Ernest Failloubaz

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Ernst Failloubaz
Ernest Failloubaz ~1910.jpg
Ernest Failloubaz
Born (1892-07-27)27 July 1892
Avenches, Switzerland
Died 14 May 1919(1919-05-14) (aged 26)
Lausanne, Switzerland
Nationality Swiss
Occupation Pilot, investor, entrepreneur
Known for Pilot's brevet number 1 issued in Switzerland on October 1, 1910
Most prominent Swiss aviatic pioneer

Ernest Failloubaz (27 July 1892 in Avenches – 14 May 1919 in Lausanne) was a Swiss aviation pioneer. He received the pilot's brevet number 1 issued in Switzerland on 11 October 1910, and Failloubaz did the first flight in Switzerland of an aircraft built and flown by Swiss citizen.


Ernest Failloubaz' father Jules, a rich wine merchant, died when Ernest was four years old. Six years later his mother Emilie died, too. His grandmother and aunt, who owned the local bakery, then took care of him. As a child, Ernest was already passionate about mechanics and speed and convinced his grandmother to buy him probably one of the first motorcycles in Switzerland, later an automobile.[1]

Beginning of the Swiss Aviation[edit]

In early 1909, at the age of 17, Failloubaz met René Grandjean who planned to build his own aircraft, using only a picture of Louis Blériot's aircraft. Due to Grandjean's inventiveness and craftsman qualities, they completed this first aircraft in October 1909. The ground tests started in February 1910 at the l’Estivage field in Avenches. What is recognized as of today as being the starting point of the Swiss aviation, happened on 10 May 1910: Ernest Failloubaz piloted the machine, took off, flies and landed smoothly, resulting in the first flight in Switzerland of an aircraft built and flown by a Swiss citizen. René Grandjean succeeded a few days after his friend's first flight. Failloubaz went to Paris at end of May 1910 to buy a Santos-Dumont Demoiselle and brought it immediately back to Avenches where he trained daily. A few months later, having reached the limits of the Demoiselle, he bought the more powerful Blériot monoplane to allow him flying higher and longer.

With this aircraft Failloubaz participated at the flight meeting in Viry, Haute-Savoie, in August 1910 and dared what no one else had ever attempted before: Stopping the engine in flight, gliding and restarting his engine. On 28 September 1910, he succeeded in the first city-to-city flight in Switzerland from Avenches to Payerne, lasting six minutes.

Failloubaz and René Grandjean at the first Swiss flight meeting in Avenches
Ernest Failloubaz (pilot) and Gustave Lecoultre (observer) demonstrating the Dufaux 5 to the Swiss Army from 4 to 6 September 1911

On 2 October Failloubaz participated at the first Swiss flight meeting in Avenches. From October 8 to 10, at the Bern meeting, he succeeded again: A flight of 58 minutes and 17 seconds was a new record.[1]

On 1 October 1910 Failloubaz obtained the Swiss pilot's licence number 1 (number 2 was issued to Emile Taddéoli) with the congratulations from the Confederation’s president and a gold watch inscripted "The Swiss Confederation to Ernest Failloubaz. Licence No 1 October 1910."[1][2] The same day, the first Swiss airport and the first pilot school was inaugurated in Avenches.

In January 1911 Failloubaz received his new aircraft from Armand Dufaux, a Dufaux 5 biplane, later he acquired the licence to build it in Switzerland as Failloubaz-Licence Dufaux. On 11 May 1911, the airport company and flying school of Avenches is constituted, Failloubaz being the main financier. From 4 to 6 September 1911 Failloubaz participated as pilot (his friend Gustave Lecoultre as observer) to an exercise with the 1st Swiss Army Corps and demonstrated the military possibilities of aircraft with his Dufaux 5; the beginning of the military aviation in Switzerland.

On 1 October 1911 15,000 visitors enthusiastically followed Failloubaz' exploits at the flight meeting in Avenches. Guided by counselors, Failloubaz invested all his money in the first Swiss flight school, an aircraft production facility and the airport in Avenches. Everything and everyone was pushing him forward, he was everywhere, he paid all, got tired, exhausted. The money started to be missing, politicians who had supported Failloubaz began to abandon him, bankruptcy followed and Failloubaz was wrecked. At the beginning of World War I, he failed the medical examination for future military pilots. Although he was director of the new airport in Dübendorf, since October 1913 Failloubaz had no aircraft of his own and nobody wanted to lend him one.[1]

On 28 April 1916 Failloubaz had not flown for 30 months, he visited l’Estivage airfield one last time when Marcel Pasche landed with a brand new Blériot. Pasche didn’t hesitate, and Failloubaz did in the evening for what was the last flight of the first and most legendary Swiss pilot.[1] At the age of 26, Failloubaz died in the cantonal hospital of Lausanne on Tuberculosis.


In 1942, a monument in memory of Ernest Failloubaz was erected in Avenches, in 1960 a second one by the Swiss government at the Swiss Air Force airport in Payerne.

Failloubaz is commemorated in a Swiss postage stamp issued on 4 March 2010, to celebrate 100 years aviation in Switzerland.[3]


External links[edit]