Michelin and planes: one hundred years of passion
In 1916 planes took off from paved runways for the first time. It happened in Aulnat, the current site of Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne airport. Today, we are celebrating 100 years of a landmark in Michelin’s history, testimony to the pioneering passion of its founders, André and Edouard, for aviation.
1st air strip with a hard surface : airport of Clermont-Ferrand - 1916
Michelin’s involvement in the conquest of the skies dates back to the beginning of last century. In 1908, Edouard and André set up the Aviation Grand Prize to encourage development of a technology they believed to be vital. From 1914, the company offered its services to the French government, designing and building several hundred planes. In 1916, it purchased land in Aulnat a few kilometres from Clermont-Ferrand, where a flying school, hangars and the first paved runway in the world were built.
For pilots, taking off from beaten earth runways was difficult, particularly in the rain. The wheels would spray mud on the propellers which then impeded their function. Various solutions like adding a mudguard were tested without much success. Edouard Michelin had the idea to build a concrete runway 400 metres long and 20 metres wide. The Aulnat runway became the world’s first real aviation runway.
This passion continues to this day. The Michelin group continues to mobilise its innovations for the benefit of aviation. The latest is the NZG tire (Near Zero Growth), the first radial tyre designed for jumbo jets.
Taking off of a MICHELIN Bréguet on the hard surface track of Aulnat (1916) - Statue of a Bréguet IV Aulnat airport (2016)
Until 31st August, the Michelin Adventure is hosting a special exhibition dedicated to Michelin and aviation.
Michelin Adventure website : www.laventuremichelin.com