Tag Archives: Croix de Guerre

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe (11 July 1891–15 July 1944)

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe, 1924

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe was born 11 July 1891 at Saint-Germain-sur-Bresle, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France.

Sadi-Lecointe was employed as an aircraft welder. On 30 January 1910, without any instruction, he took off from Issy-les-Moulineaux in a monoplane designed by George and Gendre Zénith. The Aero Club de France awarded him its license number 431 on 10 February 1911.

Adjutant Joseph Sadi-Lecointe with a Morane-Saulnier, circa 1915. (Musée de l’air et de l’espace)

He joined the Service Aéronautique (the original form of the French Air Force) as a mechanic in October 1912, and was designated pilote militaire nº375, 20 September 1913.

Sadi-Lecointe was promoted to sergeant 6 July 1914. He served as a pilot during World War I, flying the Blériot XI-2 with l’escadrille BL 10 from 1 August 1914 to 6 March 1915. After serving five weeks with the RGA, Sergent Sadi-Lecointe was transferred to N 48, flying the Nieuport X. He was promoted to Adjutant, a warrant officer rank, 17 April 1915. On 23 November 1915 became a flight instructor at l’Ecole de Pilotage d’Avord. Sadi-Lacointe was promoted to sous-lieutenant in October 1916. On 17 September 1917 he was assigned as a test pilot at BlériotSociété Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés, where he worked on the development of the famous SPAD S.XIII C.1 fighter.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe was a test pilot for the Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.VII C.1 and S.XIII C.1 fighters. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

After the War, he was a test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge, and participated in numerous races and set a series of speed and altitude records with the company’s airplanes. He won the Coupe Deutsche de la Meurthe, 3 August 1920, and the Gordon Bennett Aviation Trophy Race, 28 September 1920, flying a Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V. He also won the Coupe Beaumont, 23 June 1924, flying the Nieuport-Delâge Type 42. Joseph Sadi-Lecointe was appointed Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 1924.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe with the Blériot-SPAD S.26 during trials for the Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider races, 1919. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)
Joseph Sadi-Lecointe in the cockpit of his Nieuport-Delâge NiD-29 V racer during te eGordon Bennett races. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)
Nieuport-Delâge NiD-42 S. (FAI)
Sadi-Lecointe’s record-setting Nieuport-Delâge NiD-40 R. (FAI)

Sadi-Lecointe returned to military service in 1925 and participated in the Second Moroccan War. Then in 1927, he returned to his position as chief test pilot for Nieuport-Delâge. From 1936 to 1940, he served as Inspecteur général de l’aviation civile (Inspector General of Aviation) for the French Air Ministry. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Lieutenant Colonel Sadi-Lecointe was again recalled to military service as Inspector of Flying Schools.

With the Fall of France, Sadi-Lacointe was dismissed by the Vichy government. He joined La Résistance française, and operated with the group, Rafale Andromède. He was arrested 21 March 1944 and held at the Fresnes prison in Paris, where he was interrogated and tortured. He was released to l’hôpital Saint-Louis, Paris, and died there, 15 July 1944.

Centre pénitentiaire de Fresnes

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe, Commandeur Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, was awarded the Croix de Guerre in three wars. He was posthumously awarded the Médaille de la Résistance. The Aéro-Club de France awarded him its Grande Médaille d’Or. During his flying career, Sadi-Lecointe set six World Records for Speed,¹ and two World Records for Altitude.²

MORT POUR LA FRANCE

The Cross of Lorraine was the symbol of La Résistance française during World War II. (© Ray Rivera)

¹ FAI Record File Numbers: 15489, Speed over 100 km, 279,50 km/h (173.67 m.p.h.), 25 September 1920; 15494, Speed over 200 km, 274,60 km/h (170.63 m.p.h.), 28 September 1920; 15498, Speed over a straight 1 km course, 296,69 km/h (184.36 m.p.h.), 10 October 1920; 15499, Speed over a straight 1 km course, 302,53 km (187.98 m.p.h.), 20 October 1920; 15279, Speed, 375 km/h (233 m.p.h.), 15 October 1923; and Speed over a given distance of 500 km, 306,70 km/h (190.58 m.p.h.), 23 June 1924.

² FAI Record File Numbers: 8246, 10 741 m (35,240 ft.), 5 September 1923; 11750, 8 980 m (29,462 ft.), 11 March 1924.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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6 June 1955

Massif du Mont-Blanc depuis le sommet du Brévent, 2006. Mont Blanc, north face from Brevant. (Yann via Wikipedia)
Massif du Mont-Blanc depuis le sommet du Brévent, 2006. Mont Blanc, north face from Brevant. (Yann via Wikipedia)

6 June 1955: Mont Blanc (the “White Mountain”), at 4.808,73 mètres (15,776.67 feet), is the highest mountain in the Alps, and second highest in Europe. (Because the summit consists of ice and snow, the actual elevation of the summit varies from year to year, and season to season. This is the 2013 measurement.)

Jean Moine, chief pilot of Fenwick Aviation S.A., flew a new Bell Aircraft Corporation Model 47G-2 helicopter from the company’s base at Issy-les-Moulineaux, southwest of Paris, to Chamonix in southeastern France, and then on to the village of Le Fayet. This village is located northwest of the Mont Blanc massif at an elevation of 584 meters (1,916 feet) above Sea Level.

