French aviator Adolphe Pégoud ranks as one of the best and bravest pilots in history, and he knew how to wow a crowd. On this day in 1913 he introduced a trick that scared even other pioneers of flight—he flew upside down, for an audience at the Juvisy aerodrome outside Paris.
A correspondent described the scene in the September 13, 1913 issue of Flight:
It was at the instance of M. Pégoud that M. Blériot consented to let him try this extraordinary feat. M. Blériot hesitated for a long time, not because he did not think that the monoplane would answer readily enough, and stand the test, but because he had the very natural apprehension that the pilot might lose his nerve when he was upside down, but M. Pégoud felt so sure of himself, and insisted so much that in the end M. Blériot gave way, and had the machine prepared for him.
The New York Times offered this version:
Pégoud prepared a Blériot monoplane fitted with a Gnome engine and advised half a dozen friends of his plan. They did their utmost to dissuade him, but he invited them to witness the performance, and this morning at the Juvisy aerodrome he climbed into the machine and rose. At the moment of his departure he was by far the calmest person present.
He rose to a height of 3,000 feet and then turned the nose of the machine earthward. For 200 feet it fell like a stone. It then turned inward till it was flying on its back, after which it rose perpendicularly upward. Then it completed the circle by regaining its normal flying position, having accomplished an apparent impossibility.
The aviator came again to earth absolutely self-possessed. When he alighted from the machine his first remark was "I wished I had gone another thousand feet up. Then I could have done it twice."