Tag Archives: Société Française Hispano-Suiza

15 May 1918

Curtiss JN-4HM “Jenny), S.C. 38262, at Potomac Park Polo Field, Washington, D.C., 15 May 1918 (National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

15 May 1918: The United States Post Office Department began regularly-scheduled transportation of the mail by air. After a short delay the first flight departed from Potomac Park Polo Field, near Washington, D.C., at approximately 11:45 a.m., heading to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the first leg of a relay to New York City, New York. Among many spectators and government officials, there to observe was Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States of America.

Potomac Park Polo Field

The weather was described as “fair,” with the air temperature at 70 °F. (21 °C.). The first airplane scheduled to depart was a Curtiss JN-4HM “Jenny,” Signal Corps serial number S.C. 38262. Its pilot was Second Lieutenant George Leroy Boyle, Aviation Section, Signal Officer’s Reserve Corps, United States Army.

S.C. 38262 was a brand new airplane. It had been shipped by railroad from the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company’s plant in Hammondsport, New York, to Hazelhurst Field,¹ Long Island, New York. The airplane was uncrated and assembled, then flown to Bustleton Field, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from down town Philadelphia.

Major Reuben H. Fleet, at left, with 2nd Lieutenant George Leroy Boyle, at Potomac Park Polo Field, the morning of 15 May 1918. (National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution )

On the morning of 15 May, Major Reuben H. Fleet flew S.C. 38262 to Washington, D.C., arriving there at 10:35 a.m. Major Fleet met with Lieutenant Boyle to discuss the actual mail flight and assist him with charts for the route. With all the hurried activity, refueling the Jenny was overlooked. When it was time, Boyle was unable to start the airplane’s engine. There was no gasoline available at the polo fields, so some was siphoned from the other airplanes.

Lieutenant Boyle was finally airborne at approximately 11:45 with his load of U.S. Mail.

2nd Lieutenant George Leroy Boyle takes off in Curtiss JN-4HM S.C. 38262, at approximately 11:45 a.m., 15 May 1918. (Smithsonian Institution SI 2000-6150)

After taking off, though, Lieutenant Boyle turned toward the south—the wrong direction for Philadelphia.

Boyle soon realized that something was wrong and he landed to try to orient himself. he took off again, but once again recognized that he was lost and landed again, this time, near Waldorf, Maryland. Landing in a soft field, S.C. 38262 nosed over and the propeller was damaged.

Coincidentally, a house near Boyle’s landing site was the home of Assistant Postmaster General Otto Praeger, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from Washington. Boyle was able to call Washington and report in. He and the mail were driven back to Potomac Park.

Major Fleet wanted to replace Boyle, but was overruled by Post Office officials.

Lieutenant Brady’s flight report, Form 220B, 15 May 1918. (National Archives and Records Administration, via Tim Brady, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University)
Reverse of (National Archives and Records Administration, via Tim Brady, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University)

S.C. 38262 was repaired, and on 17 May, Lieutenant Boyle and his load of mail, all of which had been stamped to indicate the first day of air mail service, once again took off on schedule at 11:35 a.m., for Philadelphia. This time, though, Boyle was escorted as far as Baltimore, Maryland, by another pilot. (Sources vary. Some say it was Major Fleet, while others say it was Lieutenant James Edgerton, flying S.C. 38274.) From that point, Boyle had been told, he was to simply follow the shoreline of Chesapeake Bay to Philadelphia.

But, once again, Lieutenant Boyle turned the wrong way. At about 2:45 p.m., low on fuel, he landed near Cape Charles, Virginia, about 125 miles (201 kilometers) to the south of Washington, D.C. Boyle was able to borrow gasoline from a farmer and at 4:15 p.m., was airborne once again.

Darkness approached and Boyle’s fuel was running low. Uncertain of his position, at 7:05 p.m., he landed at the Philadelphia Country Club, which was about 15 miles (24 kilometers) short of his actual destination at Bustelton Field. The airplane struck an obstacle and Lieutenant Boyle was thrown from the cockpit, though he suffered only minor injuries. The Jenny, though, was in worse shape. Its left lower wing was torn off, and its upper wing damaged. The airplane would be repaired, but did not return to service until 10 July 1918.

A member of the club drove Boyle and his load of mail to Bustleton Field, where it was loaded on a train for New York City.

Postal Department officials wanted Lieutenant Boyle to continue flying the mail, but Major Fleet refused. This time, rather than being overruled, he was supported in his decision by Secretary of War Newton Diehl Baker Jr.

Curtiss JN-4HMs S.C.38274 and S.C. 38262 at Potomac Park Polo Field. (Benjamin Lipsner Collection, National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution A.2006-12)

On 1 March 1918, the U.S. Postal Department and the United States Army agreed that the Army would fly the mail, beginning 15 May 1918. Major Reuben Hollis Fleet, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, was placed in charge of the project by Secretary of War Baker. The Signal Corps ordered 18 airplanes for the purpose: six Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co, JN-4HTs, serial numbers S.C. 37944, 38262, 38274, 38275, 38276, 37278; six Liberty-powered Curtiss R-4Ls, S.C. 39362–39367; and six JR-1Bs, serial numbers 1–6, from the Standard Aircraft Corporation, Plainfield, New Jersey. Fleet told Curtiss to modify the Jennys by removing the seat and flight controls from the forward cockpit, and to add a hopper to hold the mail. The airplanes were also given increased fuel and lubricating oil capacity. The airplanes were redesignated JN-4HM.

