Thursday 2nd June 1910
The Hon Charles Rolls (32), joint founder of Rolls-Royce Ltd, made the first non-stop double crossing of the English Channel by plane. Rolls left Swingate Aerodrome in his French-built Wright Flyer bi-plane at 18.30. He was over Sangatte, France, at 19.15, where he dropped a message to the French Aero Club, and back in Dover at 20.00. The journey took 95 minutes and he circled the Castle in triumph! Over 3,000 people witnessed the event, after which Charles was carried through the town shoulder high. In the wake of his triumph, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Aero Club. He had resigned as managing director of Rolls Royce the previous year to publicise flying as previously he had promoted motor cars. He was characteristically determined and thorough. He began with gliders and worked his way up to powered flight. He was the first British airman to fly more than half a mile. he continued his tests and trials increasing the duration of his flights and before the end of 1909 stayed up for 48 minutes. In 1910 the Royal Aero Club issued pilots licences, Rolls was given No. 2. No. 1 went to Lord Babazan of Tara. On 12th July, 1910, he took part in the flying competition at Bournemouth, which was celebrating its centenary, in his French made Wright plane in which he had crossed the channel, but modified by the addition of a new tail plane. The plane had to be flown in a circuit and land as near as possible to the centre of a circle 100 yard in diameter. At his first attempt he landed 78 from the centre, not satisfied he decided to have another try, although the wind was freshening. When his turn came he approached the target but came down at too steep an angle. Part of the airframe broke, the plane dived into the ground from a height of 70 feet, he was killed instantly. He was the first British aviator to die in a plane crash.