The First Flying Permits of 1909

When flying was all new and shiny, it was also a pilot's paradise. There were no permits to get and no exams to pass; you just got into your flying machine and took off. But paradise ended when the snake crept in; the snake was called officialdom and took the form of an international body which started to issue permits and organize exams. 




Everything new is usually imbued with that limitless sense of freedom and potential. Flying was one of those things when it was new and adventurous and unencumbered by official red tape. But in 1905, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale came into being dealing with heavier-than-air aircraft. By 1909, they were busily issuing permits to pilots. 


They had the good grace to give away the first 16 of these permits without subjecting the recipients to any exams based on their prior flying experience. As they didn't want to elevate any of these pilots over the other, they issued the permits in alphabetical order. The permits went to the giants in aviation at that time under the heading of the Aéro-Club de France. 


1. Louis Blériot (1872 to 1936) was a French aviator, inventor, and engineer. He was the first man to fly over the Channel for which he pocketed the prize money of £1,000. 


2. Glenn Curtiss (1878 to 1930) was an American aviation pioneer and motorcycle racer. He made the first long distance flight in the United States and he won the world’s first flying contest held in Reims in France. 


3. Léon Delagrange (1873 to 1910) was a French aviator and sculptor. He was president of the Aéro-Club de France and set many records in his short flying career; he was killed in an airplane accident in 1910 near Bordeaux. 


4. Robert Esnault-Pelterie (1881 to 1957) was a French aircraft designer and spaceflight theorist. He stopped flying in 1909 and concentrated on aircraft design instead. He invented the joy-stick on which he owned a patent. 


5. Henri Farman (1877 to 1958) was a French-English aviator and aircraft designer. He set many records and was the first passenger on a flight when flying with Léon Delagrange. 


6. Maurice Farman (1877 to 1964) was the twin of Henri, an aviator, aircraft designer, and motorcar racer. He won the world’s first Grand Prix at Pau in 1901. Turning from racing to flying, he set many records of speed and endurance in flying. With his brothers Henri and Richard he ran the company Farman Frères which produced cars and airplanes. 


7. Jean Gobron (1885 to 1945) was a French motorcar racer, aviator and aircraft engineer. He won several flying competitions and constructed airplane motors. After his plane caught fire during a flight in the Sahara, he stopped flying and concentrated on his construction work. 


8. Count Charles de Lambert (1865 to 1944) was a French-Russian aviator and nautical engineer. He was the first to fly over the Eiffel Tower. His real passion, though, belonged to the construction of airboats. 


9. Hubert Latham (1883 to 1912) was a French-English aviator and explorer. He set many records and was renowned for trying and executing seemingly impossible flight maneuvers  He tried to be the first to cross the Channel but was stopped by an engine failure. As he brought his machine down in the Channel, he became the first to successfully water an airplane. 


10. Louis Paulhan (1883 to 1963) was a French aviator, airship and aircraft constructor. He set several records in long and high flying. 


11. Henri Rougier (1876 to 1956) was a French aviator, bicycle and motorcar racer. He won the first Rally Monte Carlo. He set several flying records and designed his own cars based on the Turcat-Méry. 


12. Alberto Santos-Dumont (1873 to 1932) was a French-Brazilian aviator, balloonist, inventor, and airship constructor. He was the first pilot to make a certified controlled flight. 


13. Out of superstition, permit number 13 was not issued. 


14. Orville Wright (1871 to 1948) was an American publisher, bicycle and airplane constructor. 



15. Wilbur Wright (1867 to 1912) was an American editor, bicycle and airplane constructor. Together with his brother Orville he built the first successful airplane and made the first controlled powered and sustained human flight with a heavier-than-air machine. 



Two further honorary permits were issued later in 1909 and received the numbers 5bis and 10bis. They went to Ferdinand Ferber (1862 to 1909), a French army captain and aviator who died when he crashed near Boulogne, and to Paul Tissandier (1881 to 1945), a French balloonist, airship and airplane pilot who was involved in the development of airboats together with Comte Charles de Lambert. After that, the fun was over and all permits had to be acquired by passing an exam.