Jean Moine, Capitaine, Com
Jean Moine in the cockpit of a Bell Model 47 helicopter. (Hélico-Fascination)

The helicopter, registered F-BHGJ, with manufacturer’s serial number 1342, was the very first Bell Model 47G-2 to be built.

Some items not necessary for the planned flight to the summit were removed from the helicopter to reduce weight: the left fuel tank, battery, generator and seat cushions. The right fuel tank contained just 40 liters (10.6 gallons) of gasoline.

At 5:15 a.m. the following morning, 6 June, Jean Moine and his passenger, André Contamine, an Alpine guide, lifted off from Le Fayet and began a long climb to the Dôme du Goûter, 2 kilometers (1¼ miles) northwest of the summit of Mont Blanc, at 4,304 meters (14,121 feet). After 32 minutes, Moine landed there at 5:43 a.m.

Jean Moine with Bell 47G-2 F-BHGJ
Jean Moine with the first Bell Model 47G-2, F-BHGJ, probably at Dôme du Goûter, 6 June 1955. The helicopter’s left fuel tank and battery have been removed. (Hélico-Fascination)

After remaining at Dôme du Goûter for five minutes, Moine and Contamine again took off, and seven minutes later, landed atop Mont Blanc at 5:55 a.m. Moine estimated the wind speed at 25 knots (13 meters per second). After four minutes at the summit, Moine again lifted off and this time, returned to Chamonix, where the helicopter landed at 6:15 a.m.

Although the Bell 47G-2 has a hover ceiling in ground effect (HIGE) of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), with winds of 20–25 knots (10.3–12.9 meters per second), the helicopter, while stationary, was actually in translational lift. Combined with very cold temperatures (probably lower than -14.7 °C./5.5 °F.) which reduced the density altitude from ISA standard conditions, the helicopter was easily able to land and takeoff, requiring only 14 inches (0.47 bar) of manifold pressure.

This was the highest landing and takeoff by a helicopter up to that time.

Later that morning, Moine and the Bell 47G-2 made two more flights to Dôme du Goûter, first with Pierre Voisin (?) and again with Contamine.

 Jean Moine and F-BHGJ at the summit of Mont Blanc, just before 6:00 am, 6 June 1955. (André Contamine via Hélico-Fascination)
Jean Moine and F-BHGJ at the summit of Mont Blanc, just before 6:00 am, 6 June 1955. (André Contamine via Hélico-Fascination)

Two short articles in FLIGHT and Aircraft Engineer mention the Mont Blanc landing:

“. . . Lands High . . .

“FLYING a Bell 47G, M. Jean Moine, accompanied by the guide Contamine, took off from Le Fayet airfield (1,905ft) on Monday and landed first on the Dôme du Goûter (14,116ft) and, seven minutes later, on the summit of Mont Blanc (15,782ft). On the same day S.N.C.A.S.E. claimed the world’s helicopter height record when the Alouette II, powered by a Turboméca Artouste, reached 27,100ft. The machine took off from Buc, near Paris, climbed for 42 min and landed at Montesson. The pilot was M. Jean Boulet.”

FLIGHT and AIRCRAFT ENGINEER, No. 2420 Vol. 67. Friday, 10 June 1955, at Page 784

. . . and:

“. . . There followed, on June 6th, a landing by Jean Moine in a Bell 47-G2 on Mont Blanc, altitude 15,781 feet, now the highest landing by a rotating wing aircraft. . .

     “The actual machine which landed on the summit of Mont Blanc , the Bell 47G2, powered by a 260 h.p. Lycoming engine de-rated to 200 h.p. was seen at Le Bourget. The use of a de-rated engine, the makers claim, increases considerably the engine overhaul life and also engine maintenance problems.

“According to the pilot, Jean Moine, the mountain landing was made without difficulty, in spite of no little turbulence caused by a 20 knot wind, and there was a sufficient reserve of power, with a passenger aboard, to enable the machine to hover in the ground cushion in the normal way before touching down.”

FLIGHT and AIRCRAFT ENGINEER, No. 2424 Vol. 68. Friday, 8 July 1955 at Page 54

Logbook entries of Mount Blanc flight
Entries in Jean Moine’s logbook of the Mount Blanc flight, 6 June 1955.

Jean Moine was born at Paris, France at 1915. He studied at Lycée Condorcet, a high school in Paris. In 1935, he learned to fly in a Potez 36 two-place trainer at l’aéro-club at Orly. In 1937 joined the Armée de l’air (the French Air Force). With the fall of France in 1939, Capitaine Moine continued to serve with the Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres (the Free French Air Force.) Assigned to Groupe Bretagne (GB II/20) he flew 46 combat missions with the Glenn L. Martin Co. B-26 Marauder, a twin-engine medium bomber.

Glenn L. Martic Co. B-26 Marauder.
Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres (Free French Air Force) Glenn L. Martin Company B-26G-11-MA Marauder 43-34594, nº 29, Groupe Bretagne. (Collection J. Moulin)

Captain Moine was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille de la Résistance (Medal of the Resistance). He was appointed Commandeur Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur.

