Riout 102T Alérion: “Sur un nénuphar éphémère,..”

Designed by René Riout, the Riout 102T Alérion was without doubt one of the most advanced ornithopters ever built. Built in 1937, its sophistication was a wasted effort; like almost all aircraft of this type, the Alérion was a non-flyer. Luckily, this superb contraction is still with us today, lovingly preserved at the Musée Régional de l’Air d’Angers.

Four wings and four wheels. Jolie Libelulle, n’est ce pas? 


Thomas-Morse R-5: “So the last will be first..”

In 1922 the United States Army Air Service (USAAS) put the requirement for a racing aircraft design to take part in the already famous Pulitzer Trophy Race. The Thomas-Morse company answered with this advanced all-metal parasol monoplane powered by a 600hp Packard 1A-2025 engine. Two R-5s were produced and both took part in the 1922 Pulitzer. With not very bright results: they finished last and next-to-last. The USAAS found nevertheless the right usage for them though. They were destroyed during static structural tests.

Unmistakable the style of Douglas Rolfe in this drawing. Part of Rolfe’s “Air Progress” series of the 1950’s, later reedited in this marvellously abused book. By the way, the information is wrong; it corresponds to the US.Navy Thomas-Morse MB-7 racer of 1921.

Charpentier C1: Tailess & Flightless..,almost.

Conceived in the early 1930’s, the little-known Charpentier C1 was an experimental flying wing trimotor (3 x 100CV Hispano-Suiza 6Pa). The unique prototype was built by the Société des Avions Caudron under a contract from Jean Charpentier. C1’s first steps in 1933 ended badly when it was damaged during high speed rolling test. Rebuilt later, it tried again in 1935… to be destroyed during its first flight attempt. After that the whole project disolved in the wind.

The top photo gives only a poor idea of the sheer beauty of this aircraft, but gladly model maker Stéphane Guerrero’s recreated it in this wonderful model.

Nungesser Hydravion-Canard: Crazy Wild Duck.

In his superbly chaotic life Great War ace Charles Nungesser found time even to try his hand at aircraft design. His seaplane was a sort of derivative of his unrealised “Oeuf Volant” (flying egg) racer design conceived to take part in the 1922 Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe race. Nungesser’ unorthodox creature was a hideous looking boxy seaplane canard “thing” monoplane. An amphibian gear was also planned. Power came, at first, from a ridiculous 60hp engine later replaced by a barely less ridiculous 95hp Anzani radial. Completed in March 1923, the prototype undertook a few not very convincing flights before vanishing into oblivion.

Magnificent photo of the “hydravion-canard” with Nungesser at the helm taken at the Melan-Les Mureaux lake during its test. The engine used here is the more powerful 95hp seven cylinder Anzani.

Un air de famille.

Bloch MB.300 “Pacifique”: Prettiness doesn’t always pay.

This elegant French all-metal trimotor airliner was conceived for Air France in the early-middle 1930’s. First flown in 1935, the prototype was all but a success being too heavy, vastly underpowered and inestable. With Air France’s technical policies changing to the acquisition of four-engined airliners, the future of this questionable trimotor became sealed. Anyway, after modifications, the French company took reluctantly the unique prototype in 1938. It whereabouts soon afterwards are obscure; some said it ended in Spain.

Valmet Vihuri: Severe Wind.

The Vihuri (Gale) became the main advanced single-engined trainer aircraft of the Finish AF during the 1950’s. Designed to replace the VL Pyry, the Vihuri prototype made its first flight in 1951 and the model was soon ordered into production. Around 50 were produced. All weren’t roses though. Several accidents -one of them even took the life of the prime minister’s son- and the safety concerns associated grounded for good the Vihuri in 1959. As an aside, a number of Vihuri’s cockpit canopies were salvaged to be employed as….roof windows in the recycling plant. They are still there.

Not a success story, but they were neat looking aircraft anyway. A balanced and clean design with a lovely Bristol Mercury engine as a plus. The shiny first prototype (VH-1) in the usual snowy Suomi airfield.