It was this day, 110 years ago that Charles Stewart Rolls took off on a solo flight in his rickety biplane to achieve the world’s first non-stop double crossing of the English Channel by aeroplane. Rolls-Royce, co-founded by Rolls along with Sir Henry Royce, marked the day by releasing a few images of the aviation pioneer.
After putting off his flight for over a week due to high winds, fog and mechanical problems, Rolls finally managed to take off at 6:30pm on June 2, 1910. According to reports from the time, Rolls reached an altitude of 900 feet and a speed of “quite forty miles an hour” as he approached the coast of France. By 7.15 pm, he was flying over the small French town of Sangatte, where the present-day Channel Tunnel emerges. Here, he threw overboard three weighted envelopes, each containing the message: ‘Greetings to the Auto Club of France…Dropped from a Wright aeroplane crossing from England to France. C. S. Rolls, June 1910. P.S. Vive l’Entente’’
At 8.00 pm, he was back in Dover where he entertained the waiting crowd by flying in circles around the outer towers of the town’s medieval castle. The 95-minute flight made Rolls the first Englishman to fly an aeroplane across the English Channel, and the first aviator ever to fly non-stop from England to France and back again.
Tragically, Rolls met his death just a month after his cross-Channel feat, on 12 July 1910, when the tail-piece of his aircraft broke off it plunged to the ground from a height of 100 feet. He was just a few weeks away from his 33rd birthday.
“Charles Rolls combined a fine technical mind with a bold, adventurous spirit; it is no wonder that aviation and motoring held such powerful, almost magical attractions for him. He was a true pioneer in both fields, instrumental in the development of aeroplanes and motor cars with his record-breaking feats,” says Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “It seems particularly appropriate to remember his remarkable flight this year. Apart from the historical significance of the 110th anniversary, it comes at a time when we still face severe restrictions on our freedom to travel and explore. It encourages us to keep looking outwards, over the horizon, and dreaming of adventures we’ll take in the future – a reminder that anything is possible,” he adds.