Jacques de Lesseps
2001

Pilot

Son of the famous builder of the Suez Canal, Jacques de Lesseps was born in Paris and trained in 1909 at the Blériot flying school on an Anzani-powered Blériot XI. He qualified for F.A.I. license no.27. In March 1910, he purchased one of the first Gnome-powered Blériot XI and named it « Le Scarabée ». In it, on 21 May 1910, he made the second aeroplane crossing of the English Channel. Only 5 weeks later, de Lesseps brought his 2 Blériots to Canada’s first aviation meet (and Québec’s first aeroplane occurrence ever) at Lakeside, near Pointe-Claire. There, in « Le Scarabée », he made the first flight over the city of Montréal by an aeroplane, on 2 July 1910. The exploit made him an instant hero. De Lesseps was to serve as a military aviator throughout WWI. Flying mostly at night, he defended Paris against raiding Zeppelins and assumed command of a bombing unit in 1918. In that year, not counting reconnaissance and photography flights, he completed 95 bombing missions. In 1919 his former squadron commander formed “La Compagnie Aérienne Française” (CAF). Recruited by his friend, de Lesseps became proficient in flying boat operation and aerial photography.

There, in « Le Scarabée », he made the first flight over the city of Montréal by an aeroplane, on 2 July 1910.

In early 1926, the Québec Government negotiated a contract with the French company for a complete forest aerial survey of the Gaspé peninsula. It would be carried out by a new organization, “La Compagnie Aérienne Franco-Canadienne”. De Lesseps was named Directeur d’Exploitation and chief pilot. A base was established at Gaspé. Operations were expanded in 1927 with a new base at Val Brillant on Lake Matapédia. On 18 October, an important meeting was held there which brought the CAF president from France and the provincial Minister of Lands and Forests from Québec. De Lesseps was expected to fly there from Gaspé. In unusually bad weather, he and his mechanic lost their lives in an apparent attempt to land in thick fog on the Saint Lawrence River. Only de Lesseps’ body was found, on the Newfoundland coast. He was buried in Gaspé on 14 December, 1927. An impressive monument was erected in his memory.

Honors

La Croix de Guerre (1914-1918)

Knight of the Legion of Honour

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