23 January 1909: The Blériot XI made its first flight at Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris, France. The airplane was flown by Louis Charles Joseph Blériot. It was designed by Raymond Saulnier and was a development of the earlier Blériot VIII.
Saulnier later founded Morane-Saulnier Aviation—Sociètè Anonyme des Aèroplanes Morane-Saulnier—with the Morane brothers, Léon and Robert.
The Blériot XI was a single-seat, single-engine monoplane. It was 26.24 feet (7.998 meters) long with a wingspan of 25.35 feet (7.727 meters) and overall height of 8 feet (2.438 meters). It had an empty weight of 507 pounds (229.9 kilograms).
(Sources give conflicting specifications for the Blériot XI, probably because they were often changed in an effort to improve the airplane. Dimensions given here are from the three-view drawings, below.)
In its original configuration, the airplane was powered by an air-cooled, 3.774 liter (230.273 cubic inches) R.E.P. two-row, seven-cylinder fan engine (or “semi-radial”) which produced 30 horsepower at 1,500 r.p.m., driving a four-bladed paddle-type propeller. The R.E.P. engine weighed 54 kilograms (119 pounds). This engine was unreliable and was soon changed for an air-cooled 3.117 liter (190.226 cubic inch) Alessandro Anzani & Co., 60° three-cylinder “fan”-type radial engine (or W-3) and a highly-efficient Chauvière Intégrale two-bladed propeller. The Anzani engine produced 25 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m.
The Blériot XI had a maximum speed of 76 kilometers per hour (47 miles per hour) and its service ceiling was 1,000 meters (3,281 feet).
Just over six months from its first flight, on 25 July 1909, Louis Blériot flew his Blériot XI across the English Channel from Calais to Dover. He flew the 25 mile (40 kilometer) distance in 36 minutes. The airplane was slightly damaged on landing.
Blériot’s original airplane is in the collection of the Musee des Arts et Metiers, Paris, France.
The Blériot XI was a successful and influential design. It was widely used by both civilian and military aviators.
13 January 1908: Henry Farman flew a circular one kilometer course at Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, in 1 minute, 28 seconds to win the Grand Prix de l’aviation, a prize of 50,000 francs, which had been offered by Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe in 1904.
Henri Deutsch de le Muerthe (1846–1919) was a wealthy French businessman with a strong interest in aviation. He was one of the founders of the Aéro-Club de France. Along with Ernest Archdeacon, he sponsored a series of prizes to promote advances in flight.
The biplane was built by brothers Charles and Gabriel Voisin, and was very similar to the Voisin-Delagrange I which they had built several months earlier. Henry Farman had requested some slight modifications. He first flew the airplane 30 September 1907.
Farman had previously won the Coupe d’Aviation Ernest Archdeacon (Ernest Archdeacon Cup) when he flew his Henri Farman nº 1 a distance of approximately 771 meters (2,530 feet) in 52 seconds, 26 October 1907.
The Henri Farman nº 1 (also known as the Voisin-Farman I) was a single-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane with the elevator forward and a “box kite” tail. It was 10.500 meters (34 feet 5.4 inches) long, with a wingspan of 10.000 meters (32 feet, 9.7 inches). The chord of each wing was 2.000 meters (6 feet, 6.7 inches), and vertical gap between the upper and lower wings was 1.500 meters (4 feet, 11.0 inches). There was no sweep or dihedral.
The complete airplane weighed 530 kilograms (1,169 pounds).
The airplane was powered by a steam-cooled, direct-injected, 487.14 cubic-inch-displacement (7.983 liter) Société Antoinette 8V 90° V-8 direct-drive engine ,designed by Léon Levavasseur. It produced 38 horsepower at 1,050 r.p.m. The engine turned a two-bladed pusher propeller, which had a diameter of 2.30 meters (7 feet, 6.6 inches). The engine was 1.120 meters (3 feet, 8 inches) long, 0.630 meters (2 feet, 1 inch) wide and (0.540 meters (1 foot, 9 inches) high. It weighed 95 kilograms (209 pounds).
