Ernest Failloubaz

Ernest FailloubazErnest Failloubaz is born in Avenches on the 27th of July 1892. His father, a rich wine-merchant, dies when Ernest is only four years old. His mother will suddenly pass away six years later. Ernest inherits a considerable fortune, freely available to him when reaching his majority. His grandmother and aunt, who own and run the local bakery, are now taking care of him. As a kid, Ernest is rather weak and sweet but already passionate about mechanics and speed. One day he hears about a bike driven by an engine, he digs into everything he can find on the subject and succeeds in convincing his grand mother to buy him probably one of the first motor-cycle in the country. "Thanks to his motor-cycle, he has solved the mystery of the new power. It has freed him from his hang-ups opening fabulous horizon."™ Shortly thereafter his grand mother is solicited again; Ernest wants a car this time !

10th of May 1910, the first flight !

Ernest FailloubazEarly 1909, Failloubaz is 16 years old. As often, a destiny will be changed by a meeting. The meeting with René Grandjean will play a prominent part in the future of our first pilot. "Immediately and irresistibly, the teenager is attracted towards the young man who, patiently, piece by piece, is trying to build the extraordinary vehicle he is dreaming himself of." Grandjean will reach his goal, using only a picture of Blériot’s aircraft and thanks to his inventiveness and craftsman qualities, he completes his first flying machine in October 1909. The ground tests starts in February 1910 at l’Estivage ground in Avenches, and, what is recognized today as being the starting point of the Swiss aviation, will happen shortly thereafter. 10th of May 1910, Ernest Failloubaz is at the controls, he taxies, takes speed, takes off, flies and lands smoothly. That’s the first flight in Switzerland of an aircraft built and flown by Swiss Citizen. "He is simply flying, at the first time, at sixteen, without having ever learned and by simple deduction from personal observation… Failloubaz is flying !"™


His own aircraft

Now Failloubaz knows he can fly, Grandjean did "break wood" attempting to fly himself few days after his friend’s success. Failloubaz has no more aircraft to train on. He goes to Paris end of May 1910 to buy a Demoiselle Santos-Dumont and bring it immediately back to Avenches where he trains daily. Few months later, having reached the limits of the Demoiselle, he goes back to Paris to buy a Blériot, a more powerful aircraft to allow him flying higher and longer. With this aircraft he participates at the Viry meeting in Haute Savoie in August and makes a triumph. "He dares what no one else has ever attempted, voluntary stopping the engine in flight, gliding and restarting his engine. The ecstatic crowd acclaims the flying-kid from Avenches."™ 28th of September 1910 he succeeds in the first city to city flight in Switzerland, from Avenches to Payerne.

10th of October 1910, the Swiss pilot licence number 1

From the 8th to the 10th of October 1910, Failloubaz participates at the Bern meeting, he again makes a triumph and beats the record of duration with a flight of 58 minutes and 17 seconds ! Above all he obtains the Swiss pilot licence number 1 with the congratulations from the Confederation’s President and the trophy of the trophy, a gold watch with the following inscription, "The Swiss Confederation to Ernest Failloubaz. Licence No 1 October 1910."

1911, the pinacle

Ernest FailloubazIn January 1911 Failloubaz receives a new aircraft, a biplane Dufaux, later he buys the licence to build in Switzerland the biplane Failloubaz-Licence Dufaux. 11th of May 1911, the airport company and flying school of Avenches is definitely constituted, Failloubaz being the main financier. In September he participates as pilot to an exercise with the first army corps and early October 15'000 persons follow enthusiastically his exploits at the Avenches meeting. "In 18 months he has conquered everything, the sky first, the first licence then, the popularity and love from the people. With his own aircraft he has opened the way, deployed the wings of the army and the Confederation, supreme authority, has honored him."™

"He had won the precursor phase, the most beautiful. The one which demands blind faith, enthusiasm, unshakable confidence, fierce will, spirit of sacrifice and clear soul… the one where one creates, where one gives."™



The downfall

"For a little more time the dream of bigness will be pursued, Failloubaz is guided by his counselors and they see big, furthermore he can’t step back, everything is pushing him forward, he is everywhere, he pays everywhere, he gets tired, exhausted."™ The money starts to be missing, Failloubaz is little by little abandoned including by the local politicians.. The collapse is near, and then bankruptcy is here, he is wrecked. The coming war will not help, Failloubaz fails the medical examination for the future military pilots, the disease had started its work."

The last flight of the first Swiss pilot

Since October 1913 Failloubaz has no more aircraft, he has always given everything but can hardly ask anything. Nobody wants to lend him one, too scared to hurt his feelings. 28th of April 1916, Failloubaz has not flown for 30 months, he visits one last time l’Estivage, Marcel Pasche has just landed with a brand new Blériot… they speak to each other, Pasche doesn’t hesitate a second… Failloubaz takes off in the evening for what will be the last flight of the first and most legendary Swiss pilot.

Sad end

The first Swiss pilot has passed away on the 14th of May 1919 at age 26 in the cantonal hospital of Lausanne. There will be only two persons to see him off to his last home. "The story of the little Failloub is over. A miserable end, shameful, cruel, unworthy, inhuman."™

Late tribute

Ernest FailloubazIn 1942 only, will a monument in memory of the hero be erected in Avenches. Then, in 1960 a public demonstration is organized to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Swiss flights but above all to do justice and repair…

"He will always remain a legendary man."™

™(Extract from the book Pilote nº 1 ou le gamin volant. Henry Sarraz.)





Partager / Share |