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First Flight . . . Jamaica 1911

Wednesday December 20

Jesse Seligman
Promoting the event
Wednesday December 20
Thursday December 21
. . . and on to Panama
Other 'First Flights'
On from 1911 . . .
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December 20th was a wet and windy day; not a good occasion for a momentous 'First Flight'. However the young aviator, Jesse Seligman, eager to satisfy his audience, took the risk of flying when the opportunity came. His brief flight delighted the crowd, but whetted their appetite for a more extended display. Perhaps December 21st would provide better conditions.

Jesse Seligman's Moisant plane.

Daily Gleaner

December 21, p6 col 3-5


Jesse Seligman Astonishes Big Crowd Yesterday.


Another Thrilling Exhibition Will

Be Given This Afternoon.

A crowd of fully a thousand persons of both sexes, scattered over the stands and paddocks at Knutsford Park yesterday afternoon, gazed with bated breath into the sky, watching an aeroplane, the marvel of the 20th century, circling the big track at a speed of over a mile a minute. It was a sight that very few in that company had seen before - it was the first aviation flight in Jamaica - and a great cheer went up as the bird man brought his machine gracefully to earth in front of the grand stand.

Mr. Jesse Seligman, the American Aviator, who is attached to the Moisant International Aviation Company had made good. He had flown. It was true blue grit that had made him get into his monoplane and mount into the sky, for the weather conditions were very unfavourable for flight. The wind came in strong gusts from the south east and was generally so erratic that up to five o'clock it was very problematical as to whether there would be any flying that afternoon. But just at this stage there was a slight drizzle. The wind died down for a bit, and, rather than disappoint the spectators, Mr. Seligman determined to give a short exhibition. Flying in an aeroplane at any time is risky business, but under the conditions that obtained yesterday afternoon it was positively dangerous. But Mr. Seligman, by a rare exhibition of pluck, made the flight, winning for himself fresh honours in the field of aviation, and the admiration of the crowd.

The Moisant monoplane was all in readiness when the gates were opened at 3 o'clock. Andre Ruellan, the French Machinist had given the


its finishing touches; Mr. Seligman, the young aviator, in a dark tweed suit, and black leather leggings, was standing by - the very embodiment of cool, calm confidence. It was his first flight out of America, and he was ready to make it. The human and mechanical agencies for the vault into, and whirl through the sky were all ready, but - the wind was unfavourable. At four o'clock there was a slight lull, and Mr. Seligman at once prepared to go aloft. The monoplane was run up to the field to a point opposite the grand stand, where the machinist mounted to the seat, a dozen men gripped hold of the ash frame work, and strained against it, as the 50 horse power, seven cylinder Gnome motor was started. There was a hum as if a million bees were encased in the head of the big bird-like machine, and the back draft swept the grass clean in a flash. The machine trembled all over, but the men held firm, and once more satisfied that his engine was in order, Andre shut off the power and stepped down. Mr. Seligman put on his leather head-dress, but just as he touched the monoplane the wind began to blow stronger than ever, making flight at that time out of the question. For the next 40 minutes the wind blew in strong puffs, and it was then feared that the exhibition would have to be postponed. At 10 to 5, the wind veered and dropped slightly. The machine was run back down the ground and Mr. Seligman again made ready. More disappointment - the wind started up worse than ever, and it looked black indeed for a flight.

At 5 minutes to five there was a slight shower of rain, and another lull in the wind. Mr. Seligman then decided that rather than disappoint the crowd he would give a short flight. The machine was backed to the inner race track, the head pointing directly into the wind, Mr. Seligman mounted to his seat, Andre started the motor, the crowd held its breath the flight was about to commence at last.


"Let go," came the sharp command from the young man, whose head could just be seen above the wings of the machine. The men holding on to the frame work jumped sideways and backwards, and the big bird-like construction of wood, steel wire and silk ran down the ground toward the east, at ever increasing speed. When about 60 yards had been covered, the tail piece suddenly flapped up from the ground and in a second, the monoplane was


It was a wonderful sight to see the ever-rising machine tearing at terrific speed to the east, and the crowd was too astounded even to cheer. In less time than it takes to tell it, the aviator had reached an altitude of about 200 feet. Here he raced into a heavy cross current, and the machine canted over slightly, as with the rudder drawn round to a right angle, Mr. Seligman tried to make his circle to the north. So bad was the wind that he had travelled fully half a mile beyond the limits of the field, he made the turn, and sped with a graceful drooping swoop northwards. Soon the big mechanical bird, had swooped round and was tearing to the west, rising higher and higher, until a maximum elevation of about 500 feet had been reached. The speed was terrific. Around the northeastern bend it tore, and soon its loudly buzzing motor was bringing it at a mile-a-minute pace up the home stretch. Mr. Seligman flew right out over the dividing fence and it looked as if he was going to pass over the stands, but when about a hundred yards away he cleverly swung the machine back into the inner track, alighting gracefully in front of the stand.

It was a marvellous spectacle, and one worth going miles to see.

As the nervy aviator climbed from the monoplane to the ground, the pent-up feelings of the crowd gave way in a mighty cheer and everyone allowed on the field crowded forward to offer their congratulations. Mr. Seligman was quite ready to go aloft again, but the wind once more sprang up, and further flights yesterday evening were out of the question.

Mr. Seligman was in the air about five minutes, during which time he covered about five miles.



Seen immediately after the flight Mr. Seligman said to the Gleaner reporter, "The wind down here was about 20 miles an hour; aloft was blowing about 40 and gusty at that. It was terrible, awful. I never attempted a flight in such weather before. My helmet was blown off and I could hardly turn the machine to the north. You can say, it is the worst flight I have made in my life - that is I mean the weather conditions were the worst.

Oh yes. I will fly again tomorrow, and I hope to give the spectators enough flying to make up for to-day. I couldnt do any better than I have done - the wind was against me."

Mr. E. Newman, the manager of the Moisant Co. said: "We have 17 aviators in our Company, and there is not one, other than Mr. Seligman, who would have made a flight in such a wind. Mr. Seligman did everything to satisfy the people and give a fair exhibition - we had every intention of making several flights - but we know the people of Jamaica would not call upon a man to unnecessarily risk his life for their pleasure. We will endeavour to make up in the flights tomorrow for the poor exhibition of today."

The W.I.R. band supplied the music.


The aviation meeting will be continued this afternoon at Knutsford Park. The gates will be opened at 3 o'clock and the flying start at 4. As this will probably be the last occasion for a long time that the people of this island will have the opportunity of witnessing such flights, a big crowd is sure to turn up. Prices of admission will be seen in an advertisement on another page.

Another Moisant plane from the same period.


Site authored by Joy Lumsden, M A (Cantab) Ph D (UWI)


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