About the Event
Following the Reims International Air Meet of 1909 in France, enthusiasm for aviation began to increase in the United States. At an aviation meet in St. Louis fellow enthusiasts and pilots discussed the possibility of holding an air meet in Los Angeles. This group, which included Charles Willard, Roy Knabenshue and Glenn Curtiss, followed through on the proposed project and sent Dick Ferris to Los Angeles to make the preliminary contacts and finalize the plans for the proposed Air Meet. After arriving in Los Angeles, Ferris met with various contacts and an International Air Meet was proposed which would include Louis Paulhan, a renowned French aviator. The location was selected, Dominguez Field, on property which was part of one of the original Spanish land grants - the Rancho San Pedro. Publicity was begun, grandstands were erected and an expanded passenger platform was constructed at the Pacific Electric Station located near the air meet site to accommodate the large number of spectators expected to attend the event.
Dates for the air meet were agreed upon. Commencing on January 10th, 1910 and lasting ten days until January 20th, the airmen would invite a variety of participants and would include not only aeroplanes but also hot air balloons and dirigibles. Cash prizes would be awarded to those participating in scheduled events which would include altitude, speed and endurance competitions.
Over the course of the air meet, spectators were thrilled by the performances of aviators Louis Paulhan, Glenn Curtiss, Charles Willard, and others. Paulhan was the "star attraction" at the air meet. Invited by the organizers to participate, Paulhan brought with him to the event two Bleriot Monoplanes, two Farman Biplanes, and an entourage which included his wife and black poodle. At the air meet, he set a new altitude record (4164 ft.), endurance record (64 miles 1 hr. 49 mins. 40 secs.), and won $14,000 in prize money. Glenn Curtiss won two events - fastest speed with a passenger (55 mph) and quickest start (6 2/5 secs., covering 98 ft.). Curtiss took home $6500 in prize money. Charlie Willard was credited with the most accurate take off and landing skills for which he received a prize totaling $250.
Attendance at the air meet surpassed all expectations. During the ten day period of the meet an estimated 226,000 spectators converged on Dominguez Field. Gate receipts for the event equaled over $137,500. The air meet was considered a phenomenal success and helped to alleviate a perceived economic drought in the Los Angeles area. Many believe the event launched the aviation industry on the West Coast.