Major Fleet was told to select four pilots, while the Post Office Department would choose another two. He chose 1st Lieutenants Howard Paul Culver, Walter Miller and Torrey H. Webb, and 2nd Lieutenant Stephen Bonsal, Jr.

2nd Lieutenant James C. Edgerton, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army.

The two Army pilots chosen by the Post Office were 2nd Lieutenant George L. Boyle and 2nd Lieutenant James C. Edgerton. These two officers had just completed flight training and had only about 60 hours flight time, each.

But George Boyle was engaged to Miss Margaret Grundy McChord, the daughter of Judge Charles Caldwell McChord, Chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Lieutenant Edgerton was the son of James A. Edgerton, the purchasing agent of the Post Office.

Not much is known about George Leroy Boyle. He was born at Fort Scott, Kansas, during October 1891. He was the first of four children of Louis C. Boyle, a lawyer who had been born in Canada, and Gertrude Boyle, of Illinois. George had three younger sisters,  Catherine G., Clara L., and Gertrude Boyle.

Boyle may have studied at the University of Missouri, Columbia, in 1912, and/or the Kansas City School of Law, Kansas City Missouri, as a member of the Class of 1915.

Boyle is believed to have attended ground school at Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, from 17 November 1917 to 26 January 1918. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, United States Army, and ordered to report to Park Field at Millington, Tennessee, for primary flight training. He then completed advanced flight training at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas.

Ellington Field, near Houston, Texas, 1918. (Signal Corps, United States Army)

One month following his unfortunate beginning as an air mail pilot, George Leroy Boyle married Miss McChord. The ceremony was held at 5:00 p.m., 15 June 1918, in the Red Parlor of the New Willard Hotel, a luxurious Beaux-Arts-style hotel near the center of Washington, D.C. The wedding, “One of the most notable of the June weddings in the capital,” was officiated by Rev. Walter Everett Burnett.

Lieutenant Boyle’s military career seems to have come to an end at about this time. In 1920, he and Mrs. Boyle (along with her father, Judge McChord) were residents at the Willard, and Boyle was a practicing attorney.

Mrs. Boyle gave birth to a daughter, Josephine Fairchild Boyle, in Washington, D.C., 15 April 1921.

By 1924, the Boyles were living apart. George Boyle was practicing law in Kansas City, Missouri, while Mrs. Boyle and her daughter remained in Washington, D.C.

Nothing else seems to be known about George Leroy Boyle.

Major Fleet and Lt. Boyle with S.C. 38262, at Potomac Park polo Field, 15 May 1918. The woman in the photograph may be Miss Margaret McChord, Lieutenant Boyle’s fiancée. (National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

There is another interesting story associated with George Boyle and the First Day of U.S. Air Mail service.

The Post Office Department issued a new 24-cent postage stamp for air mail. The stamp was issued on 10 May 1918. Due to an error in printing, the blue portion of the image, the airplane was printed inverted in reference to the red portion. Only about 100 stamps are known to have been printed this way. Known as the “Inverted Jenny,” this is one of the most famous and valuable postage stamp errors known.

The airplane on the stamp, a Curtiss Jenny, is marked with the serial number 38262—Lieutenant Boyle’s airplane.

An example of this stamp sold at auction in 2016 for $1,351,250 (including buyer’s premium).

“The Inverted Jenny” 24¢ postage stamp, issued 10 May 1918. (U.S. Postal Service)

The Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” was a single-engine, two place, two-bay biplane, designed and built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, Hammondsport, New York, and used primarily as a training aircraft. It was also produced by five other manufacturers under license: the Fowler-Howell & Lesser Co., San Francisco, California; Liberty Iron Works, Sacramento, California; Springfield Aircraft Corporation, Springfield, Massachusetts;  St. Louis Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri; and the U.S. Aircraft Corporation.

Side elevation erection drawing of the Curtiss JN-4D Jenny, 1917. (rcgroups.net)

The JN-4 was 27 feet, 4 inches (8.306 meters) long, with an upper wing span of 43 feet, 7-3/8 inches (13.294 meters) and lower span of 33 feet, 11¼ inches (10.344 meters). The height of the airplane in flight attitude was 9 feet, 10-5/8 inches (3.013 meters). The JN-4H variant had an empty weight of 1,625 pounds (737 kilograms), and gross weight of 2,269 pounds (1,029 kilograms).

Front elevation erection drawing of the Curtiss JN-4D Jenny, 1917. (Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum, NASM-NAM-A-42215-C)

The wings had a chord of 4 feet, 11½ inches (1.551 meters), and vertical gap of 5 feet, 1¼ inches (1.556 meters). The lower wing was staggered 1 foot, 4 inches (0.406 meters) behind the upper. The wings had 2º angle of incidence and 1° dihedral. There was no sweep. The ailerons were on the upper wing. The total wing area was 353.06 square feet (32.80 square meters).

