New Delhi. 28 April. Claude Grahame-White (21 August 1879 – 19 August 1959) was an English pioneer of aviation, and the first to make a night flight, during the Daily Mail-sponsored 1910 London to Manchester air race.
Grahame-White made a historic decision; he would make an unprecedented night flight. Guided by the headlamps of his party’s cars, he took off at 2:50 am. Within minutes of becoming airborne however, he almost crashed; while he was leaning forward to make himself comfortable, his jacket brushed the engine ignition switch and he accidentally turned the engine off, but he quickly corrected his error and was able to continue. Using the lights of railway stations to guide his course through the pitch black night, within 40 minutes he reached Rugby, and at 3:50 am he passed Nuneaton. Despite making good progress, Grahame-White was carrying a large load of fuel and oil, and his engine was not powerful enough to raise the aeroplane over the high ground before him. Disappointed, he landed at Polesworth, about 107 miles (172 km) from London, and only 10 miles (16 km) behind Paulhan. A few minutes later the Frenchman, unaware of Grahame-White’s progress, resumed his journey. He passed Stafford at 4:45 am, Crewe at 5:20 am, and at 5:32 am he landed at Barcicroft Fields near Didsbury, within 5 miles (8 km) of the Manchester office of the Daily Mail, thereby winning the contest.