Saturday
Feb082014

January 7, 1911 - Didier Masson

Didier Masson (1886-1950)                   1910 Curtiss-Willard Banshee Express, renamed "Pegasus" in 1911 

It  had been  slightly  more than  seven years  since the  Wright  Brothers  flew the world's first powered  flight  at  Kitty Hawk  when a daring  young  barnstorming  pilot  attempted  the  first commercial  flight  in  the  country  by flying from  Los Angeles  to  San  Bernardino  with his unique cargo.

Didier Masson, a French pilot, took off from Los Angeles at 7:05 AM on January 7, 1911, with several bundles of the Los Angeles Times strapped to the wings of his biplane.  The plane, renamed "Pegasus", was the 1910 Curtiss-Willard Banshee and was powered by an eight cylinder, 50 horsepower Hall-Scott engine. 

Masson was to stop in Pomona on his way to San Bernardino.  However, the pilot got lost and running low on fuel landed in a field near Cucamonga.  Masson got a ride to Pomona where he picked up his ground crew and returned to his biplane.  After refueling and repairing the landing gear, Masson took off and headed east.  He landed at 12:40 PM at Association Park, located off Mill Street between Waterman and Tippiecanoe.

After lunch at the Elks Club, Masson planned to put on a brief aerobatics show at San Bernardino and then fly back to Pomona for a second performance.  Unfortunately, he crashed on takeoff.  Masson was uninjured, but his airplane was damaged and the pilot never returned to Pomona.  

Masson may have arrived several hours later than expected, but he achieved an aeronautical first when he landed in San Bernardino with his cargo of newspapers.  Masson went on to fly as a mercenary in the Mexican Revolution and then in the Lafayette Escadrille during World War I.