While the most common variant of the JN-4, the JN-4D, was equipped with the Curtiss OX-5 engine, the JN-4H was powered by a Wright-Hispano, or more commonly, the “Wright-Hisso,” a design licensed by the Wright-Martin Aircraft Corporation, New Brunswick, New Jersey, from the Société Française Hispano-Suiza. Many sources state that the engine of the JN-4H was a Wright-Hisso E, but almost universally, they indicate that it was rated at 150 horsepower. The Model E, however, was rated at 180 horsepower, while the 150 horsepower engine is identified as the Model A. There was also an improved 150-horsepower Model I. Wright-Martin began producing the Model E in September 1916, All three of these engines are very similar. It is uncertain which model was actually installed in the JN-4HM mail planes.

Wright-Martin Model E SOHC V-8 aircraft engine, licensed version of the Société Française Hispano-Suiza V-8, in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum. (NASM 2014-04437)

The Wright-Hispano Models A, E and I were liquid-cooled, normally-aspirated, 717.629-cubic-inch-displacement (11.760 liter) single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 90° V-8 engines. All were direct drive.  The A and I variants had a compression ratio of 4.72:1, while the Model E ratio was 5.33:1. The Model E was designed to operate 300 r.p.m. faster than the A or I, and was strengthened for the higher loads. The Models A and I were rated at 150 horsepower at 1,540 r.p.m. at Sea Level. The Model E produced 185 horsepower at 1,750 r.p.m., and 195 horsepower at 1,850 r.p.m. The dry weight of the Model E was 470 pounds (213 kilograms).

The Curtiss JN-4HM had a cruise speed of 75 miles per hour (121 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 91 miles per hour (146 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 7,500 feet (2,286 meters) and the airplane’s range was 155 miles (249 kilometers).

A Curtiss JN-4D in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum. (NASM SI-2007-13553)

¹ On 15 July 1918, Hazelhurst Field was renamed Mitchel Field in honor of James Purroy Mitchel, mayor of New York City, 1914–1917. The name change was officially approved in April 1919. James Mitchel had joined the Aviation Section, Signal Corps. on 6 July 1918, he was killed when he fell from an airplane near Gerstner Field, Louisiana.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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12–13 May 1930

Latécoère 28-3 F-AJNQ at Saint-Louis du Sénégal, May 1930, with Gimié, Mermoz and Dabry (Keystone)

12–13 May 1930: In an effort to connect the North African and South American air mail routes, Jean Mermoz, the chief pilot of Compagnie générale aéropostale, along with co-pilot and navigator Jean Dabry, and radio navigator Léopold Martial Émile Gimié, departed Saint-Louis, on the western coast of Senegal, French West Africa, enroute to Natal, Brazil.

Mermoz, Dabry and Gimié at Saint-Louis, 12 May 1930. (Musee Air France)

Their airplane, a pontoon-equipped Latécoère 28-3, was carrying 122 kilograms (269 pounds) of mail and fuel for 30 hours of flight. The crew had named the airplane Comte de la Vaulx, after an early French aeronaut and the founder of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

The aviators flew southwest across the South Atlantic Ocean. Natal was approximately 2,000 miles away. [3,178.879 kilometers; 1,975.264 statute miles; 1,716.595 nautical miles]

Gimié transmitted a radio message: “19º Frame-A.J.N.Q. Mermoz, Dabry, Gimié, partis pour Natal à 10 h. 56 locale.”  (“19º Frame-A.J.N.Q. Mermoz, Dabry, Gimié, left for Natal at 10:56 a.m., local.”) Gimié was an expert in radio-navigation. The airplane was equipped with radios that could be used to triangulate their position using nine land stations and several ships along their course.

A contemporary United Press wire service news report stated that they arrived at Natal at 6:15 a.m., local time. The actual duration of the flight is difficult to determine. Sources very from as few as 17 hours to as many as 21 hours, 24 minutes. The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission reported that the flight took 19 hours, 35 minutes.

This was the first non-stop flight to cross the South Atlantic.

(Left to right) Jean Dabry, Jean Mermoz and Léopold Gimié. (le Figaro)

Antoine Saint Exupéry, a fellow Aéropostale pilot, described a portion of Mermoz’s transatlantic flight in Wind, Sand and Stars:

And yet we have all known flights when of a sudden, each for himself, it has seemed to us that we have crossed the border of the world of reality; when, only a couple of hours from port, we have felt ourselves more distant from it than we should feel if we were in India; when there was a premonition of an incursion into a forbidden world whence it was going to be infinitely difficult to return.

Thus, when Mermoz first crossed the South Atlantic in a hydroplane, as day was dying he ran foul of the Black Hole region, ² off Africa. Straight ahead of him were the tails of tornadoes rising minute by minute gradually higher, rising as a wall is built; and then night came down upon these preliminaries and swallowed them up; and when, and hour later, he slipped under the clouds, he came out into a fantastic kingdom.

