Propellers by the Hundreds

Little Club Puts On Big Air Show

Aircraft on grass airfield (3714bytes) La Ferté-Alais:- Thursday, 16. May 1996:- Exactly a month ago I came across a story in Le Parisien, about the 24th and last air show at Cerny. With a few phone calls, I got an invitation to visit and find out what it was about.

The airport at Cerny-La Ferté is a 1200 metre grass strip with hangers, shops and a bar-restaurant clubhouse on its southern edge. The hangers contain about 70 aircraft, dating from 1909, and except for the ones currently being restored, all of them can be flown - including the 1909 Bleriot XI that made the first cross-channel flight.

All of this is organized around a club, called the 'Amicale J-B Salis.' Jean-Baptiste Salis was born in 1896 and learned to fly in 1912. He was a flying teacher and mechanic during the war and afterwards continued a career in aviation, creating alpine airfields and collecting aircraft and automobiles, for use in film making. In 1940, he 'loaned' his airfield - this airfield at Cerny - to the British and it had the codename 'Biniou.'

In 1946 the airfield was officially licensed, and was used as a base for glider flights. Mr. Salis recommenced collecting, starting with his one remaining Bleriot, and continued preparing aircraft for films as well as constructing the present 'museum' as a replica of a WWI fighter squadron base. His family continued the activities after his death in 1967, and the club, the 'Friends of J-B Salis' was formed in the '70's.

The club, of which the son of the founder, Jean Salis, is president - with its collection of 'classified' antique aircraft - has 320 members and is constantly adding to the collection. The 'museum' is a private association and as such is self-financing - mainly through the receipts of the annual 'meeting' - which barely cover current expenses, and are insufficient for expansion as the collection grows.

The coming Pentecôte weekend (Whitsun) - the 25. And 26. May - will see the 24th annual 'Meeting' and it will be the last - for success has outdone it. Over the two days, the space available for all who wish to attend, is not sufficient. After this year's 'Meeting,' air shows at Cerny will become a series of individual theme shows.

Actually, this coming 'Meeting' weekend begins Wednesday, 22. May, with the aircraft - both the collection and visiting - on static display. On Saturday, flights will begin with single aircraft or in groups, at seven minute intervals, from 9:00 to 18:30, and this will continue throughout Sunday.

Today I was greeted by Philippe van der Hoeven and treated to lunch in the 'Crew Bar-Restaurant,' which serves an extremely copious 'prix-fixe' for 120 francs and would be a good place for lunch even without the airplanes. The decor is also worth a visit to see, with pilot caps, badges, and lots of photos.

Old Boeing under repair (14k) Afterwards we took a tour of the hangers. This is definitely for fans of aircraft with propellers! With my own hand I touched the first airplane to fly across the channel. Yes. You have to watch your head so you don't get it snagged in the various wires holding some of these machines together, or whacked by a propeller.

While some of the WWI aircraft are replicas - two Fokker DR-1 triwings - there is an original Spad XIII, which is real and flyable. This could be like a goofball list for nuts: a Caudron G III dating to 1914, the first plane to fly across the Andes, in 1921; which also was set down on the roof of the Galeries Lafayette, on purpose, in 1919 by Jules Védrines. There is the 1917 Morane AI, piloted by Fronval in 1928 that set a world record for looping, by doing 1,111 in five hours. There are hangers full of this stuff!

There is a very nice and like-new 1939 WWII Corsair F4, capable of 650 kph. I should note here again that Cerny's field is grass, and except for two aircraft, both jets, all the planes can operate from this field. There is one other jet, a Czech fighter, than can use the grass strip to take off and land. The club also has a B-17 'Flying Fortress.' It is too big for Cerny so it is based at Orly, but it will flying over during the 'Meeting.'
GeeBee cartoon This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jean-Baptiste Salis and the 50th of Cerny. For the occasion, the 'guest star' of this year's show will be a Gee Bee Model R Super Sporster - a replica built from the original plans, with the same materials and engine - from the United States. The flights at this show will be the Gee Bee's first in Europe - ever. Additionally, there will be about 150 other airplanes visiting Cerny from around Europe and they will also be on show.
In case you can't attend the 'Meeting' - you can see some of the these airplanes in movies such as 'The Longest Day' and the first 'Indiana Jones,' and about 78 other films.

L'Age d'Or des Hélices - The Golden Age of Propellers

Information about the events:

Fees and Charges:
AJBS Aircraft Collection - 22.-24. May
Adults, 25F; children 6-14, 10F - free parking.

Flying Display - 25 and 26. May
Adults, 100F (the 2 days - 160F); children 6-14, 30F. Group rate, 15 persons or more, 80F per person. Visitor's stand seats, 50F extra. Camping - on-site, extra charge:

-Camping-car or caravan, 70F; two days or more, 100F. -Camping site, per unit, 50F; two days or more, 80F.

Tickets can be ordered by phone: (33-1) 64 57 60 00. Also available at airfield shop, plus at tickets agencies in Paris: fnac, Virgin Megastore, Carrefour and Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann.

By road, from Paris, take autoroute A6, direction Orléans-Bordeaux-Etampes - follow green sign to Etampes (RN20) to second exit at Arpajon and from there follow the signs for La Ferté-Alais. Just before La Ferté-Alais, turn right. This turn is well-marked. The road to the airfield is two-lane, so it is best to arrive as early as possible.

By SNCF, from the stations La Ferté-Alais (with RER -'D' - 2 km from airfield), Bouray (6 km from airfield) or Etampes (18 km from airfield).

By air; private plane - airport Etampes-Mondésir; by helicopter, make reservation at least three days in advance.

Hotels - the club 'Amicale J-B Salis' has a list of one to four-star hotels in the area and will furnish a list upon request. This also applies to restaurants.

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