9th January 1953

Death of Jersey pioneer of self-powered flight

French cycling champion Gabriel Poulain was born in St Helier on 4 February 1884 and died in Nice on 9 January 1953. He lived in both Paris (from 1901) and, later, Denmark, and was the fastest man in the world on a bike in 1905, the fastest in France in the same year, as well as 1922 and 1924, and winner of several Grand Prix of cycling titles, in Bordeaux, Angers and Reims.

His other love was flying, and a plane crash in 1911, which left him injured, didn’t deter him from combining the two. On 4 July the following year, he won 1000 francs for successfully making a self-powered flight in an aviette – a bicycle equipped with biplane-style wings, weighing 16kg. Admittedly, the flight lasted for just a metre, but with both wheels leaving the ground it still counted. On 9 July 1921, in the Bois de Boulogne, he tried again, using the road leading into Longchamps racecourse as his runway, and this time he flew 10 metres 54 centimetres. Then, turning around at his landing point, he flew a record 12 metres 32 centimetres in the opposite direction. On each occasion he reached a height of 1.5 metres, earning himself 10,000 francs from Peugeot in the process.


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