Following World War II, Jean Moine served as chief pilot for a small regional airline, Lignes Aériennes du Sud-Ouest. In 1950, Moine joined Fenwick Aviation S.A., Paris, France, as chief pilot and general manager. The company sold and operated aircraft produced by several American manufacturers, including the Bell Aircraft Corporation. He learned to fly helicopters at the Bell plant at Buffalo, New York. While there, he also studied Bell’s flight school operation. Returning to France, he organized Fenwick Aviation’s flight school at Issy-les-Moulineaux.

Moine rose to vice president and chief executive officer. He served as Fenwick’s president from 1966 to 1976.

Bell Model 47 helicopters at Fenwick Avaition,
Bell Model 47 helicopters at Fenwick Aviation, a major distributor for Bell Aircraft Corporation in Europe. (Hélico-Fascination)

Leaving Fenwinck, he joined Transair Helicopters Group. One of the missions this company performed was transporting marine pilots by helicopter to ships at sea, flying an Aérospatiale Alouette III based at Cherbourg.

In December 1975, HRH Prince Charles awarded the Berguet Trophy of the Royal Aero Club and the Aero Club of France to Moine for his outstanding contributions to rotary wing flight.

Moine served as president of l’Aéro-Club de France from 1982–1986.

When Jean Moine retired, he had accumulated a total of 7,000 flight hours, about equally divided between fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft.

Jean Moine, Commandeur Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, died 7 March 2002 at the age of 86 years.

This advertisement for the Bell 47G-2 shows an early production aircraft painted yellow. This may be c/n 1342. (Bell Helicopter Company)
This advertisement for the Bell Model 47G-2 shows an early production aircraft painted yellow and black, the standard paint scheme. (Bell Helicopter Company)

The Bell Model 47, designed by Arthur M. Young, of the Bell Aircraft Corporation, Buffalo, New York, was the first helicopter to receive civil certification from the Civil Aviation Administration, predecessor of the Federal Aviation Administration. On 8 March 1946, the aircraft received CAA Type Certificate H-1.

The Bell 47G was the first helicopter manufactured by the Bell Aircraft Corporation at the company’s new plant at Fort Worth, Texas. It was also produced under license by Agusta, Kawasaki and Westland.

The Bell Model 47G and 47G-2 Trooper are nearly identical, essentially differing only in the engine used. It is a 3-place, single-engine light helicopter, operated by a single pilot. The helicopter has dual flight controls and can be flown from either the left or right. The airframe is constructed of a welded tubular steel framework with a sheet metal cockpit. The landing gear consists of two lateral, horizontal tubular cross tubes, and two longitudinal “skids,” curved upward at the front. Ground handling wheels are attached to the skids. The most distinctive feature of the Bell 47 is the large plexiglass “bubble” windshield. The main rotor flight controls use a system of bell cranks and push-pull tubes. The cyclic is hydraulically boosted. The tail rotor is controlled by pedals and stainless steel cables.

With rotors turning, the Bell 47G-2 has an overall length of 41 feet, 4.75 inches (12.618 meters). From the forward tip of the skids to the aft end of the tail rotor guard, the fuselage is 31 feet, 5.40 inches long (9.586 meters). The main rotor has a diameter of 35 feet, 1.50 inches (10.706 meters). The tail rotor diameter is 5 feet, 8.125 inches (1.730 meters). Height to top of main rotor mast is 9 feet, 3.613 inches (2.835 meters).

The Bell 47G-2 has an empty weight of approximately 1,564 pounds (709 kilograms), depending on installed equipment. Its maximum gross weight is 2,450 pounds (1,111 kilograms), a 100 pound (45 kilogram) increase over the Franklin-powered Model 47G.

The main rotor, in common to all American-designed helicopters, rotates counter-clockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s right.) The anti-torque (tail) rotor is mounted to the right side of an angled tail boom extension, in a tractor configuration, and rotates counter-clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is above the axis of rotation.)

This photograph of a Bell 47 presents a good view of the stabilizer bar, pitch links and hydraulic dampers.
This photograph of a Lycoming-powered Bell 47G-2 hovering in ground effect presents a good view of the stabilizer bar, pitch links and hydraulic dampers. (Wikipedia)

The main rotor is a two-bladed, under-slung, semi-rigid assembly that would be a characteristic of helicopters built by Bell for decades. The main rotor system incorporates a stabilizer bar, positioned below and at right angles to the main rotor blades. Teardrop-shaped weights are placed at each end of the bar, on 100-inch (2.540 meters) centers. The outside diameter of the stabilizer bar is 8 feet, 6.781 inches (2.611 meters). The pilot’s inputs to the cyclic stick are damped through a series of mechanical linkages and hydraulic dampers before arriving at the pitch horns on the rotor hub. The result is smoother flight, especially while at a hover. The stabilizer bar action is commonly explained as being “gyroscopic,” but this is incorrect. (A similar system is used on the larger Bell 204/205/212 helicopters.)

