The French LeO 451 was the fastest bomber in service at the beginning of WW2. With the slick and extremely clean LeO 451, at last, the French left behind ugliness and mediocrity in their bomber designs. Sadly, only few were in service when it really mattered, at the 1940 Battle of France. Anyway, such a valuable asset could not wasted; they continued to be manufactured in the Vichy France. They enjoyed an interesting operational life in both sides: Vichy, Free France, Germany, Italy and some even by the USAAF. The end of the war didn’t put an end to these peripatetic aircraft either; the French Air Force didn’t retire their last ones until the late 1950’s.
The fastest and one with the largest “sting”. The defensive armament carried by the LeO 451 is of particular interest, being among the very few which carried a 20mm cannon at that time. The dorsal defensive position seen here was fitted with a Hispano HS 404 mounted on an electro-hydraulically powered SAMM Type 170Bis gun carriage. Some punch no doubt, but disappointing. The field of fire was limited and its hefty 30-round magazine proved to be cumbersome to change. Add to that the rest of its uninspiring rifle-caliber defensive armament…., they needed the speed.
In this photo one of those garishly dressed Vichy France “Armée de l’Air de l’Armistice” aircraft. A LeO 451 of the 2eme Escadrille of GB 1/25 while operated from El Aouina (Tunis), 1941. This unit took part later in the Syrian campaign against the Allies and of their 18 Leo 451’s, 12 were lost.
In crucial times in France history let’s fly back for a while.
One the poster used in the presidential election of 15 June 1969 by the then Prime Ministre of France Georges Pompidou. The Concorde as a symbol of dynamism, future and renovation for that old school conservative. In the end he won… and the Concorde, well, the Concorde promise remained largely unfulfilled.
Nothing revolutionary in this plain vanilla style poster, the Concorde’s ogival wing design apart.
That very French blue, Adrian helmet and the idiosyncratic Level rifle. You can’t almost hear the staccato of the 11‘s Le Rhône rotary. From the “Le pilote à l’edelweiss” comic series. The superbly detailed style of the great Romain Hugault, without his overused pin-up girls here….., thanks god.
Can you imagine a huge one-bladed rotor air-jet helicopter powered by a 80hp Le Rhône rotary engine?…., well, that was precisely the idea patented in 1911 by A. Papin and D. Rouilly. This pair of French gentlemen based their idea on the sycamore seed which turns while it falls to ground.
The basic configuration of their Gyroptère is quite evident in this gorgeously clear photo. The beautifully built rotor blade at the right counterbalanced by the engine and its fan which is sightly to one side of the axis of rotation. The pilot “drum-cockpit”, over the peculiar round float, was placed on the axis of rotation and mounted on ball-bearing and was centered against 4 horizontal rollers. The long tube near our intrepid pilot is the swiveling air-duct employed to to keep his “drum-cockpit” from moving with the blade and to provide the necessary forward thrust.
Tested in 31st March 1915 on Lake Cercey (Cote d’Or), the Gyroptère proved to be wildly unstable and sank without even achieving flight.
The IIIV was the French VTOL tour the force of the 1960’s produced to fulfil a NATO VTOL strike fighter specification. Preceded by the smaller Balzac, the supersonic Mirage IIIV was twice as big, but shared the same basic engine configuration with 8 lifting turbofan and a main engine. The two prototypes built started its test program in early 1965. Sadly, the second prototype was lost in Nov. 1966 and that, with the previous Balzac accidents, put an end to this bold and risky program. It never reached its full potential, a pity.
The magnificent first prototype here in the good company of two of its illustrious fellow “countrymen”: an early AZU Fourgonnette and the always precious Citroën DS “Déesse”.
The ugly ducking was a touring amphibian conceived in the early 1930’s. Hard to find something more clumsy. Don’t know why its designer, l’ingénieur Pierre de Viscaya, didn’t choose a boat-shaped fuselage instead of floats: its high mounted wing and 100 hp Renault 4 Pci pusher engine should have allowed easily that configuration. The P.V.200 appeared in the Paris Air Salon of 1932, but not surprisingly, It never turned into a swan. Only this prototype was produced.
Charming in its own very particular way. Don’t you thing so?
Poor little thing. The iconic Blériot XI looks so fragile here, it was certainly past its prime at that time and not well-suited for this metier anyway.
Sublime 1915 artwork of William L. Wyllie. (Defence Academy of the United Kingdom).