Hispanic Heritage Month Heroes - Week 2
Jorge Chávez, the first person to fly across the Alps
Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport is named after the Peruvian aviator and engineer who, in 1910, became the first person to fly across the Alps. A gifted athlete and recent engineering graduate, Chávez—born to wealthy Peruvian parents in Paris—had just earned his international pilot’s license at age 23. He became interested in flying after attending the Great Aviation Week of Champagne in 1909, where he met French aviator Louis Paulhan. Paulhan encouraged the young Peruvian to attend the Farman Flight School at Mourmelon-le-Grand, and Chávez agreed to purchase a Farman biplane.
On September 19, 1910, he took off from the French side of the Alps for his record-breaking journey. His 51-minute flight was successful, but he crashed during his landing. Jorge Chávez survived for four days, in great pain from two broken legs and internal injuries, before saying his last words, “Higher, always higher.”
Today, there are monuments to him in Switzerland, Italy and his homeland of Peru. Last year, 23.6 million passengers traveled through the airport that bears his name, including 745,000 to and from Miami International Airport.