The working parts of this Agusta-Bell 47G-3B-1 are clearly visible in this photograph. (M. Bazzani/Heli-Archive)

The Bell 47G and 47G-2 used laminated-wood main rotor blades, with a metal spar, covered with fabric. The blades’ trailing edge tapers slightly from root to tip. The airfoil is symmetrical, transitioning from NACA 0015 at the root to NACA 0011 at the tip. The normal operating range of the main rotor is 322–360 r.p.m. (294–360 r.p.m. for autorotation). A longitudinal hole in the blade tip for a recessed tension-adjusting nut produces a distinctive whistling sound.

The 47G-2 used a more powerful AVCO Lycoming VO-435-A1A, -A1B, -A1D, -A1E or -A1F engine in place of the Franklin 6V4-200-C32AB. The VO-435 is an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 433.972-cubic-inch-displacement (7.112 liter) vertically-opposed six-cylinder direct-drive engine. The engine has a compression ratio of 7.30:1 and requires a minimum of 80/87 octane aviation gasoline. The VO-435A series engine has a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 250 horsepower at 3,200 r.p.m., and 260 h.p. @ 3,400 r.p.m. for takeoff. Installed in the Bell 47G-2, the engine’s maximum power limit is 28.8 inches of mercury (0.975 bar) manifold pressure at 3,100 r.p.m. (200 horsepower) to increase time-between-overhaul (TBO) limits. The VO-435 is 34.73 Inches (0.882 meters) high, 33.58 inches (0.878 meters) wide and 24.13 inches (0.613 meters) deep, and weighs 393.00 pounds (178.26 kilograms) to 401.00 pounds (182.89 kilograms), depending of the specific engine variant.

Bell Model 47G, 47G-2 diagram
Bell Model 47G/47G-2 left profile.

Engine torque is sent through a centrifugal clutch to a gear-reduction transmission, which drives the main rotor through a two-stage planetary gear system. The transmission also drives the tail rotor drive shaft, and through a vee-belt/pulley system, a large fan on the forward face of the engine to provide cooling air.

The Bell 47G/G-2 has a maximum speed (VNE) of 100 miles per hour (161 kilometers per hour) from Sea Level to 1,400 feet (427 meters). Above that altitude, VNE is reduced 3.5 miles per hour (5.6 kilometers per hour) for every 1,000 foot (305 meters) increase in altitude. On a Standard Day, the hover ceiling in ground effect (HIGE) of the Bell 47G-2, at maximum gross weight, is 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) above Sea Level, and out of ground effect (HOGE), 3,200 feet (975 meters).

Fuel is carried in two gravity-feed tanks, mounted above and on each side of the engine. The total fuel capacity is 43.0 gallons (162.8 liters), however, usable fuel is 41.0 gallons (155.2 liters). The helicopter has a maximum range of 238 miles (383 kilometers).

In production from 1946 until 1974, more than 7,000 Model 47 helicopters were built, worldwide. It is estimated that about 10% of these aircraft remain in service.

In 2010, the type certificates for all Bell 47 models were transferred to Scott’s Helicopter Service, Le Sueur, Minnesota, which continues to manufacture parts and complete helicopters.

Bell 47G-2 F-BHGJ was delivered to Fenwick Aviation SA, along with the second production G-2, 3 February 1955. It was acquired by France Aviation SA, Aéroport de Toussus le Noble, Chateaufort, south of Versailles, on 13 June 1955. It was next registered to SA Gyrafrique, Algeria, 8 November 1955. On 5 August 1960, the helicopter was once again reregistered, this time to SA Gyrasahara. Gyrafrance SA (Gyrafrance Hélicoptères), Aéroport de Frejorgues, Mauguio, became the registered owner, 23 July 1964. On 9 August 1991, the registered owner was Societe Nouvelle Gyrafrance SA, Aéroport de Montpellier–Méditerranée, Mauguio. F-BHGJ was registered to SA Aero 34, also located at the Aéroport Montpellier–Méditerranée, Mauguio, 23 March 1995, and then Aeromecanic 34 SARL, Marignane, 1 August 2001. From 12 October 2004 until 18 February 2015, the helicopter was owned by Heli System, Frontignan, on the Mediterranean coast. The first Bell 47G-2, F-BHGJ, is currently owned by Conseil Aménagement Foncier, Frontignan.

Recommended: The Bell 47 Helicopter Story, by Robert S. Petite and Jeffrey C. Evans, Graphic Publishers, Santa Ana, California, November 2013.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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23 April 1918

1st Lieutenant Paul Frank Baer, Air Service, United States Army. (Campbell Studios, New York)

23 April 1918: at 09:55 a.m., near Saint-Gobain, France, 1st Lieutenant Paul Frank Baer, 103rd Aero Squadron (Pursuit), shot down an enemy Albatross C two-place biplane. This was Baer’s fifth victory in aerial combat, making him the first American “ace.” ¹ [Official credit for this shoot-down is shared with Lt. C. H. Wilcox.]

Albatros C.VII C.2197/16 (Wikipedia)

Paul Frank Baer was born 29 January 1894 at Fort Wayne, Indiana, the fourth of four children of Alvin E. Baer, a railroad engineer, and Emma B. Parent Baer.

In 1916, Baer served under Brigadier John J. General Pershing during the Mexican Expedition to capture the outlaw and revolutionary Francisco (“Pancho”) Villa. He then went to France and enlisted the Aéronautique Militaire, in 20 February 1917. He was sent for flight training at the Avord Groupemant des Divisions d’Entrainment (G.D.E.). He graduated as a pilot, 15 June 1917, with the rank of corporal.

