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23rd of September 1913

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

Charles Lindbergh, Emilia Earhart, Wilbur & Orville Wright, names in aviation history we all heard about. But what about Roland Garros (1888 - 1918). We might know the name from a tennis tournament in France once a year. Far less known is the fact that he was a true aviation pioneer. A 108 years ago on this day, he became the first pilot to fly across the Mediterranean Sea.

at 5.47 in the morning, Garros departed Fréjus, Côte d’Azur, France. and headed for Tunisia. He would land 7 hours and 53 minutes later in Bizerte, Tunisia.

A flight distance of 408 nm (756 km) Reportedly after he was carrying fuel for an approximately 8-hour flight. It is said that just over a gallon of fuel (~5 litres) remained after landing, Minimum fuel requirements were slightly different in those days.

After landing, and refuelling, he flew on to Kassar Said Aerodrome, where his plane, a Morane-Saulnier, was disassembled and shipped back to France

The aircraft he was flying was a two-seat, Roland G. Garros standing in the cockpit monoplane, a Morane-Saulnier G. of his Morane-Saulnier G at Bizerte, Tunisia

The aircraft structure was wood, covered in fabric. Roll control of the aircraft was achieved by wing-warping. Wing-warping was invented and patented by the Wright Brothers, with a series of cables and pulleys they twisted the trailing edge of the wings in opposite directions. The instrumentation on the aircraft was very basic, it consisted of an RPM indicator, a barograph and a compass.

The route flown on the 23rd of September 1913

The Morane-Saulnier G was a popular type of aircraft in its days and successful in several competitions;

  • April 1913, Roland Garros becomes second in the very first Schneider Cup. Flying a floatplane version

  • June 1913, another floatplane version was flown between Paris and London via Le Havre and Dover.

  • September 1913, two float-equipped versions participate in a seaplane meeting, one would win a short take-off prize while the other wins an award for manoeuvrability.

  • October 1013, Garros wins the Grand Prize at the Lake Como to Pavia (Italy) seaplane competition but also highest speed prize 69 knots (128 kph) and the highest altitude prize 6000 ft (1800 meters)

Some basic specifications for the Morane-Saulnier G; General characteristics

  • Crew: one pilot

  • Capacity: one passenger

  • Length: 6.30 m (20 ft 8 in)

  • Wingspan: 9.20 m (30 ft 2 in)

  • Wing area: 16 m2 (172 sq ft)

  • Empty weight: 95 kg (208 lb)

  • Gross weight: 370 kg (815 lb)

  • Powerplant: 1 × Gnome , 60 kW (80 hp)


  • Maximum speed: 123 km/h (76 mph, 66 kn)

  • Rate of climb: 1.8 m/s (345 ft/min)

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