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John Bevins Moisant

John Moisant introduced Harriet Quimby to flying at the Belmont Park Aviation Meet in New York, October 1910.  Widely believed to have been the man who taught Harriet how to fly, this has proved to be not the case; John Moisant was killed in a flying accident in New Orleans on New Year's Eve, 1910 and so could not have taught the art of flying to Miss Quimby.  Instead, it is now believed that his brother Alfred taught her how to fly, at the same time giving instruction to his own sister, Matilde.

 John Moisant landed at the village of Tilmanstone, some 8 miles from the English Channel port of Dover, as part of his famous Paris – London flight in 1910, and his brother Alfred is believed to have owned an aircraft hangar in the village which he used in 1911.  The choice of Whitfield from which Harriet flew on her April 1912 flight across the Channel reflects both the proximity of the airstrip to both the English coastline and the hangar at Tilmanstone.  Whilst the site of the Whitfield airstrip is known through a contemporary map (just off what is now Archers Court Road), the exact location of the Tilmanstone landing strip and/or hangar cannot be pinpointed and remains a matter of local conjecture.

Local folklore has it that his famous cat, called "Mademoiselle Fifi" but more intimately simply as "Paree" was brought over from France on his flight to London and left with the owners of the house at Tilmanstone where he stayed; there is a contemporary photograph showing the cat, and it does look like the cat of Mademoiselle Fifi standing on Moisant's shoulder.  This can never be proved, but is a lovely story in its own right.

John Moisant was once remembered in New Orleans as the International Airport there was once called Moisant International Airport; it has now been renamed Louis Armstrong International Airport but still retains its original 3-letter identification code of MSY, which stands for Moisant Stock Yards, where he and his brothers built their own (largely unsuccessful) aeroplanes.


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