After flight training, Corporal Baer was assigned to Escadrille SPA 80, under the command of Capitaine Paul Ferrand, 14 August 1917 to 20 January 1918, flying the SPAD S.VII C.1 and SPAD S.XIII C.1. Baer was next transferred to Escadrille N. 124, the Escadrille Américaine, under Georges Thénault. This unit was equipped with the Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29 C1.

Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29C.1, s/n 12002, right front quarter view.

After the United States entered the War, Baer was transferred to the 103rd Aero Squadron, American Expeditionary Forces, and commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant with a date of rank retroactive to 5 November 1917. At that time, the 103rd was under the command of Major William Thaw II, and was operating near La Cheppe, France, flying the SPAD S.VII C.1 chasseur.

SPAD S.XIII C.1 S7714 of the 103rd Aero Squadron, France, 1918. The pilot is Captain Robert Soubiran, the squadron’s commanding officer. (U.S. Air Force)

Lieutenant Baer is officially credited by the United States Air Force with 7.75 enemy airplanes shot down between 11 March and 22 May 1918, ² and he claimed an additional 7. (Credit for two airplanes was shared with four other pilots.) After shooting down his eighth enemy airplane on 22 May 1918, Baer and his SPAD S.XIII C.1 were also shot down. He was seriously injured and was captured by the enemy near Armentières and held as a Prisoner of War. At one point, Baer was able to escape for several days before being recaptured.

For his service in World War I, 1st Lieutenant Paul Frank Baer was awarded the United States’ Distinguished Service Cross with one oak leaf cluster (a second award). He was appointed Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur by Raymond Poincaré, the President of France. He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre with seven palms.

SPAD S.XIII C.1 at Air Service Production Center No. 2, Romorantin Aerodrome, France, 1918. (U.S. Air Force)

After World War I, Baer, as a “soldier of fortune,” organized a group of pilots to fight against “the Bolsheviks” in Poland. He returned to the United States, departing Boulogne-sur-mer aboard T.S.S. Nieuw Amsterdam, and arriving at New York City, 4 November 1919. He then flew as a test pilot, an air mail pilot in South America, and worked as an aeronautical inspector for the U.S. Department of Commerce, based at Brownsville Airport, Texas. In 1930, he was employed as a pilot for the China National Aviation Corporation.

Baer was flying from Nanking to Shanghai for with an amphibious Loening Air Yacht biplane, named Shanghai. The airplane crashed after striking the mast of a boat on the Huanpu River. He died at the Red Cross Hospital at Shanghai, China, at 9:00 a.m., 9 December 1930. A Chinese pilot, K. F. Pan, and an unidentified female passenger were also killed. General Hsiung Shih-hui and four other passengers on board were seriously injured.

Paul Baer’s remains were returned to the United States aboard S.S. President McKinley and were buried at the Lindenwood Cemetery in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

In 1925 a new airport was opened in Fort Wayne and named Paul Baer Municipal Airport. During World War II, the airport was taken over by the military and designated Baer Army Airfield. It is now Fort Wayne International Airport (FWA).

A CNAC Loening Air Yacht amphipian at Lungwha, China, circa 1930. (SFO Aviation Museum & Library R2014.1811.001)
Lufbery

¹ TDiA would like to thank CMSgt Bob Laymon USAF (Ret.) (AKA, “Scatback Scribe”) for pointing out that while Lt. Baer was the first American to become an ace flying in the American service, that,

“The first American Ace was actually Gervais Raoul V. Lufbery, an American immigrant that was serving with the French Air Service when he shot down his 5th German plane in 1916: http://www.veterantributes.org/TributeDetail.php?recordID=903

² U.S. AIR SERVICE VICTORY CREDITS, WORLD WAR I, USAF Historical Study No. 133, Historical Reserch Division, Air University, Maxwell Ir Force Base, Alabama, June 1969, at Page 7

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 October 1918

Wing Commander William George Barker, VC, DSO and Bar, MC and two Bars, Royal Air Force, Angleterre, 1918. (Library and Archives Canada)
Wing Commander William George Barker, V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, M.C. and Two Bars, Royal Air Force, England, 1918. (Swaine / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada / PA-122516)

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 09.15.01Air Ministry,

30th November, 1918.

     His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned Officers of the Royal Air Force, in recognition of bravery of the highest possible order :—

     Capt. (A./Major) William George Barker, D.S.O., M.C., No. 201 Sqn., R.A. Force.

     On the morning of 27th October, 1918, this officer observed an enemy two-seater over Fôret de Mormal. He attacked this machine, and after a short burst it broke up in the air. At the same time a Fokker biplane attacked him, and he was wounded in the right thigh, but managed despite this, to shoot down the enemy aeroplane in flames.

     He then found himself in the middle of a large formation of Fokkers, who attacked him from all directions; and was again severely wounded in the left thigh, but succeeded in driving down two of the enemy in a spin.

     He lost consciousness after this, and his machine fell out of control. On recovery he found himself being again attacked heavily by a large formation, and singling out one machine, he deliberately charged and drove it down in flames.

