Leila Adair

On Sunday the 25th of March 1894 Miss Leila Adair has to have become the first person to ever fly in Cambridge airspace. She was an American who was touring New Zealand for a year, making exhibition jumps with her parachute from her hot air balloon.

On that day she was part of a sports day held by the Cambridge Athletics Club on the Government Paddock (nowadays known as Victoria Square). They held their sporting competitions, and then just after 5.15pm - with around 1,000 spectators watching - Adair ascended in her hot air balloon. The balloon rose usuing what was called the Montgolfier process where it was inflated using the heat from a fire on the ground, with a man ensuring the balloon did not catch fire itself.

She reached what was estimated to be 1000 feet in altitude before she dismounted from her balloon and floated down in in her parachute. She obviously drifted in the breeze as reports state she ended up snagged in the branches of a tall gum tree at the bottom of Duke Street. She was helped down from the tree by several men, and was unscathed.

This was surely the first time Cambridge and most of its residents had ever seen either a hot air balloon, or a parachute decscent, or anyone up in the air over the town! So Miss Leila Adair is surely the first aviator to fly in Cambridge airspace.

Above: A montage from the time of Miss Leila Adair on her trapeze
that suspended benath her balloon



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