French History – Flights of Fancy Posted by on Dec 1, 2020 in Business, Culture, History

Current travel restrictions have kept me grounded, but I have to say, I love to fly. And while the U.S. and the Wright Brothers claim “first in flight”, France has its share of honors to celebrate in aviation.

Un avion sur les toits1Autres mots utiles/other useful terms: la toiture/roofing, le plafond/ceiling, le plancher/floor, flooring

In doing some follow up research to last week’s post, I learned about les exploits de l’aviateur Jules Védrines (the adventures of the pilot Jules Vedrines) who, in 1919, landed a plane on the roof of the Galeries Lafayette!

For the sum of 25 000 francs (a bit more than 31 000 euros in today’s money), the flying ace flew from l’aéroport (the airport) in Issy-les-Moulineaux to the roof of the grand magasin where he had to décrire deux ou trois courbes autour des Galeries, afin d’atterrir dans un vol ralenti (make two or three loops around the Galeries, in order to be able to land at a reduced speed). Click here to see a picture of Jules à bord de son avion / in his plane.

The Galeries Lafayette re-opened to the public over the weekend, allowing visitors and employees alike to see the amazing sapin de Noël and other decorations in person.

En accélérant …

France’s history of flight started out slow but then got faster. In 1783 les frères Montgolfiers (the Montgolfiers brothers) were the first to fly a manned balloon. The flight over Paris lasted almost 25 minutes and cemented their name in history (the French word for a hot air balloon is une montgolfière.)

More recently, and more rapidly, France, in partnership with the UK, developed and ran the world’s longest running commercial supersonic flights. Reaching speeds of Mach 22twice the speed of sound, the Concorde shuttled passengers between the US and Europe in half the time of typical planes, from the late 1960’s until the program was shut down in 2003.

Sadly I will never achieve my dream of flying on a transatlantic Concorde flight3I always loved the idea of leaving Paris or London and arriving in New York before I left!, but thanks to a new project at the Musée de l’air et de l’espace at the Paris-Le Bourget airport, I might someday get to “touch” one. The museum is hoping to scan and digitize a 3D model of the Concorde Sierra Delta currently exposé au musée (on display at the museum).

This initiative is being soutenu (supported) by D’Artagnans if you’d like to find out more.

Picture courtesy Pexels. [CC0]

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris


  1. tony:

    There is a French fascination with air travel.

  2. Marilyn Framrose:

    How interesting, I didn’t know about landing a plane on the roof of Galleries Lafayette! Thank you.

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