. Lefebvre was the comedian of the meeting. When things began to flag, the gay little Lefebvre would trot out to his starting rail, out at the back of the judge's enclosure opposite the stands, and after a little twisting of propellers his Wright machine would bounce off the end of its starting rail and proceed to do the most marvellous tricks for the benefit of the crowd, wheeling to right and left, darting up and down, now flying over a troop of the cavalry who kept the plain clear of people and sending their horses into hysterics, anon making straight for an unfortunate photographer who would throw himself and his precious camera flat on the ground to escape annihilation as Lefebvre swept over him 6 or 7 feet off the ground. Lefebvre was great fun and when he had once found that his machine was not fast enough to compete for speed with the Blériots, Antoinettes and Curtiss, he kept to his métier of amusing people. The promoters of the meeting owe Lefebvre a debt of gratitude, for he provided just the necessary comic relief.
popularity was recognized by the award of a further cash gift from the
editor of the Petit Journal, an illustrated weekly paper, at the
end of the meeting.
· Airships · Zeppelins
· Santos-Dumont · Farman
· Wrights in France · The
Channel · Rheims · London