Francois Durafour
Contributed by Adam Raines, 10-1-10

via email from Jean-Claude Cailliez, 9-30-04
     Francois Durafour was born in Switzerland on November 11, 1888. In July, 1910, he made his first flight in René Vidart's Hanriot airplane in Rheims, France, without authorization. He had only been mechanic for Vidart. He earned his pilots license on November 11, 1910, (Swiss Licence no.3). He worked for Deperdussin (late 1910). In June, 1911, he was chief-pilot at the Avenches aviation school in Switzerland. In a two seater Dufaux airplane, he performed various aerial feats in the area setting some altitude and duration records. He was the first to fly over the city of Geneva. He established the airfield at Collex-Bossy near Geneva. He won several local prizes and took part in several aviation meetings.
       Beginning in 1912, during a flying tour of Central America, Durafour was the first to fly in Guatemala and San Salvador, using a Deperdussin.
     Returning from Central America, Durafour flew over New York. On August 14, 1912, over Times Square, exactly at the intersection of Broadway and 44th street, the motor of his Borel-Morane stopped, the fuel line having broken. He soon located an ideal landing field, but when he came closer, he discovered it was an amusement park named "The Palisades". It had many power lines which fed the many lights and which made it impossible to land. He quickly chose the limited space between two nearby streets. The event has been reported in New York newspapers.
     Near Lyon, France, Durafour worked on Burlat airplanes & motors in 1913. With great difficulty, he tried to perfect an automatic flight stabilizer in 1914. In August of 1914, he served as a pilot with the twenty first Swiss Air Force, a unit created the first month of World War I. He was in Berlin on July 31, one day before the war erupted, with the objective of bringing back a Schneider 100 HP airplane paid for by Switzerland. He arrived back home on August 1, with the Schneider. It was the only Swiss airplane to fly over Germany during the war !
     During 1916-18, Durafour was a test pilot, first for Bleriot (SPAD), then for Hanriot, in France. He was responsible for delivering the aeroplanes to the units in the war. (1000 airplanes were delivered with only one accident). In May 1919, he made the first commercial flight from Paris to Geneva in a Caudron G3 (mail). He made numerous other flights in Switzerland. He held Commercial Flight transport licence no.509. In June, 1920, he made the first commercial flight with a passenger from Paris to Geneva, in a Sopwith. On July 1921, in a Caudron G-3, he made the first landing and take-off on snow. This was on Mont-Blanc, at an altitude of 4,000 meters, a record which stood for some 30 years.
     Upon leaving aviation full time, (1922-1930), Durafour operated an automobile repair garage and was involved in automobile racing. (In 1934, he flew a Swiss round trip without stop over in Switzerland.) He remained active in aviation, was occasionally seen at air meets and retained his pilot's license until his death. He attended the inauguration of the Annemasse airfield (France) near Geneva (1947). His last position was with the Geneva international airport. François Durafour died on March 15, 1967 at 80 years of age. He was a gentleman, an aviation pioneer and held numerous decorations such as the Légion d'Honneur, Militar medal and Guatemalan medal. A street in Geneva is named in his honor.
     Time is too limited to tell of the complete story of the part Durafour played in the developement of aviation in Switzerland and throughout the world..
Cordially. Jean-Claude Cailliez.
Geneva, Oct.2004.

Francois Durafour
Francois Durafour
Campo de Marte - March 24, 1912
Newspaper announcement courtesy of Juan Manuel Quesada F., 11-23-04

Francois Durafour
Un recuerdo de Aviación en Guatemala
Campo de Marte
Guatemala 24 de Marzo de 1912
Vuelo de Durafour
Tu affmo. Hermano que te quiere
Attilio Nannini
       Te estoy enviando una fotografía del vuelo de Francois Durafour en Guatemala el 24 de marzo de 1912, la más antigua que tengo de aviación y un poco triste para la familia Nannini, pues a Dante se la quiso mandar su hermano Attilio, pero antes de poderla mandar Attilio murió y quien la mandó a Dante, ( Dante Nannini Sandoval),, fue el padre de ambos don Aurelio.
Photo & text courtesy of Juan Manuel Quesada F., 11-23-04

Francois Durafour
A souvenierof Aviation in Guatemala
Aviation The Field of Mars
Guatemala 24 of March of 1912

Flight of Durafour
I affirm to you brother Attilio that I love you

       I am sending you a photograph of the flight of François Durafour in Guatemala the 24 of March of the 1912, oldest one than I have of aviation and a little sad for the Nannini family, because Dante, (Dante Nannini Sandoval),, wanted to send it to his brother Attilio, but before he was able to send it, Attilio died and so Dante sent it to Don Aurelio, their father.
Photo & text courtesy of Juan Manuel Quesada F., 11-23-04
Translation by Babelfish

Legend on the back of the photograph
Dante anotó: "Recebida en San Francisco California el día 26 de Agosto de 1912 en el Consulado de Guatemala. Primer monoplano que voló en la Ciudad de Guatemala. El piloto fue Durafour de fama y nacionalidad Francesa. Guardo este retrato como un recuerdo de mi difunto hermano Attilio."

Dante wrote down: "Received in San Francisco California, August 26, 1912, in the Guatemalan Consulate. The first monoplane that flew in Guatemala City. The pilot was Durafour of the French nationality and fame. I keep this picture in remembrance of my late brother, Attilio."

25 DE MARZO DE 1912
La Nota del Dia
Los Primeros Vuelos en Aeroplano
Francois Durafour
Francois Durafour
Durafour en Guatemala y en su aeroplano Deperdussin. Dicha fotografía la tomé del Diario de Centroamérica.
Durafour in Guatemala in his Deperdussin aeroplane. Top Photograph taken from the Diario de Centroamérica.
Durafour is seated on the ground.
Top Photo courtesy of Juan Manuel Quesada Fernández, 9-17-05
Lower Photo courtesy of Luis Carlos Samayoa Amiel, 7-21-10

  Rodolfo Mendoza Tejada felicita al piloto Francois Durafour
por la condecoracion condedida pro haber sido el primer
piloto en volar en Guatemala, 24 Feb 1962
Rodolfo Mendoza Tejada congratulates the pilot Francois Durafour
for the decoration awarded for having been the first
pilot to fly in Guatemala, 24 Feb 1962
Francois Durafour
     Durafour returned to Guatemala in 1962 for the inauguration of the remodeling of the aerial field of the aurora, during which he was honored. In the photograph above you see him being greeted by my friend, Rodolfo Mendoza Tejada, who gave the photo to me. He is the son of the great Guatemalan pilot (Q.E.P.D,) Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza Azurdia, who was the commander of the Guatemalan Air Force
Photo & caption courtesy of Juan Manuel Quesada Fernández, 11-25-05

Francois Durafour
     I send you another picture of that particular event, unpublished, given to me by F.Durafour's son.
Jean-Claude M. CAILLIEZ
Historien de l'aviation

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