     During this fight his left elbow was shattered and he again fainted, on on regaining consciousness he found himself still being attacked, but, notwithstanding that he was now severely wounded in both legs and his left arm shattered, he dived on the nearest machine and shot it down in flames.

     Being greatly exhausted, he dived out of the fight to regain our lines, but was met with another formation, which attacked and endeavoured to cut him off, but after a hard fight he succeeded in breaking up this formation and reached our lines, where he crashed on landing.

     This combat, in which Major Barker destroyed four enemy machines (three of them in flames), brought his total successes up to fifty enemy machines destroyed, and is a notable example of the exceptional bravery and disregard of danger which this very gallant officer has always displayed throughout his distinguished career.

     Major Barker was awarded the Military Cross on 10th January, 1917; first Bar on 18th July, 1917; the Distinguished Service Order on 18th February, 1918; second Bar to Military Cross on 16th September, 1918; and Bar to Distinguished Service Order on 2nd November, 1918.

The London Gazette, Second Supplement to The London Gazette of FRIDAY, the 29th of NOVEMBER 1918, Number 31042 at Pages 14203, 14204

The Victoria Cross was presented to Major Barker at Buckingham Palace, 1 March 1919. Still recovering from his wounds, Barker could only walk a few paces to receive the medal.

Lieutenant Colonel William George Barker, VC, DSO with Bar, MC with 2 Bars, Croix de Guerre with his Sopwith Camel F.1. (Library and Archives Canada)
Major William George Barker, D.S.O., M.C. and Bar, and his Sopwith Camel F.1, B.6313. The airplane is carrying the markings of No. 139 Squadron, which Barker commanded from July to October 1918. (Library and Archives Canada)
The Victoria Cross

William George Barker is Canada’s most highly-decorated military serviceman. He was born 3 November 1894 at Dauphin, in the Parkland Region of Manitoba, Canada. He was the first of nine children of George William John Barker, a farmer, and Jane Victoria Alguire Barker.

At the opening of World War I, Barker, having previously served with the 32nd Manitoba Horse, enlisted as a trooper with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles. He was trained as a machine gunner and sent to Europe with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. His unit fought in the 3rd Battle of Ypres. In early 1917, Barker volunteered as a gunner in the Royal Flying Corps, and after training, was commissioned a second lieutenant. He flew as an observer and gunner aboard a Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2. Lieutenant Barker shot down at least two enemy aircraft, and was instrumental in calling artillery fire on massed enemy troops. He and his pilot were awarded the Military Cross.

From December 1916 to February 1917, Lieutenant Barker went through pilot training in England. It is reported that he soloed after less than one hour of instruction. After qualifying as a pilot, he returned to the Continent, serving with No. 15 Squadron. In May 1917, Barker was promoted to the rank of captain and placed in command of one of the squadron’s flights. During this period, Captain Barker was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross (a second award). Barker was wounded in August 1917 and was returned to England to recuperate, then spent some time as a flight instructor. He returned to France in October.

Captain Barker was transferred to 28 Squadron and assigned a Sopwith Camel F.1, B.6313. The squadron was sent to Italy, where Hawker engaged in attacking balloons and enemy facilities. He was promoted to major and awarded the Distinguished Service Order and a second bar to his Military Cross (a third award).

William George Barker, V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, M.C. and Two Bars, Royal Air Force, 1919. (Toronto Star)
William George Barker, V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, M.C. and Two Bars, Royal Air Force, 1919. (Toronto Star)

Barker was very seriously wounded in the battle in which he earned the Victoria Cross. In addition to the decorations of the United Kingdom, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre of France, and Italy’s Medaglia d’Argento al Valore Militare.

Barker flew more than 900 hours in combat during World War I. He is officially credited with destroying 50 enemy aircraft, including 9 balloons. All but the last four enemy airplanes were destroyed while flying B.6313, his personal Sopwith Camel.

Returning to Canada at the end of the War, he and fellow Canadian ace Billy Bishop formed Bishop-Barker Company, Ltd., and then Bishop-Barker Aeroplanes, a charter, aircraft sales and maintenance company.

William Barker married Miss Jean Bruce Kilbourn Smith, 1 June 1921, at Grace Church on-the-Hill, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. They had one daughter, Jean Antoinette Barker.

Billy Barker returned to military service with the newly-formed Canadian Air Force and was commissioned a wing commander. He was assigned to command Camp Borden Air Station. In 1924, Wing Commander Barker was assigned as Acting Director, the highest position in the C.A.F., until the creation of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Barker was then assigned as a liaison officer to the Royal Air Force. He attended the Royal Air Force Staff College from May 1925 to March 1926. Barker resigned from the R.C.A.F. in 1926, refusing to serve under an officer he did not respect.

Wing Commander William George Barker, V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, M.C. and Two Bars, Acting Director, Canadian Air Force, 1 April 1924–18 May 1924. (DND Archives RE64-236)

After leaving the military service, Barker worked at several positions, including the first president of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team. In 1930, he joined Fairchild Aircraft as a vice-president.

On 12 March 1930, while demonstrating a Fairchild KR-21, CF-AKR (s/n 1021) at Rockcliffe Air Station near Ottawa, Ontario, the airplane went out of control and crashed onto the ice-bound Ottawa River. William George Barker was killed. He was just 35 years old.