Multiple waterspouts.

Great black waterspouts had reared themselves seemingly in the immobility of temple pillars. Swollen at their tops, they were supporting the squat and lowering arch of the tempest, but through the rifts in the arch there fell slabs of light and the full moon sent her radiant beams between the pillars down upon the frozen tiles of the sea. Through these uninhabited ruins Mermoz made his way, gliding slantwise from one channel of light to the next, circling round those giant pillars in which there must have rumbled the upsurge of the sea, flying for four hours through these corridors of moonlight toward the exit from the temple. And this spectacle was so overwhelming that only after he had got through the Black Hole did Mermoz awaken to the fact that he had not been afraid.

Atlantic Ocean waterspouts. (NOAA)

Wind, Sand and Stars, by Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger comte de Saint Exupéry, translated by Lewis Galantière, Harcourt Brace & Company, New York, Chapter 1 at Pages 16–17.

Latécoère 28-3 (Late 28.org)

The airplane flown by Mermoz, Dabry and Gimié was a Latécoère 28-3, registration F-AJNQ, built by Société Industrielle d’Aviation Latécoère at Toulouse, France. The airplane’s serial number is reported as both “Nº 909” and “Nº 919.” It was a large, single-engine, high-wing monoplane with an enclosed cabin. Also known as the Laté 28, the airplane could be equipped with fixed landing gear or pontoons for water operations. The airplane’s fuselage was constructed of duralumin, a hardened alloy of aluminum, with a duralumin sheet skin. The wings were also of metal construction, covered with fabric.

The Latécoère 28-3 was 44 feet, 4 inches (13.513 meters) long with a wingspan of 62 feet, 6 inches (19.050) and height of 10 feet, 7½ inches (3.24 meters).

Latécoère 28-3 F-AJNQ, Comte de la Vaulx.

The pontoons were also constructed of Duralumin. Each had ten floatation compartments. They were 26 feet, 4 inches (8.026 meters) long, 4 feet, 5 inches (1.346 meters) wide and 2 feet, 9 inches (0.838 meters) deep.

The Latécoère 28-3 had an empty weight of  5,720 pounds (2595 kilograms), and gross weight of 11,044 pounds (5,010 kilograms). Its fuel capacity was 556 gallons¹ (2,528 liters).

The pilot’s station was an enclosed cockpit at the leading edge of the wing, behind the engine, while the navigator and radio operator were in a cabin below and behind the cockpit. The air mail cargo was placed in a separate compartment.

Latécoère 28-3 floatplane. (late28.org)
(The Art of the Airways, by Geza Szurovy)

The Latécoère 28-3 was powered by a single right-hand-tractor, water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 31.403 liter (1,916.351 cubic inches) Hispano Suiza 12Lbr single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 6.2:1. This engine was rated at 630 cheval vapeur (621.4 horsepower) at 2,000 r.p.m. The two-bladed, fixed-pitch propeller was driven through a gear reduction unit. The 12Lbr was 1.85 meters (6.07 feet) long, 0.75 meters (2.46 feet) wide and  1.02 meters (3.35 feet) high. It weighed 440 kilograms (970 pounds).

The airplane had a maximum speed of 140 miles per hour (225 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 13,000 feet (3,962 meters).

F-AJNQ departed Natal on 8 June for the return flight to Africa. After about 14 hours, the engine developed a serious oil leak. Mermoz made a forced landing near the despatch boat Phocée, approximately 900 kilometers (560 miles) from their destination. The three crew members and the mail were transferred from F-AJNQ to the Phocée. The airplane was set adrift.

Compagnie générale aéropostale timetable, May 1930. (Air Ticket History)

¹ The source of the fuel capacity was a contemporary British periodical. Though not specified, TDiA assumes that the capacity was given in Imperial Gallons.

² The “Black Hole region” refers to “the doldrums” or Intertropical Convergence Zone.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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23–26 March 1932

Blériot-Zappata 110, F-ALCC.

23–26 March 1932: At 6:00 a.m., local time, Jean Baptiste Lucien Bossoutrot and Maurice Rossi took off from Es-Sénia aerodrome near Oran, French Algeria (Algérie française), in an attempt to break their own Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Distance Over a Closed Circuit Without Landing, set the previous year.¹ Their airplane was the same Blériot-Zappata 110, F-ALCC, which set the earlier record. It was named Joseph Le Brix, in honor of another aviator killed the year before.

With good weather, the airplane averaged 146 kilometers per hour (90.7 miles per hour) for 60 hours. The pilots initially ran the V-12 engine at 1,950 r.p.m., but gradually reduced that to 1,400 r.p.m., as the airplane burned off fuel and became lighter. On the third day, Bossoutrot and Rossi encountered strong winds and rain squalls, and at times the Blériot-Zappata’s ground speed dropped to just 90 kilometers per hour (55.9 miles per hour).

At 10:35 a.m., Saturday, after 76 hours, 35 minutes in the air, Bossoutrot and Rossi landed at Es-Sénia. They had flown a distance of 10,601.48 kilometers (6,587.45 miles), setting a new FAI world record.² (They also exceeded their previous World Record for Duration ³ by 1 hour, 12 minutes, though no new record is listed on the FAI’s Internet web site.)

