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Toulouse opens museum dedicated to the pioneers of flight
People visit the museum "L'envol des pionniers" (The Flight of the Pioneers) dedicated to the history of the aeronautics, on December 18, 2018 in Toulouse. Toulouse inaugurated the museum on December 20, 2018 a few days prior to the centenary of the first Toulouse-Barcelona flight on December 25, 1918. ERIC CABANIS / AFP.

TOULOUSE.- The cultural site "The Flight of the Pioneers" is part of the ambitious Toulouse Aerospace urban project, which Toulouse Métropole is bringing into being in Montaudran, the historic birthplace of aeronautics.

Designed around the runway from which the pioneers of civil aviation took off, "The Flight of the Pioneers" consists of several facilities: the planned Memory Area, in the historic buildings under renovation, "The Gardens of the Line" opened in June 2017, a grand landscaped journey evoking the landscapes the pioneers of the Line and the Hall of the Mechanics, a modern building which will host the creations of the company, "La Machine".

To highlight and publicise this incredible Toulouse saga which saw the birth of civil aviation with the first Latecoère flight from Montaudran, then l’Aéropostale and then Air France, Jean-Luc Moudenc, Mayor of Toulouse, Chair of Toulouse Métropole, wanted the historic buildings around this legendary runway to be restored. In partnership with many associations and the families of the pioneers, a space dedicated to the history of aviation was created and it was inaugurated in late 2018.

A Public Service Concession which Creates Synergies
In June 2017, Toulouse Métropole chose SEMECCEL (Société d’Économie Mixte d’Exploitation de Centres Culturel, Educatif et de Loisirs), which also manages Cité de l’espace, as public service concession holder for the operation and development of the History Facility of the Runway of Pioneers. SEMECCEL was awarded the concession for the quality of its scientific and educational mediation, its ability to promote the attractiveness of sites and energise networks around related themes, such as space and civil aviation. The contract was agreed for 12 years and provides €4.6m investment for the Historical facility of the Runway of Pioneers.

The Memory Area will become The Flight of the Pioneers
Accurately transcribing the memory of a story, a period and a place, while integrating it into a broader cultural project - The Route of Pioneers - was one of the criteria when choosing the name for the project which had been known as the Memory Area.

An approach involving representatives of Toulouse Métropole and the operator, SEMECCEL, as well as the pioneers' families and several associations was implemented. A selection of proposals was submitted to a special steering committee of the Aéroclub de France, after which the name "The Flight of the Pioneers" was chosen.

Evoking the theme of the site, the name focuses on the exceptional human dimension of this aviation adventure. This name also plays its part in the tourism and cultural aspect of the facility, as it promises an emotional experience to potential visitors, emphasising an epic sprung from human imagination and genius, and evidence of the exceptional contribution of Toulouse and France.

The Flight of the Pioneers consists of several buildings:

• The 1,000m2 Château Petit-Espinet Raynal, which was Latécoère's headquarters and always housed the site's administrative functions.

• The 2,700 m2 General Store No. 30, backing on to the Château, built in 1928, for many years the place where aircraft parts were stored.

• The Radio House, also built in 1928, with an area of 40 m2, which served several purposes over the years. It was the transmission and receiving station for l’Aéropostale's messages.

At the heart of this area, in the great store, a scenographic trail will be set up, around a permanent exhibition of more than 700 m2 and rooms which will display temporary exhibitions and events. Events will be organised indoors and out to highlight the story and the memory of civil aviation.

From the first planes of the Latécoère lines, to the Air France maintenance centre, through the celebrated epic of the Ligne Aéropostale, the entire historical heritage of civil aviation will be in the spotlight, in the very place where Toulouse became an aviation capital.

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