19th Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett - Cleveland (USA) 1930

 Start: Cleveland/Ohio, September 1st.         

From the Book: Die Gordon Bennett Ballon Rennen
(The Gordon Bennett Races) by Ulrich Hohmann Sr

The number of balloons nominated for the participation was always very different. Before World War II, there were always less balloons, if the race was in the United States than if the race was in Europe, if we don’t count the year 1927 with 15 balloons in Detroit. Only six balloons had shown up in Kansas City in 1911, this was till now the smallest number. Now, in the year 1930, this minus -record is met again. Of course there are high costs for the journey. But since the modern steamers EUROPA and BREMEN had been put to regular service in August 1928, the travel was quite comfortable. But other reasons play an important role.

One month after the launch in the previous year, the share prices at the New York stock market had a break down like never before. Within six days, the so-called "black days of Wall street", the total loss reached about 50 billion Dollars. The world economic crisis had begun and spread its influence to the last corner of the industrialised world. Especially in unstable Germany the results could not be foreseen. Bankruptcy of companies became more and more and still in January 1930 3.218 millions of unemployed were counted, a new record. The "Young Plan", regulating the reparations of the "Reich" after the last war, was short of passing the convention of Den Haag. According to this plan, the "German Reich" would have to pay 116 billions of Marks in 59 yearly instalments until 1988. This plan created a hard struggle among the political parties, and finally lead to the dissolving of the "Reichstag" and new elections in September 1930, showing an enormous rush to nationalism. Hitler's Nazi-party NSDAP, having 12 delegates in the old "Reichtag", now wins 107 mandates! – England had to face in those days an uprising in India, which broke out after the arresting of Ghandi and finally found a (temporary) end by changing the crown colony to a dominion. France and Belgium left the German Rhine provinces, they had occupied, for Germany a bright spot in dark times, but for France and Belgium a loss of prosperity.

In sports, Max Schelling became world-champion in boxing versus Jack Sharkey, the world-championship in soccer was won by Uruguay 4 : 2 against Argentina. In Paris, French Dieudenne Costes starts on September 2nd 1930 with a single engine airplane for an Atlantic crossing on the Lindbergh route in the opposite direction and reaches New York after 37 hours and 18 minutes. In Rorschach on the Bodensee the aircraft factory of Dornier prepares the maiden flight of the biggest plane ever built till then, the Do X. This flight to Amsterdam takes place on November 2nd, 1930. This flying boat had been finished in July 1929 after two and a half year of construction, powered by 12 engines with 500 h.p. each (second version 558 h.p.) 100 passengers can be transported on three decks with a cruising speed of 176 kilometres an hour. With this plane, the aircraft versus airship struggle in civil aviation began, which ended in the catastrophe of the airship HINDENBURG in Lakehurst on may 6th, 1937.

That was the outer frame, in which three teams from Europe had to face the three superior US teams in the Gordon Bennett Race in Cleveland/Ohio. Demuyter from Belgium had the most experience, he took part for the 12th time. His co-pilot from 1923 and 1924 Coeckelberg had found the way back to him. Dr. Hugo Kaulen could leave the addition "junior" to his name, his father had flown his last race for Germany in 1928, the son took part for the fourth time this year. His co-pilot Carl Götze was new among the Gordon Bennett pilots, we will hear from him again in the years from 1934 on. Then he’ll meet again French Boitard, who is also on his first race in 1930.

And what’s about the Americans? Ward T. van Orman was the favourite. For the 7th time at a Gordon Bennett Race, already two times winner, the same co-pilot as the year before and supplied with the super balloon GOODYEAR VIII. Something extraordinary had to happen, to keep them away from a place in front. Hill and Schlosser also were not inexperienced, they had won the race 1927 as newcomers. Blair/Trotter were nominated for the first time, so little was known about them.

From the race itself few reports are known. Even aviation magazines did not take any notice from the flight. Launch was on a Monday in Montag in Cleveland/Ohio on the south shore of Lake Erie. Heading was straight east, the speed not very high. (Average of the winner: 31 kilometres an hour). Flying across Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut Ward T. van Orman reached Norfolk in Massachusetts, a little town close to Boston (not to be mixed with Norfolk in Virginia). Ernest Demuyter destroyed a triple triumph of the Americans like the year before. Still more than 150 kilometres less than the winner, but clearly 50 kilometres more than the third place, he landed in the western part of Massachusetts and was ranked second. Seeing these clear differences in the distance, it is hard to understand, that discussions came up about Demuyters second place. Demuyter was accused, having accepted illegal help from the ground. First, when his trail-rope had caught in a tree, a farmer should have taken it out. A more severe accusation, leading to a protest, concerned the fact, that Demuyter had totally used up his ballast at the end of the flight and could not keep the balloon aloft anymore. So co-pilot Coeckelberg was ordered by Demuyters, to leave the basket, to make the balloon lighter. But even the drop off of Coeckelberg did not help much, the final landing happened soon after. Coeckelberg survived the jump from the basket and returned to the launch field together with Demuyter.

The USA had won the cup for the second time in a row in the period of the third cup. Another victory in 1931, and also this cup would have become to their possession, in the shortest time possible. A total of nine victories, five of them in the last five races, the superiority of the Americans in those days can’t be documented more clearly. Who wanted to face them? Or, as another question: Who of the Europeans was prepared in a time of economic suffer, to spend much time and money for a race in America, if there was no chance, to win against this superiority? The Gordon Bennett Races needed a break. For 1931, except those three from America, no further nominations were entered. A race among themselves was not the intention of the Americans. So they gave back the host of the race to the F.A.I.. 1931 was the second interruption in the history of these races.

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Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett

The Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett is the most prestigious event in aviation and the ultimate challenge for the balloon pilots and their equipment.