Filippo Zappata

The Blériot-Zappata 110 was an experimental long-range airplane ordered by France’s Service Technique de l’Aéronautique, the government agency responsible for coordinating aviation research. It was designed by Italian aeronautical engineer Filippo Zappata and built by Blériot Aéronautique S.A.

The airplane was a single-engine, two-place, high-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear. (A contemporary news article referred to it as a “monomotor monoplane.”)

The pilot and co-pilot navigator were positioned in tandem behind the fuselage fuel tanks. Their outward view was very restricted, with only two small port holes on each side. The forward view was provided by angled mirrors acting as a periscope. There was a bunk located behind the seats for crew rest.

Illustration showing internal arrangement of the Blériot-Zappata 110, from Popular Mechanics Magazine, Vol. 60, No. 6, December 1933, at Page 807 (Illustration by George Horace Davis)

A technical description of the Blériot 110 appeared in the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Aircraft Circular No. 138, which also contains many technical illustrations of the airplane’s construction, and makes interesting reading. The Blériot 110 was 14.57 meters (47.80 feet) long with a wingspan of 26.50 meters (86.94 feet) and height (to the top of its cabane strut) of 4.90 meters (16.08 feet). The wing had an area of 81 square meters (872 square feet). The airplane’s empty weight was 2,400 kilograms (5,291 pounds) and the gross weight was 7,300 kilograms (16,094 pounds).

The airplane’s wing was built in three sections so that it could be disassembled for ground or sea transportation. The wing had two spruce spars with an oblique aileron support spar that increased its torsional strength but contributed to the airplanes overall light weight. The ribs were of plywood, braced by steel cables. The wing was covered with plywood. The wing was braced by a system of wires above, connecting to the upper cabane strut, and below, to the fuselage. The use of wire bracing allowed the wing to be built with approximately half the weight of a similar cantilevered wing.

The fuselage cross section was rounded at the top, narrowing to a single keel. It was built of frames and longerons which were then covered with three layers of diagonal 5 centimeter-wide whitewood strips, glued and nailed, each layer overlapping the one below at a 45° angle.

Fuel was carried in four fuselage tanks and two wing tanks. The total capacity was 7,020 liters (1,854 gallons).

Hispano-Suiza 12 Lbr SOHC 60° V-12. (Hispano-Suiza)

As originally built, the Blériot-Zappata 110 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 31.403 liter (1916.351 cubic-inch-displacement) Société Française Hispano-Suiza 12 Lbr, a single-overhead-camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 6.2:1. The engine had a nominal rating of 600 cheval vapeur at 2,000 r.p.m. (592 horsepower), and 640 cheval vapeur for takeoff (631 horsepower). This engine used a 2:1 propeller reduction gear and drove a two-bladed propeller. The engine was 1.939 meters (6.362 feet) long, 0.756 meters (2.480 feet) wide and 1.028 meters (3.373 feet) high. With the reduction gear unit, it weighed 485 kilograms (1.069 pounds).

Hispano-Suiza 12 M SOHC 60° V-12. (Hispano-Suiza)

For the March 23–26 flight, the original engine was replaced by a 27.077 liter (1,652.364 cubic inch displacement) Hispano-Suiza 12 Mc 500 CV électron. This was also a water-cooled, normally-aspirated SOHC 60° V-12. It was a direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 7:1, and drove a four-bladed propeller. This engine was rated at 500 cheval vapeur at 2,000 r.p.m. (493 horsepower), and a maximum of 640 cheval vapeur at 2,200 r.p.m. (631 horsepower). The cylinders had hardened (nitrided) steel liners, and the crankcase was made of an aluminum/magnesium alloy called Elektron. The 12 Mc was 1.982 meters (6.503 feet) long, 0.760 meters (2.493 feet) wide and 0.920 meters (3.018 feet) high. It weighed 390 kilograms (860 pounds).

The Blériot-Zappata 110 had a maximum speed of 210 kilometers per hour (130 miles per hour). Its ceiling at maximum gross weight was 2,000 meters (6,562 feet). The airplane had maximum range of more than 12,000 kilometers (7,456 miles).

Blériot-Zappata 110 with list of world record flights.

F-ALCC set a number of world records. In 1933 it was transported to America aboard the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique passenger liner S.S. Champlain. Maurice Rossi and Paul Codos flew it non-stop from New York City, New York, to Rayak, Syria, a distance of 9,106.33 kilometers (5,658.41 miles).⁴ ⁵ The airplane was scrapped in 1935.

Jean Baptiste Lucien Bossoutrot, 1932. (Agence Meurisse)

Jean Baptiste Lucien Bossoutrot was born 16 May 1890, at Tulle, Corrèze, Nouvelle-Aquitane, République française. He was the son of Antonin Bossoutrot, an armurier (gunsmith), and Antoinette Nouailhac. He made his first airplane flight in 1910, while employed at a bank. His pilot license, No. 1856, was issued 1 April 1915 by the Aéro-Club de France. The following month, 19 May 1915, he became a pilot in the Aéronautique Militaire. In 1917, he bombed the iron ore mines at Briey, Meurethe-et-Moselle. While this source supplied iron ore to Germany, it also supplied France. Bossoutrot was placed under arrest by General Phillipe Pétain.

