The terms of the trophy competition were the same as those of the Schneider Trophy: each race was hosted by the nation which had won the preceding race, and the trophy would be won outright by the nation whose team won the race three times in succession. Accordingly, after Joseph Sadi-Lecointe's victory in 1920 the Trophy became the permanent possession of the Aero Club de France.
Glenn Curtiss, the American aviation pioneer who won the 1909 competion in Reims, France, in his Curtiss No. 2 aircraft.
In 1909, the French city of Reims and the French vintners of the Champagne region decided to sponsor a week of aviation exhibition and competition, the most prestigious being the International Aviation Cup, known as the Gordon Bennett Trophy, after its sponsor, James Gordon Bennett, the American publisher of the New York Herald and the Paris Herald. The meet attracted the cream of the European society to the Betheny Plain outside Reims from 22 to 29 August 1909. The 1909 competition was held as part of the Grande Semaine d'Aviation held at Reims in France, and consisted of 2 laps of the 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) circuit. The competition was not held as a race, with competitors starting at the same time, but was rather a series of time trials.
The major French manufacturers including Louis Blériot, Gabriel Voisin, Antoinette, and Henri , entered various events, . The Wrights themselves had passed on an invitation to race at Reims, though it seemed awkward since the Gordon Bennett Trophy was crowned with a large replica of a Wright Flyer. The Aero Club of America, which had sponsored the Scientific American trophy won by Curtiss a year earlier, turned to him. His aircraft was not as well developed as the Wright machines and while it was more maneuverable than the European planes, it was not nearly as fast. Despite this disadvantage, Curtiss won at 15 minutes and 50.4 seconds. Blériot finished second place with a time of 15 minutes and 56.2 seconds, 5.8 seconds longer than Curtiss.
The last competition was held in 1920 in the French communes of Orléans and Étampes. Unlike those held before the First World War which were over short courses marked by pylons, the competition was held between two points 50 km (31 mi) apart because of the growing speed of aircraft. Joseph Sadi-Lecointe won in a time of 1 hour, 6 minutes and 17.2 seconds, while fellow French aviator Bernard de Roumanet finished second in a time of 1 hour, 39 minutes and 6.9 seconds.