26 October 1907: At Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, Henry Farman flew his Voisin-Farman I airplane a distance of approximately 771 meters (2,530 feet) in 52 seconds to win the Coupe d’Aviation Ernest Archdeacon (Ernest Archdeacon Cup) for the longest flight of the year.
The single-place single-engine biplane was built by brothers Charles and Gabriel Voisin, and was very similar to the Voisin-Delagrange I which they had built several months earlier. Henry Farman had requested some slight modifications. He first flew the airplane 30 September 1907.
The Voisin-Farman I was 44 feet, 2 inches (13.462 meters) long, with a wingspan of 35 feet, 5 inches (10.795 meters) and weighed 705 pounds (319.8 kilograms) and gross weight of 1,213 pounds (550 kilograms).
The airplane was powered by a steam-cooled, direct-injected, 487.14 cubic-inch-displacement (7.983 liter) Société Antoinette 8V 90° V-8 direct-drive engine producing 53 horsepower at 1,100 r.p.m. The engine turned a two-bladed pusher propeller. It was designed by Léon Levavasseur. The engine was 1.120 meters (3 feet, 8 inches) long, 0.630 meters (2 feet, 1 inch) wide and (0.540 meters (1 foot, 9 inches) high. It weighed 95 kilograms (209 pounds).
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.
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.
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.
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.”
—FLIGHTand AIRCRAFT ENGINEER, No. 2424 Vol. 68. Friday, 8 July 1955 at Page 54
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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 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.
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.
The Paris–Madrid Race began at Issy-les-Moulineaux, in the southwest of Paris, France, 21 May 1911. The race was sponsored by Le Petit Parisien, a French newspaper. More than 300,000 spectators had arrived to watch the event.
The first competitor, “Andre Beaumont” (a pseudonym for Lieutenant Jean Louis Conneau of the French Navy), took off at 5:10 a.m. in a Blériot-Gnome. Roland Garros, also flying a Blériot-Gnome, followed at 5:15 a.m. Several more airplanes departed, at approximately 5-minute intervals.
Jules Charles Toussaint Védrines, flying a Morane monoplane, took off at 6:20 a.m. He was unable to control the airplane and had to lay down on a wing to steer it away from the crowds. He landed but the airplane was damaged. Rather than repair the Morane, he decided to fly the race with another airplane of the same type, as the rules allowed.
At 6:30 a.m., Louis Émile Train, with a passenger, M. Bonnier, took off in an airplane of his own design. The airplane’s Gnome rotary engine was not operating properly and Train immediately turned back toward the area specified as the airfield. (This open area was surrounded by a massive crowd of spectators who continually encroached on the open space.)
As he was about to land, a troop of French cavalry (cuirrassiers) crossed directly in front of him. Train pulled up, but his engine failed. The airplane stalled and crashed just beyond the cavalry. Unseen by Train, a group of officials was on the other side of the troop, and a number of them were struck by the airplane.
M. Henri Maurice Berteaux, France’s Minister of War, was killed. Prime Minister Antoine Emmanuel Ernest Monis, Henri Deutsch de le Muerthe and several others were severely injured.
A judicial inquiry was immediately held. Train was completely exonerated. Witnesses later said that just prior to the crash, M. Berteaux had commented that the group had moved too far into the field and suggested that they should move back for safety.
Because of the accident, further flights were cancelled, with starts to resume to following day. Only Roland Garros completed the first leg of the race the first day, 400 kilometers (249 miles), with his Blériot XI, arriving at Angoulême after a flight of 4 hours, 52 minutes. Other racers stopped at intermediate points. One of these airplanes was damaged on takeoff, another delayed by weather, and a third withdrew from the race when he learned of the accident at Issy.