Bossoutrot was assigned as an acceptance test pilot at Avions Farman. He helped Henri Farman in the development of instrument panels for airplanes. He continued working for Farman after the War.

Bossoutrot served in the military for 7 years, 4 months. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre with three citations.

On 8 February 1919, Bossoutrot flew a Farman F.60 Goliath from Paris to London, carrying twelve passengers and an aircraft mechanic. This is believed to have been the first international commercial passenger flight. In August 1919, Bossoutrot flew an F.60 Goliath while pioneering the Paris-to-Dakar air route.

The journey was made in several stages. Bossoutrot, along with eight passengers, departed from Mogador on 15 August. A radio message was sent at 5:45 a.m., 16 August, requesting wind information at Dakar, but the airplane did not arrive. Because of a loss of one of its propellers, at 7:30 a.m., Bossoutrot made a forced landing on a beach approximately 115 miles (185 kilometers) north of St. Louis. There were no injures, but the airplane was damaged beyond repair.

One 13 November 1920, Jean Baptiste Lucien Bossoutrot was appointed Chevalier de la légion d’honneur.

On 23 August 1925 Bossoutrot was promoted to Officier de la Légion d’honneur.

When Air France was formed in 1933, Bossoutrot was its first captain.

In 1934, Bossoutrot was promoted to Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur.

Lucien Bossoutrot. Assemblée nationale.

Bossoutrot entered politics in the 1930s and was elected to the Assemblée nationale (the national legislature) as a Radical Socialist. He led the Commission on Aeronautics and the Committee of Commerce and Industry in the Chamber of Deputies. These positions allowed him to travel extensively through Europe and the Soviet Union. He raised his concerns to the legislature about the rearmament of Germany which he had seen, but his warnings were generally ignored.

After the surrender of France to Nazi Germany in 1940, Bossoutrot initially supported Marshal Pétain, but later changed his opinion. Because of his opposition, he was arrested by the Vichy government in February 1943. He was held for fifteen months before he was able to escape and join La Résistance française.

Lucien Bossoutrot was married three times. He had a daughter from his first marriage. He had flown more that 7,000 hours, and set at least 36 FAI world records.

Jean Baptiste Lucien Bossoutrot, Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur, died 1 September 1958 at Viry-Châtillon, Seine-et-Oise, France. He was buried at the cimitère des Batignolles, in Paris.

Capitaine Maurice Rossi, Aéronautique Militaire, 1932. (Agence de presse Meurisse)

Maurice Rossi was born 24 April 1901 at Leverdure, La Séfia, Algérie française (French Algeria). He is credited with ten FAI world records. He died in Paris, France, 29 August 1966.

Blériot-Zappata 110, F-ALCC.

¹ FAI Record File Number 9514: 8,822.32 kilometers (5,481.94 miles), 1 March 1931

² FAI Record File Number 9292: 10,601.48 kilometers (6,587.45 miles, 26 March 1932

³ FAI Record File Number 9513: Duration in a Closed Circuit, 75 hours, 23 minutes, 7 seconds, 1 March 1931

⁴ FAI Record File Number 9297: Distance in a Straight Line, 9,104.70 kilometers (5,657.40 miles), 7 August 1933

⁵ FAI Record File Number 9,301: Distance in a Broken Line, 9,106.33 kilometers (5,658.41 miles), 7 August 1933

Armée de l’Air  Capitaine Maurice Rossie (left) with Lieutenant Paul Codos, Paris, France, 1934. The Blériot-Zappata 110 is in the background. (Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 March 1929

Louise Thaden at Oakland Municipal Airport with a Beech Travel Air, 1929. (NASM-SI-83-2145)

17 March 1929: Louise Thaden, flying a Beech Travel Air 3000, NC5426, over Oakland, California, set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Duration, staying aloft for 22 hours, 3 minutes.¹ This flight broke the previous record which had been set five weeks earlier, 10–11 February, by Evelyn (“Bobbie”) Trout—which had broken the record set 2 January 1929 by Elinor Smith.

The Oakland Chapter of the National Aeronautic Association wanted to have all new U.S. records set at Oakland, and Mrs. Thaden’s duration flight was a part of that campaign. Officials from the Oakland NAA group observed her flight in order to certify the record for the international body, the FAI.

Douglas C. Warren’s Travel Air 3000, NC5426, flown by Louise Thaden to set a World Record for Duration, (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives, Catalog #: 00072288)

The airplane flown by Mrs. Thaden for her duration record was a Travel Air 3000, registration NC5426, serial number 51?. The airplane was modified with an auxiliary fuel tank in the forward cockpit.

