Clement van Maasdijk, Dutch Flying Pioneer



My elementary school carries the name “Van Maasdijkschool”. In order to know how this name came about, we have to go back in time. Back to 1910. In this neighbourhood, where I grew up 40 years later, were large meadows and a major part of it was the skating ring of Royal Ice Association THIALF[1] . In those days this area was next and behind our school. I wondered about that odd statue that I passed by (and played soccer around it) so many times all these six years.

Johan Wijngaarden in 1960

March 1960, on the right side of the picture the Clement van Maasdijk Memorial Statue.                                                         

In 1910 however, this area was a real hot place for two days. For less than 30 minutes. Everybody talked about it, all over the Netherlands. It was in the papers and on the radio for days. Finally it was going to happen. People had never seen this before and most of them did not even believe this could be true. A man by the name of Clement van Maasdijk[2] was going to fly in an airplane, just like a bird in the sky..!

After successful flying lessons in France, Clement van Maasdijk bought (and his well-to-do father paid for the major part) a Sommer-biplane, with a seven cylinder Gnome motor for 15,000 Dutch guilders, a tremendous amount of money in those days.

The first flight-in-the-air show, on July 31, lasted 1 minute and 16 seconds in which this fragile plane reached a height of just over 30 yards. The next day at about 17.00 hours , it was a more or less wind still period, as “flags hang down on their poles”, there was a second demonstration. “The brave aviator had protected himself, wearing thick gloves and spats, because”, as the local paper reported, “it might be rather chilly up there”. Over 4,000 people were watching it in an atmosphere of frightening and sensation. Wide open eyes and mouths. Breathless at first and as soon as the aviator flew over their heads at a high of between 120 to 220 yards for a second and even a third time, turning into an enthusiastic and cheering crowd. The national hero felt at ease in the “driving seat of his wonder bird” as he waved gratefully back. “Excitement was overwhelming as never before”. This fantastic, amazing and long flight ended in a perfect landing, almost in front of the stand of the Ice Club. The secretary of the National Airport Association clocked a flight time of exactly 27 minutes and 16 1/5 seconds. Van Maasdijk was carried around on the shoulders of enthusiastic admirers. [3]

Flight show 1910 in Heerenveen

Picture: Van Haren Museum, Heerenveen.

A month later he gave another flight demonstration in the south east of Holland. Due to uncertain wind press the plane crashed and Van Maasdijk, only 25 years of age, lost his life. This brave daredevil was the first victim in Dutch Aviation history, being survived by family, his fiancé and many friends/admirers.


Now we know that a statue, almost next to the school playground, reminds us of this extraordinary event and honours our brave and famous flying Dutchman every day.

statue of Clement van Maasdijk in Heerenveen, Netherlands

[1] This world famous outdoor natural skating ring was founded in 1855 and being “indoor” now, still proudly carries the name of this Norwegian helper of the God of Thunder. This “Thialfi” was a very sport minded, smart and fearless “person”.

[2] Clement Guillaume Jean van Maasdijk (August 9, 1885 to August 27, 1910)

[3] Course reference: Leeuwarder Courant, August 6, 1910.


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