On the second day of the Paris-Madrid Race, Jules Védrines, flying Morane No. 14, was the first to take off. Airborne at 4:11 a.m., he arrived at Angoulême at 7:54:16 a.m. after a flight of 3 hours, 43 minutes. His official time, however, included the actual flight time for his first attempt on Sunday, and a 30 minute penalty for not successfully starting on the first day of the race. His official time was 4 hours, 24 minutes, 7 seconds, which was still faster than Garros’ time. In third place was M. Gibert, who had remained at Pont Levoy overnight. He arrived at Angoulême at 10:54:58 a.m., Monday, for an official time of 29 hours, 24 minutes, 53 seconds.
On Tuesday, Gibert took off at 5:12 a.m., with Garros following at 5:19:02 a.m. Védrines, who should have started at 5:00 a.m., waited more than two hours for mist to clear. Even so, Védrines was the first to complete the second leg, arriving at San Sebastián on the shore of the Bay of Biscay at 10:56:15 a.m., having flown the 353 kilometers (219 miles) non-stop in 3 hours, 41 minutes, 57 seconds.
Roland Garros made an intermediate fueling stop and was delayed more than two hours. He arrived at San Sebastián at 11:25:36 a.m. Gibert had been delayed by engine trouble at Bayonne, and did not land at San Sebastián until 6:52:22 p.m., Tuesday evening.
The aviators rested at San Sebastián, continuing the final leg of the race on Thursday.
The start for the third leg was scheduled for 5:00 a.m., but weather caused another delay. Gibert took off at 6:24 a.m. and crossed the start line at 6:28:35 a.m. He flew out over the Bay of Biscay and quickly disappeared from sight. Garros took off at 7:12 a.m., and Védrines at 7:17 a.m.
Védrines landed at Quintanapalla, but because of the rough field, slightly damaged his Morane. Temporary repairs were made and he flew the 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) to Burgos. He requested permission for the race committee to wait until Friday morning before continuing to allow time for permanent repairs to be made. His request was granted.
Shortly after departing San Sebastián, Garros’ Blériot-Gnome suffered engine trouble, forcing him to land at Usurbil. He took off, but was forced to land again at Andoain. He then returned to San Sebastián. He also proposed restarting the following day after obtaining a new propeller.
Gibert landed at Olasagutia, damaging his airplane. He was also delayed until Friday.
At 5:20 a.m., Friday, Védrines took off from Burgos. He crossed the Sierra de Guadarrama. one of the mountain ranges of the Pyrenees, flying through Somosierra Pass. (The pass has an elevation of 1,434 meters/4,705 feet.) It was here that his Morane was repeatedly attacked by an eagle, forcing to take evasive maneuvers. The duel in the air went of for more than five minutes before the airplane escaped. (Gibert had a similar encounter.)
At 8:06 a.m., Védrines landed at Getafe Aerodrome. He was met by representatives of the Real Aero Club de España and Señor de la Torre, Governor of Madrid. Védrines was commanded to attend King Alfonso at the Palace, where he was engaged in a lengthy conversation with the monarch. He was awarded the Cross of the Order of Alfonso XII.
Jules Védrines’ official time for the 462 kilometers (287 miles) from San Sebastián to Madrid was 27 hours, 5 minutes 41 seconds. This resulted in a race total of 37 hours, 26 minutes, 12 seconds.
The prize for the winner was 100,000 francs. The second place finisher won 30,000 francs, and third, 15,000 francs (approximately equivalent to £4,000, £1,200 and £600.)
Jules Védrines’ Morane monoplane was 22 feet, 0 inches (6.706 meters) long with a wing span of 30 feet, 8 inches (9.347 meters). Its empty weight was 440 pounds (200 kilograms), and gross weight, 770 pounds (349 kilograms). Wing warping was used for roll control. The landing gear consisted of wheels and skids, with a rubber cord suspension. The airplane was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 11.150 liter (680.385-cubic-inch-displacement) Société des Moteurs Gnome Omega 7-cylinder rotary engine. The direct-drive engine turned a two-blade fixed pitch Integrale propeller with diameter 9 feet, 3 inches (2.819 meters) and pitch of 5 feet, 11 inches (1.803 meters).
With the engine turning 1,200 r.p.m., the speed of the Morane was 77 miles per hour (124 kilometers per hour).