Landing in the heart of Paris

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He was born in Paris in 1933, although he did so without a name. October 7 of that year was the first day of flights for a company resulting from the merger of five independent airlines. These were not at their best: the economic crash of 1929 was still underway and commercial aviation was still consolidating. The main business at that time was the transport of postal items, the passenger transport began and, even so, some subsidies were necessary so that aerial adventures could take on a certain height.

Pierre Cot, Air Minister of the Third Republic for the Republican, Radical and Radical Socialist Party, was behind the creation of a strong national company, with 25% in the hands of the State and piloted by Louis Allègre, a submarine commander turned manager. high-flying. In a meeting with the media held weeks before the start of operations, the sailor acknowledged that they had not yet thought about what name to give the company, and asked journalists for suggestions. He won the idea of ​​Georges Raffalovich, of The newspaper :“call her air France ”, suggested the journalist and aviator. And so it was: that name, as international as it was simple, remained forever and became, over time, the symbol of grandeur French in heaven.

In 1919 the aviator Jules Védrines accepted the challenge and performed an extreme maneuver on the roof of the Galeries Lafayette.

“We are a very special aeronautical company. We have always wanted to be pioneers, to be ahead, to have the best technology at all times and always, always, maintain elegance..., and we are Air France, the symbol of a country," he told The vanguard on Wednesday Anne Rigail, general director of the airline during the first 90th anniversary party of the company she has piloted since 2018. The event was organized in another of the symbols of France: the legendary Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Hausmann in Paris, Opened as a small store in 1894 and today they are the largest department store in Europe.

Rigail is the big boss of the company, although she has two figures above her in the organizational chart who were also present at the celebration: Anne-Marie Couderc, former Minister of Labor under Alain Juppé and Jacques Chirac, who is today president of the board of directors of Air France-KLM, and Benjamin Smith, CEO of the Franco-Dutch airline group born in 2004 from the integration of the French airline with the oldest company in the world: KLM. This was born in 1919, times of aviation still in its infancy. In the same way that Rigail is the first woman in the position, Smith is the first non-European to occupy that position in both companies: he is Canadian, he recognizes himself as a true airplane enthusiast and loves to talk about everything that flies, with the singularity that he is the one who decides the models that will fly in the two companies, such as the order for fifty intercontinental Airbus A350s this week. Both managers have in common an extraordinarily friendly and close relationship with the media, an attitude reminiscent of their predecessor, who left it in the hands of journalists to find a catchy name for the French company.

The aviator Raffalovich, who can be considered the father of the brand, was one of the pioneers of an aviation that was more exhibition and innovative discipline than business. What did move money were the shows, bets and challenges around the first airplanes and their pilots, true adventurers. One of them was Jules Védrines, the first aviator to exceed 100 miles per hour and who in 1919 accepted the challenge of the gallery owners: to land his plane on the roof of the department store next to the Opera Garnier in exchange for 25,000. Franks. He achieved it with a Caudron G3. He stopped it just inches from a railing that could have turned the exhibition into a tragedy. That extreme landing increased his fame, although it also made him the first aerial offender in the history of aviation, as he failed to comply with the order prohibiting overflight of the city by the Paris police. Védrines was not reprimanded, although he was not able to enjoy the generous prize either, since he died after three months flying to Rome.

Time diluted this aeronautical history in the heart of Paris and these weeks the Lafayettes are recovering it with an exhibition of the French airline in honor of its 90 years, exhibiting its legendary elegance and that grandeur that they have always worn with pride.

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