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Narrative:The Aviation Week of Antwerp (Vliegweek van Antwerpen/Semaine d'Aviation d'Anvers) was held from October 23rd to November 2nd 1909. While not the first time that an aircraft had flown in Belgium, it was the first time an event was held in Belgium where multiple aircraft and pilots would hold public flying demonstration to the larger public.
|Tuesday 26 October 1909
|Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 1
|Wilrijkse Pleinen, Antwerpen -
| Take off
Thirteen early aviators agreed to participate in the event. Among them was Jan Olieslagers (1883-1942) who had already gained fame as a racing driver on both two and four wheels, and who had made his first flight at Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France only about a week earlier. As such, his experience as a pilot at the time of the event could be expressed in flying minutes rather than flying hours.
The timing of the event was unfortunate - the aviation week took place in the last week of October, and was marked by generally poor weather, with gusts and rain making flying impossible at times. The first day of the event (October 23rd) had already seen one accident caused by a gust of wind; poor weather made flying impossible on the second day of the event, which also saw one aircraft destroyed on the ground by gusts. On the third day of the event, flights had been performed in front of the gathered crowds by both a dirigible and by Jan Olieslagers flying his Blériot.
Following the successful flights on the previous day, attendance on the fourth day was high, with the public expecting more action. When rain started, the organisers of the event panicked as they feared they would have to reimburse the crowd, so they convinced Jan Olieslagers to fly his aircraft. Despite the other aviators present warning him for high winds, Olieslagers elected to take off anyway.
Olieslagers managed to lift his aircraft off the ground, but after about 50 meters it was caught by a gust. The aircraft hit a tree stump that had been missed while clearing the grounds for the event, causing damage to his propeller and landing gear. Jan Olieslagers escaped without injury, but all flying activities for the remainder of the day were suspended.
Dagblad van Noord Brabant, 27 October 1909
75 jaar luchtvaart Antwerpen, J.D. Ghoos, Uitgeverij De Vlijt, 1984 https://www.thefirstairraces.net/meetings/an0910/events.php https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Olieslagers