The first Belgian to obtain his flying license was Antwerp-born Pierre de Caters (1875). As many others of his time, he was interested in science, car racing and aviation. He was also a speedboat racer. In 1908, de Caters ordered a Voisin aeroplane which he equipped with a 100 HP Vivinus engine of Belgian origin. In December of the same year, he flight-tested his machine on his personal airfield near Antwerp.
De Caters also took up aeroplane manufacturing. Not later than 1909, he demonstrated a Voisin Goupy biplane which he had updated. He later founded the Aviator Aircraft Manufacturing Company. De Caters also participated in air competitions in France, Germany and other European countries. His demos brought him in many a foreign country where, as it turned out, he happened to be the first pilot ever to take to the air. Such was the case in :
Germany: 16 August 1909
Poland: 16 November 1909
Turkey: 3 December 1909
Egypt: 15 December 1909
Jan Olieslagers, also a native from Antwerp, first excelled in bicycle and motor-bike racing before to became interested in aviation after meeting Santos-Dumont. Olieslagers initially ordered a Demoiselle from the Brazilian pioneer, but later reverted to a Bleriot XI's. Olieslagers took part in numerous air-shows in Belgium and the Netherlands but also in North Africa, France, Spain.
Amongst other first flyers also rank :
Jules de Laminne, who established the first pilot school in Belgium in 1910.
Léon de Brouckère, who build Deperdussin monoplanes under license
Hélène Dutrieu, the first women to obtain a Belgian pilot license in 1911.
Following the example set by de Caters quite a few Belgians went abroad. Van den Born went flying in Asia and was the first to touch down in Hong Kong. Geo Mestdagh established the first airmail service in the United States connecting the townships of Baton Rouge en New Orleans on 10th April 1912.
Jules Tyck in front of his Bleriot
See more on the Van Den Born Farman in Contact N°9