Rolls-Royce says that at 6.30 pm on 2 June 1910, Charles Stewart Rolls took off solo in a Wright brothers biplane from Swingate aerodrome, near Dover, to achieve the world’s first non-stop double crossing of the English Channel by airplane. His departure was repeatedly frustrated by high winds, fog, or mechanical problems. Finally, conditions were calm and clear. Among the spectators on the cliffs were Rolls’ parents, Lord and Lady Llangattock, and his sister and brother-in-law, Sir John and Lady Shelley. He was in a Wright Flier.
Louis Blériot had stunned the world with the first powered flight from France to England in July 1909. “It is the only time I have succeeded in taking ten gallons of fuel in and out of France without paying duty,” CS Rolls later quipped.
According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, Rolls reached an altitude of 900 feet and a speed of “quite forty miles an hour” as he approached the coast of France. By 7.15 pm, he was flying over the French town of Sangatte, where the present-day Channel Tunnel emerges. Leaning out of his airplane, he threw overboard three weighted envelopes, each containing the message: ‘Greetings to the Auto Club of France…Dropped from a Wright aeroplane crossing from England to France. C. S. Rolls, June 1910. P.S. Vive l’Entente’’
He then turned northward and set a course for the English coast. At 8.00 pm, he was back in Dover where, the Daily Telegraph reported, “the sea front, cliffs and piers were thronged with people, all in the most intense state of excitement.” Rolls rewarded them in typically flamboyant style, by flying in circles around the outer towers of the town’s medieval castle. “I decided that, as I had plenty of petrol and my engines were working splendidly, I would encircle the Castle, although it would lengthen my flight considerably,” he told the Telegraph correspondent. The crowd loved it. Continue reading