Wreck of Fairchild KR-21 CF-AKR (DND Archives RE74-165)

Following a state funeral, the body of Wing Commander William George Barker, V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, M.C. and Two Bars, Royal Canadian Air Force, was interred at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. More than 50,000 people lined the streets leading to the cemetery.

William George Barker Memorial at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Ontario War Memorials)
William George Barker Memorial at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Ontario War Memorials)
Sopwith Camel F.1. (Royal Air Force)
Sopwith Camel F.1 F6394. (Royal Air Force)
Sopwith Camel F.1 F6394 © Imperial War Museum (Q 63822)
Sopwith Camel F.1 F6394 © Imperial War Museum (Q 63822)

The Sopwith Camel F.1 was a British single-place, single-engine biplane fighter, produced by the Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Canbury Park Road, Kingston-on-Thames. The airplane was constructed of a wooden framework, with the forward fuselage being covered with aluminum panels and plywood, while the aft fuselage, wings and tail surfaces were covered with fabric.

The length of the Camel F.1 varied from 18 feet, 6 inches (5.639 meters) to 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters), depending on which engine was installed. Both upper and lower wings had a span of 28 feet, 0 inches (8.534 meters) and chord of 4 feet, 6 inches (1.372 meters). They were separated vertically by 5 feet (1.524 meters) at the fuselage. The upper wing had 0° dihedral, while the lower wing had 5° dihedral and was staggered 1 foot, 6 inches (0.457 meters) behind the upper wing. The single-bay wings were braced with airfoil-shaped streamline wires. The overall height of the Camel also varied with the engine, from 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters) to 8 feet, 9 inches (2.667 meters).

Front view of a Sopwith Camel F.I
Front view of a Sopwith Camel F.I (Unattributed)

The heaviest Camel F.1 variant used the Le Rhône 180 h.p. engine. It had an empty weight of 1,048 pounds (475 kilograms). Its gross weight of 1,567 pounds (711 kilograms). The lightest was equipped with the Gnôme Monosoupape 100 horsepower engine, with weights of 882 pounds (400 kilograms) and 1,387 pounds (629 kilograms), respectively.

The first Camel was powered by an air-cooled 15.268 liter (931.72 cubic inches) Société Clerget-Blin et Cie Clerget Type 9 nine-cylinder rotary engine which produced 110 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. and drove a wooden two-bladed propeller. Eight different rotary engines¹ from four manufacturers, ranging from 100 to 180 horsepower, were used in the type.

The best performance came with the Bentley B.R.1 engine (5.7:1 compression ratio). This variant had a maximum speed of 121 miles per hour (195 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and 114.5 miles per hour (184 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). It could climb to 6,500 feet (1,981 meters) in 4 minutes, 35 seconds; to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) in 8 minutes, 10 seconds; and 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) in 15 minutes, 55 seconds. It had a service ceiling of 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). Two other Camel variants could reach 24,000 feet (7,315 meters).

Sopwith Camel F.1 N6254, right profile. (NASA)
Sopwith Camel F.1 N6254, right profile. (NASA)

The Bentley B.R.1 rotary engine was designed by Lieutenant Walter Owen Bentley, Royal Naval Air Service (later, Captain, Royal Air Force), based on the Clerget Type 9, but with major improvements. It used aluminum cylinders shrunk on to steel liners, with aluminum pistons. The Bentley B.R.1 (originally named the Admiralty Rotary, A.R.1, as it was intended for use by the Royal Navy) was an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 17.304 liter (1,055.9 cubic inches) nine-cylinder rotary engine with a compression ratio of 5.7:1. It was rated at 150 horsepower at 1,250 r.p.m. The B.R.1 was 1.110 meters (3 feet, 7.7 inches) long, 1.070 meters (3 feet, 6.125 inches) in diameter and weighed 184 kilograms (406 pounds.) The engine was manufactured by Humber, Ltd., Coventry, England.

The Camel was armed with two fixed, forward-firing .303-caliber Vickers machine guns, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller. These guns were modified for air cooling. Some night fighter variants substituted Lewis machine guns mounted above the upper wing for the Vickers guns. Four 25 pound (11.3 kilogram) bombs could be carried on racks under the fuselage.

The Sopwith Camel was a difficult airplane to fly. Most of its weight was concentrated far forward, making it unstable, but, at the same time making the fighter highly maneuverable. The rotary engine, with so much of its mass in rotation, caused a torque effect that rolled the airplane to the right to a much greater degree than in airplanes equipped with radial or V-type engines. A skilled pilot could use this to his advantage, but many Camels ended upside down while taking off.

Major William G. Barker, RAF, with an upside-down Sopwith Camel F.1 of No. 28 Squadron, Italy, 1918. (Library and Archives of Canada)
Major William G. Barker, D.S.O., M.C. and Bar, with an upside-down Sopwith Camel F.1 of No. 28 Squadron, Italy, 1918. (Library and Archives of Canada)

Twelve manufacturers² produced 5,490 Sopwith Camels between 1916 and 1920. By the end of World War I, it was becoming outclassed by newer aircraft, however it was the single most successful fighter of the war, shooting down 1,294 enemy aircraft.

