Chapter 13 - 1924

 

Monday, June 16, 1924

17 Balloons Get Fine Start for Bennett Prize - Gas Bags of 7 Countries Sail Away in Perfect Weather as Massed Belgian Bands Play National Anthems - U. S. Entries Confident - First Place or Nothing, Says Goodyear Pilot; Honeywell Sure He Will Win Cup. - BRUSSELS, Sunday, (June 15, 1924) (By the Associated Press)

Seventeen balloonists, their pilots animated by a desire to win the Gordon Bennett Cup, took off to-day from the great Solbosch Plain, just outside of Brussels, in almost perfect atmospheric conditions for the fourteenth

[this is actually the 13th! Could they have been superstitious?] competition for the trophy. The balloonists represented seven nations. [Belgium 3, France 3, Great Britain 2, Italy 2, US 3, Spain 3, Switzerland 1]

A crowd, estimated at 200,000 persons, saw them ascend in beautiful style, in contrast to last year's start, when with a tempest raging, balloons were smashed and death was already hovering above the plain before the aeronauts departed.

Lieutenant Ernest DeMuyter of Belgium, three times winner of the cup, was the favorite. He is piloting the Belgica. The Americans, Captain E. H. Honeywell, W. G. Van Orman and Major Peck, are regarded as most likely to keep DeMuyter from gaining permanent possession of the trophy. Captain Honeywell, because of his long experience and his incombustible balloon with elaborate equipment, is second choice among those speculating on the outcome.

 

American Carries Radio Set

 

The filling of the balloons was completed at 2 p.m. A mild north to northeasterly wind was blowing, but it freshened and Lieutenant DeMuyter, taking off at 4:30, cleared the buildings surrounding the plain with a minimum loss of ballast. The Belgian promptly disappeared toward the French frontier. What seemed to be a twenty-five mile breeze drove his balloon along in magnificent style.

A dozen massed bands played the Belgian national anthem on the departure of DeMuyter and joined in the strains of "The Star-Spangled Banner" as Van Orman's Goodyear left her moorings at 5:15 o'clock. Van Orman and his assistant, C. K. Wollam, were confident. The former said, "We want first or nothing; we have provisions aboard for twenty-two days."

Van Orman has a special radio set aboard, and he said that between 3:30 and 5:30 AM Greenwich time, Monday, the Springfield, Massachsetts radio station will try to reach him. He will be listening in on a wavelength of 337 meters.

All the Americans carry parachutes as a safeguard in the event of their balloons being struck by lightning or otherwise destroyed.

 

Real Sky Pilot with Honeywell

 

Captain Honeywells' Uncle Sam made the start at 5:55. The captain was assisted by the Reverend Woffer Timmons, of St Louis. He made a perfect start, and, as he slowly rose, shouted to Ambassador Phillips and members of the American Embassy, close by, "We've got a real sky pilot aboard; we are sure winners."

A few minutes before the start the Associated Press correspondent asked Captain Honeywell what club he represented, and he replied, "I am running this race in behalf of one hundred million Americans, and I hope to bring the cup back to the United States."  [100 million was the population of the U.S. in 1924; it is now 300 million]

Immediately after Honeywell's departure the wind shifted to the west, having virtually boxed the compass since noon. The Uncle Sam headed east toward Holland and Germany.

Captain Paul Armbruster's Helvetia (Switzerland), Van Orman's Goodyear, Lieutenant Labrousse's Ville de Bruxelles (Belgium) which first started in a southerly direction, were still visible at twilight over the horizon. Their course also shifted eastward to Germany.

 

British Balloon Brushes Trees.

 

Major Peck and Lieutenant Grey were off with the S-12 (United States) at 6:35 to a fine start. The last balloon to get away was the Spanish Hesperio, pilot Casas. It went up at 6:40. In the meantime a drizzling rain began to fall, but shortly after the last departure atmospheric conditions cleared. Airplanes returning from scouting flights reported strong eastward air currents at from 1,500 to 3,000 feet altitude, with the wind blowing 40 kilometers.

The British balloon Banshee III shortly after the start grazed some trees at Lindale, on the outskirts of Brussels, but managed to rise after shifting a large amount of ballast. Nobody was hurt, and the balloon, which was piloted by Major Baldwin, who had Lord Grosvenor aboard, was able to continue.

 

[Everyone landed on the Continent fairly near Brussels, except one French balloon and DeMuyter, who crossed the Channel, and landed in England. The French balloon landed near Dover on the south coast, and DeMuyter landed near Edinburgh, Scotland.]

 

DeMuyter wins and retires the first cup.

 

The King of the Belgians presented to the world a second cup got up by popular subscription among the Belgian citizens.