A new altitude record in 1910 — First Flight Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin

Today, the First Flight Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers when Henri Wynmalen set a new height record in an open-air biplane 108 years ago.

On October 2, 1910, the New York Tribune reported on the new aviation height record:


Suffered Much From Cold

Wynmalen Forced to Plane 9,121 Feet to Earth.

Mourmelon. France. Oct. 1.— Henri Wynmalen, the aviator, established a new world’s record for altitude today, rising to a height of 9,121 feet.

The earlier best mark, of 8,409 feet, was made by the late George Chavez.

Wynmalen rose until his motor failed him and then made a perilous descent.

He suffered intensely, and his exciting experience was similar to that of Leon Morane, who on September 3 ascended 8,271 feet, establishing a record that stood until it was eclipsed by Chavez.

Wynmalen started at 6:28 o’clock and warmed up by circling the aerodrome several times, testing his engine. When everything was working shipshape he gradually rose in a spiral course.

At an altitude of 2,500 meters he encountered biting cold. His ears and fingers were numbed by an icy gale that slashed his face and checked and at times drove back the machine.

Nevertheless, the aviator continued the struggle upward. At a height of 2,780 meters (9,121 feet) the motor stopped and there was nothing left for Wynmalen to do but to plane down to the earth.

This was accomplished in thirteen minutes, but the descent required a battle with a wind which threatened to dash the biplane to the ground.

The airman landed safely, but was thoroughly exhausted. An examination showed that the carburetor had been frozen at the great altitude, thus crippling the power of the machine.

The flight was official and the record will stand.

Henri Wynmalen is a newcomer in the world of aviation. He first attracted international attention on September 29, when at Bourg he rose to a height of 7,956 feet. It is notable that the most sensational feats of aviation recently have been accomplished by comparatively unknown aeronauts.

The altitude record now to the credit of Wynmalen was held successively by Leon Morane and George Chavez, the Peruvian aviator, who was fatally injured after his flight over the Alps and died last Wednesday.

Wynmalen was born In Holland in 1850. He secured an aviation pilot’s license only last month.


Another short article in the October 5 New York Tribune showed an even greater height officially recorded for Wynmalen:


Aero Altitude Record

Henri Wynmalen Reaches a Height of 9,186 Feet.

Paris, Oct. 4.— The new world’s record for altitude in an aeroplane, recently established by Henri Wynmalen at Mourmelon, has been officially recognized by the Aero Club of France.

The new figures are a shade better than those originally given out as Wynmalen is now accredited with having reached an altitude of 2,800 meters, or 9,186 feet.


The First Flight Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin reverse shows with an image of Henri Wynmalen in an airplane, circa 1900.

First Flight Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin reverse