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Plaque memorializing John Moisant at the Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation and Museum at the Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood, California.

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John Moisant crashes into another plane while trying to take off at the start of the Statue of Liberty race during the Belmont Air Show on October 30, 1910. He flew the race in a brand-new plane.

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Excited onlookers cheer as American John Moisant beats Claude Graham-White's time in a race around the Statue of Liberty. Moisant was flying a Blériot monoplane that he had just purchased from Alfred Leblanc for the vast sum of $10,000. He was later disqualified because he had begun the race too late and Graham-White was declared the winner.


John Moisant

John Moisant, a well-known American barnstormer, was born April 25, 1868, in Kankakee, Illinois, and died on December 31, 1910, in New Orleans. He designed and built the first all-metal plane in 1909 and was the first to fly the English Channel with a passenger, on September 6, 1910.

John Moisant was a wealthy plantation owner in El Salavador, and became interested in aviation after watching the 1909 Reims Air Meet in France. He built his own plane, the first plane with an all-metal frame. It flew only a short distance, and Moisant enrolled in Louis Blériot's flying school to learn to fly. After only four lessons, he bought his own Blériot plane, which he used in his flight across the English Channel, carrying his mechanic and a cat.

The next year, he participated in the air meet at Belmont Park, New York. On October 22, the meet's first day, he flew his Blériot monoplane around a balloon 10 miles (16 kilometers) away and returned to the racetrack in only 39 minutes, winning an $850 prize. On the 30th, he competed in the race around the Statute of Liberty. He won the race, beating out Claude Grahame-White, a British aviator, by 42.75 seconds. However, he was later disqualified because officials ruled that he had started late, and never received the $10,000 prize.

After the meet, John and his brother Alfred formed the Moisant International Aviators, a traveling flying circus. The troupe flew in air shows in Richmond, Virginia; Chattanooga and Memphis, Tennessee; Tupelo, Mississippi; and New Orleans.

On December 30, as a special promotion in New Orleans, Moisant raced his Blériot monoplane five miles (eight kilometers) against a Packard automobile, losing by a hair. The next day, as he tried to land at a practice field before competing for the Michelin cup and its $4,000 prize, the plane hit turbulence and went into a nose-dive. Not wearing a seatbelt, Moisant was thrown from the plane. He broke his neck and at the age of 37, died.

After the crash, the property where he crashed was turned into stockyards for cattle and named after him-Moisant Stock Yards. Later, the local airport--Moisant Field--was built on the same site. Renamed New Orleans International Airport in 1962, the airport still uses the code letters "MSY" for Moisant Stock Yards, in honor of John Moisant.