Like the Wright Brothers, Maurice and Henri Farman started out as bicycle mechanics. Born to a British father and French mother, the two brothers spent most of their life in France. Early motorcycles and automobiles were often brought to local cycle mechanics and it made them very familiars with new developments in engines. The Farman brothers soon became interested in automobile races, competing for Renault in the Gordon Bennett Cup.
Interest in Flight was a natural progression. Gabriel and Charles Voison bought out early French aviation pioneer Louis Bleirot to form Appareils d’Aviation Les Frères Voisin (Flying Machines of Voisin Brothers) in 1906. One of their first customers was the Farman brothers for whom they built the 1907 Voison biplane. In this plane the Farmans set numerous official records for both distance and duration including winning the 50,000 franc Grand Prix d’Aviation in March 1908, becoming the first pilot to take a passenger into the air and making the first cross-country flight in Europe, flying from Châlons to Reims – 27 kilometers in 20 minutes. In 1909 the Farmans started a flying school and were soon manufacturing their own airplane designs. The 1909 Farman III became very successful. At the start of WWI, the Farmans had began working for the French military, designing the Farman HF 20, a reconnaissance plane.
On January 2, 1915, a mechanic in the military motor pool at Villacoubley was injured when he got caught in some moving machinery and was in danger of losing his life from excessive bleeding. A message was telephone to the military hospital near the St Cyr Aerodrome. The head doctor quickly grabbed his instruments and took the observer’s seat in Maurice Farman’s reconnaissance plane and took off. They flew 8 miles in five minutes. The doctor was able to suture the injured man’s arteries and save his life. This is the first time medical aid has been rendered by air.