The Travel Air 3000 was a single-engine, three-place, single-bay biplane with fixed landing gear. The airplane was 24 feet, 3 inches (7.391 meters) long, with an upper wing span of 34 feet, 8 inches (10.566 meters), and lower span of 28 feet, 8 inches (8.738 meters). The airplane had an overall height of 9 feet, 0 inches (2.743 meters). The 3000 had an empty weight of 1,664 pounds (755 kilograms), and gross weight of 2,590 pounds (1,175 kilograms).

Louise Thaden flying the Travel Air 3000, NC5426, during her duration record attempt, 17 March 1929. The auxiliary fuel tank fills the airplane’s forward cockpit. (San Diego Air & Space Museum)

Travel Air biplanes could be ordered with several different air-cooled or water-cooled engines, such as the Curtiss OX-5, the 120 h.p. Fairchild Caminez 4-cylinder radial, or the Wright Whirlwind. The 3000 was equipped with a liquid-cooled, normally-aspirated Hispano-Suiza 8Ac V-8 (according to FAI records). For the record flight the engine was replaced with a “souped-up” engine.

The Travel Air 3000 had a cruise speed of 105 miles per hour (169 kilometers per hour), and a maximum speed of 119 miles per hour (192 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 17,000 feet (5,182 meters), and the maximum range was 400 miles (644 kilometers).

The Travel Air Manufacturing Company built approximately 50 of the “Hisso-powered” Travel Air 3000 variant.

Louise Thaden waves from the cockpit of the Travel Air 3000, NC5426. The forward cockpit has been modified to accept a large auxiliary fuel tank. (San Diego Air & Space Museum)

The Oakland Tribune reported:

WOMAN FLIER BREAKS RECORD

Oakland Aviatrix Sets World Mark for Endurance Flight

     Mrs. Louise McPhetridge Thaden wants to break more aviation records, she declared at Oakland airport today. Already holder of the altitude record for women and having brought her biplane to earth here yesterday with a new women’s endurance flight record, she now is thinking about establishing new altitude and speed marks for women.

     For 22 hours, 3 minutes and 25 seconds, Mrs. Thaden kept her plane in teh air over Oakland airport yesterday, fighting against drowsiness and night cold to beat the former women’s sustained flight record of 17 hours, 5 minutes, 37 seconds, recently established by Miss Bobby Trout of Los Angeles.

      It was at noon yesterday that Mrs. Thaden signalled to planes flying close to her that her gasoline supply was getting low.. Still she kept circling over the airport while thousands waited on the ground below, eager to see her and greet her when she landed.

12 GALLONS OF GAS REMAIN AT FINISH.

     Mrs. Thaden made one last great circle of the flying field and brought her plane to earth at 1:55 p.m. She taxied her plane to a hangar, where officials of the Oakland chapter, National Aeronautic association, newspaper men and friends waited to welcome her. Examination of the plane showed that only 12 gallons of 196 gallons of gasoline were left.

     As friends helped her out of the cockpit where she had sat in a cramped position without sleep, she smiled and said: “Well, I made it. But, gosh, I’m tired.”

     Thousands who had waited at the Oakland airport since early morning cheered Mrs. Thaden, and police were busy keeping them from crushing her in their desire to see the flier and her record plane.

     Mrs. Thaden was greeted first with a hug and a kiss from Mrs. Hattie V. Thaden, her mother-in-law, who had waited through the long night at the airport, confident that her son’s wife would succeed in her record-seeking attempt.

Oakland Tribune, Vol. CX, No. 77, Monday, 18 March 1929, Page 1, Column 5, and Page 2, Column 2

Iris Louise McPhetridge was born 12 November 1905 at Bentonville, Arkansas. She was the first of three daughters of Roy Fry McPhetridge, owner of a foundry, and Edna Hobbs McPhetridge. She was educated at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, a member of the Class of 1927. She was president of the Delta Delta Delta (ΔΔΔ) Sorority, Delta Iota (ΔΙ) Chapter, head sports for basketball and president of The Panhellenic.

Iris Louise McPhetridge Thaden (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

Louise McPhetridge had been employed by Walter Beech as a sales representative for his Travel Air Manufacturing Company at Wichita, Kansas, and he included flying lessons with her employment. Beech asked her to go to Oakland as an employee of Douglas C. Warren, the new Travel Air dealer for the western region of the United States. He included flying lessons with her employment. (Warren owned the airplanes used by Mrs. Thaden to set her altitude and endurance records.) She received her pilot’s license from the National Aeronautic Association, signed by Orville Wright, 16 May 1928.

Louise Thaden’s original pilot license, No. 6850, issued by the National Aeronautic Association and signed by Orville Wright. (The Central Arkansas Library System)

Miss McPhetridge married Mr. Herbert von Thaden at San Francisco, California, 21 July 1928. Thaden was a former military pilot and an engineer. They would have two children, William and Patricia.²

In 1929, Mrs. Thaden was issued Transport Pilot License number 1943 by the Department of Commerce. She was the fourth woman to receive an Airline Transport Pilot rating.