One single fighter, Major William Barker’s Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Camel F.1 B.6313, shot down 46 enemy aircraft, more than any other fighter in history. According to an article by Bob Pearson in “History in Illustration” (http://www.cbrnp.com/profiles/quarter1/barkers-camel.htm), between 2 October 1917 and 29 September 1918, Barker flew 379 hours, 10 minutes in this airplane.

It is believed that only seven Sopwith Camels still exist.

¹ Humber, Ltd., Bentley B.R.1 150 h.p., B.R.1 (5.7:1 c.r.); Clerget 9B, 130 h.p.; Clerget 9Bf, 130 h.p. (long stroke); Gnôme Monosoupape, 100 h.p.; Gnôme Monosoupape, 150 h.p.; Le Rhône, 110 h.p.; and Le Rhône 180 h.p.

² Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Kingston-on-Thames; Boulton and Paul, Ltd., Norwich; British Caudron Co., London; Clayton and Shuttleworth, Ltd., Lincoln; Hooper and Co., Ltd., London; March, Jones and Cribb, Ltd., Leeds; Nieuport and General Aircraft Co., Ltd., London; Ruston, Proctor and Co., Ltd., Lincoln; Fairey Aviation Co., Ltd.; Portholme Aerodrome Ltd., Huntingdon; Wm. Beardmore & Co., Ltd., Glasgow; Pegler & Co., Ltd., Doncaster.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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14–15 October 1927

Costes and Le Brix flew this Breguet XIX GR, No. 1685, named Nungesser-Coli, across the South Atlantic Ocean 14–15 October 1927.
Dieudonné Costes

14–15 October 1927: Dieudonné Costes and Joseph Le Brix flew a Breguet XIX GR, serial number 1685, across the South Atlantic Ocean from Saint-Louis, Senegal, to Port Natal, Brazil.

This was the first non-stop South Atlantic crossing by an airplane. The 2,100-mile (3,380 kilometer) flight took just over 18 hours.

The two aviators were on an around-the-world flight that began 10 October 1927 at Paris, France, and would be completed 14 April 1928, after traveling 34,418 miles (57,000 kilometers).

Costes had been a test pilot for Breguet since 1925. He served as a fighter pilot during World War I and was credited with six aerial victories. He had been appointed Commandeur Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur and awarded the Croix de Guerre with seven palms, and the Médaille militaire.

Following the around-the-world flight, the Congress of the United States, by special act, awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In 1929, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale awarded him its Gold Air Medal, and the International League of Aviators awarded him the Harmon Trophy “for the most outstanding international achievement in the arts and/or science of aeronautics for the preceding year, with the art of flying receiving first consideration.”

Joseph Le Brix (1899–1931)
Joseph Le Brix

Capitain de Corvette Joseph Le Brix was a French naval officer. He had trained as a navigator, aerial observer and pilot. For his service in the Second Moroccan War, he was appointed to the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur and awarded the Croix de Guerre. Like Costes, Le Brix was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the U.S. Congress.

The Breguet XIX GR (“GR” stands for Grand Raid) had been named Nungesser-Coli in honor of the two pilots who disappeared while attempting a crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the White Bird, 8 May 1927. It was developed from the Type XIX light bomber and reconnaissance airplane, which entered production in 1924. A single-engine, two-place biplane with tandem controls, it was primarily constructed of aluminum tubing, covered with sheet aluminum and fabric. The biplane was a “sesquiplane,” meaning that the lower of the two wings was significantly smaller than the upper. Approximately 2,400 Breguet XIXs were built.

Dieudonné Costes and Joseph Le Brix in their Breguet XIX, photographed in Panama, 1 january 1928, by Lt. C. Tuma, U.S. Army Air Corps. (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)
Dieudonné Costes and Joseph Le Brix in their Breguet XIX, photographed in Panama, 1 January 1928, by Lt. C. Tuma, U.S. Army Air Corps. (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

No. 1685 was a special long-distance variant, with a 2,900–3,000 liter fuel capacity (766–792 gallons). It was further modified to add 1 meter to the standard 14.83 meter (48 feet, 7.9 inches) wingspan, and the maximum fuel load was increased to 3,500 liters (925 gallons).

The original 590 horsepower Hispano-Suiza 12Hb engine was replaced with a more powerful Hispano-Suiza 12Lb. This was a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 31.403-liter (1,916.33-cubic-inch-displacement) overhead valve 60° V-12 engine, with 2 valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 6.2:1. The 12Lb produced 630 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m., burning 85 octane gasoline. The engine was 1.850 meters (6 feet, 0.8 inches) long, 0.750 meters (2 feet, 5.5 inches) wide and 1.020 meters (3 feet, 4.2 inches) high. It weighed 440 kilograms (970 pounds).

The Breguet XIX had a speed of 214 kilometers per hour (133 miles per hour). Its service ceiling was 7,200 meters (23,620 feet).

The Breguet XIX GR No. 1685, Nungesser-Coli, at le musée de l'air et de l'espace (MAE) du Bourget.
The Breguet XIX GR No. 1685, Nungesser-Coli, at le musée de l’air et de l’espace (MAE) du Bourget.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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