Mrs Thaden set an FAI World Record for Altitude of 6,178 meters (20,269 feet) over Oakland, California, 7 December 1928.¹  On 17 March 1929, she set an FAI record for duration of 22 hours, 3 minutes.²

Louise Thaden served as secretary of the National Aeronautic Association, and was a co-founder of The Ninety-Nines. She served as that organization’s vice president and treasurer. She set several world and national records and was awarded the national Harmon Trophy as Champion Aviatrix of the United States in 1936.

Louise Thaden stopped flying in 1938. She died at High Point, North Carolina, 9 November 1979.

Louise Thaden with her 1936 Vincent Bendix Trophy, circa 1975. (NASM)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12223

² Thaden had founded the Thaden Metal Aircraft Company, builder of the all-metal Thaden T-1, T-2, and T-4 Argonaut. Thaden went on to design molded plywood furniture for the Thaden-Jordan Furniture Corporation. His designs are considered to be works of art, and individual pieces sell for as much as $30,000 today.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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9 March 1918

Captain James Ely Miller, 95th Aero Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group, American Expeditionary Force. (Department of Defense)

9 March 1918: Captain James Ely Miller, commanding officer, 95th Aero Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group, American Expeditionary Force, accepted the invitation of Major Davenport Johnson to join him and Major Harmon for a short patrol over the lines in three SPAD S.VII C.1 fighters borrowed from a French squadron.

Major Harmon’s SPAD had engine trouble and he turned back. Major Johnson and Captain Miller continued and encountered four German fighters near Juvincourt-et-Damary in northern France. Shortly after the air battle began, Major Johnson abandoned the fight, leaving Captain Miller on his own. Captain Miller was shot down near Corbény, France.

The German pilot who downed Miller and a German intelligence officer who had rushed to the crash scene witnessed Captain Miller’s dying words in which he cursed Major Davenport Johnson for leaving him during the air battle.

On 12 March, Major Johnson assumed command of the 95th.

Captain James Ely Miller, 95th Aero Squadron, 1st Pursuit Group, American Expeditionary Force.

James Ely Miller was born 24 March 1883 in New York City, New York. He was the fifth child of Charles Addison Miller and Mary Eliza Ely.

Miller attended Yale University, graduating in 1904. He was a member of the Psi Upsilon (ΨΥ) fraternity. Miller was active in sports, a member of the varsity crew and played guard on the football team.

Following university graduation, Miller joined the Knickerbocker Trust Company of New York (later, the Columbia Trust Co.), one of the largest banks in the United States. By 1913, he was secretary of the corporation, and by 1917, a vice president.

Miller was 6 feet, 2½ inches (1.89 meters) tall, with brown hair and eyes, and a fair complexion.

Miller married Miss Gladys Godfrey Kissel, 2 April 1908, in Manhattan, New York City, New York. They would have a daughter, Gladys Caroline Morgan Miller.

1st Lt. Miller flew with the 1st Aero Squadron, New York National Guard, in the Punitive Expedition into Mexico, in 1916.

On 10 May 1917, Captain Miller was activated from the Officers Reserve Corps and assigned to the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, for duty in France. He served overseas from 23 July 1917 until his death.

Captain Miller was the first United States airman to be killed in combat. In 1919, Miller Field, Staten Island, New York, was named in his honor. His remains were buried at the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, Fère-en-Terdenois, France.

On 14 June 2017, the Distinguished Flying Cross was posthumously awarded to Captain Miller. Secretary of the Army Robert M. Speer presented the medal to Byron Derringer, Captain Miller’s great-grandson.

Biplan SPAD de chasse monoplace S.VII (rcgroups.com)

The Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.VII C.1 was a single-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane chasseur (fighter). The airplane was 19 feet, 11 inches (5.842 meters) long, with a wingspan of 25 feet, 7¾ inches (7.817 meters) and overall height of 7 feet, 2 inches (2.184 meters). It had a maximum gross weight of 1,632 pounds (740 kilograms).

Biplan SPAD de chasse monoplace S.VII (rcgroups.com)

The SPAD VII was initially powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 11.762 liter (717.769 cubic inches) Société Française Hispano-Suiza 8Aa, a single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine with a compression ratio of 4.7:1. The 8Aa produced 150 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. By early 1918, the S.VII’s engine was upgraded to the higher-compression 8Ab (5.3:1), rated at 180 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m. These were right-hand tractor, direct-drive engines which turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller.

The SPAD VII had a maximum speed of 119 miles per hour (192 kilometers per hour). The 8Ab engine increased this to 129 miles per hour (208 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 17,500 feet (5,334 meters).

Biplan SPAD de chasse monoplace S.VII (rcgroups.com)

Armament consisted of a single air-cooled Vickers .303-caliber (7.7 × 56 millimeter) machine gun, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc.

The SPAD S.VII was produced by nine manufacturers in France and England. The exact number of airplanes built is unknown. Estimates range from 5,600 to 6,500.

The airplane in this photograph is a SPAD S.VII C.1, serial number A.S. 94099, built by Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés, and restored by the 1st Fighter Wing, Selfridge Air Force Base, Michigan. It is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

SPAD VII C.1, serial number A.S. 94099, on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
SPAD S. VII C.1, serial number A.S. 94099, on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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