Tag Archives: Société Française Hispano-Suiza

1 November 1918

Sous-Lieutenant Paul-René Fonck. (Agence Meurisse)

1 November 1918: At 2:20 p.m., Lieutenant Paul-René Fonck, Escadrille 103,  Aéronautique Militaire, shot down a Luftstreitkräfte Halberstadt C, east of Vouziers, France. Its pilot, Gefreiter W. Schmidt of Flieger-Abteilung 297b, was killed.

This was the 75th confirmed enemy aircraft which Fonck had destroyed. (As many as 52 aircraft claimed by Fonck, including another Halberstadt C over Semuy, fifteen minutes later, were not confirmed.) Lieutenant Fonck was the highest-scoring Allied fighter pilot of World War I.¹

Lieutenant René Fonck with a SPAD S.XVII, 1918. (Photo SHD section Air de Vincennes transmise par Jon Guttman)

The chasseur flown by René Fonck on this date was a Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.XVII, Nº. 682. The S.XVII was an improved S.XIII, with stronger wings and fuselage, additional bracing wires and a more powerful engine. Its more closely-spaced longerons gave the fuselage a more circular cross-section and a bulkier appearance.

The S.XVII had the same length, wing span and height as the S.XIII, but was heavier. Its empty weight was 687 kilograms (1,515 pounds) and the gross weight was 942 kilograms (2,077 pounds).

The S.XVII was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 18.473 liter (1,127.265 cubic inch displacement) Société Française Hispano-Suiza 8Fb single-overhead camshaft (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine. This was a right-hand-tractor, direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 5.3:1, and was rated at 300 cheval vapeur (296 horsepower) at 2,100 r.p.m. The Hispano-Suiza 8Fb was 1.32 meters (4.33 feet) long, 0.89 meters (2.92 feet) wide and 0.88 meters (2.89 feet) high. It weighed 256 kilograms (564 pounds).

Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) S.XVII C.1 (flyingmachines.ru)

The S.XVII had a maximum speed of 221 kilometers per hour (137 miles per hour) at 2,000 meters (6,562 feet). It could climb to 2,000 meters in 5 minutes, 24 seconds, and to 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 8 minutes, 20 seconds. Its ceiling was 7,175 meters (23,540 feet).

Armament consisted of two water-cooled, fixed Vickers 7.7 mm (.303 British) machine guns above the engine, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc. The guns’ water jackets were left empty.

The SPAD S.XVIIs were delivered to Escadrille 103 in June 1918. It is believed that 20 were built.

Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) S.XVII C.1 (aviafrance)

Paul-René Fonck was born 27 March 1894 at Salcy-de Meurthe, the first of three children of Victor Felicien Fonck, a carpenter, and Marie Julie Simon Fonck. His father was killed in an accident when he was four years old, leaving Mme. Fonck to raise Paul-René and his two sisters. He was sent to an uncle who placed him in a religious boarding school in Nancy. He was a good student. After six years, he returned to live with his mother and finished his education in a public school.

At the beginning of World War I, Fonck joined the French Army. He was assigned to an engineering regiment, building roads and bridges and digging trenches. In February 1915 Corporal Fonck was transferred to flight school at St. Cyr. He received his military pilot rating 15 May 1915 and was assigned to Escadrille C47, an observation squadron, where he flew the twin-engine Avion Caudron Type G. 4.

Caudron G.4 en vol, 1915. Les avions utilisés durant les premières années du conflit ne sont pas spécifiquement conçus pour l’observation. C’est le cas du Caudron G.4, mis au point pour le bombardement mais affecté à la reconnaissance quelques mes après sa mise en service en 1915. (© Droits réservés / Coll. musée de l’Air et de l’Espace–Le Bourget, noº MA 23532.)

In 1917, Fonck was transferred to Escadrille 103. He flew the SPAD S.VII, S.XII, S.XIII and the S.XVII.

For his military service during World War I, René Fonck was awarded the Croix de Guerre avec 28 Palmes, Croix de Guerre (Belgium); and Great Britain awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Military Cross and Military Medal.

René Paul Fonck died in Paris 23 June 1953. He was buried at the Saulcy-sur-Meurthe Cemetery, near the place of his birth.

René Fonck with a SPAD S.XII Canon fighter. The stork painted on the fuselage is the insignia of Escadrille 103, “Les Cignones.” (Historic Wings)

¹ Rittmeister Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, Luftstreitkräfte, had 80 confirmed victories and was the leading fighter ace of World War I. Captain (Acting Major) William George Barker, Royal Air Force, is credited with 50. Count Maggiore Francesco Baracca, of Italy’s Corpo Aeronautico Militare was officially credited with 34 before being killed 18 June 1918. Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker, Air Service, American Expeditionary Force, shot down 20 airplanes and 6 balloons. Alexander Alexandrovich Kazakov was the leading ace of Imperial Russia with 20 confirmed victories (another 12 were not officially credited).

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 October 1918

Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan, Air Service, United States Army (FAI)
Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan, Air Service, United States Army (FAI)

27 October 1918:

MAUGHAN, RUSSELL L.

First Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army
Pilot, 139th Aero Squadron, American Expeditionary Forces
Citation:
Distinguished Service Cross

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to First Lieutenant (Air Service) Russell L. Maughan, United States Army Air Service, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 138th Aero Squadron, U.S. Army Air Service, A.E.F., near Sommerance, France, 27 October 1918. Accompanied by two other planes, Lieutenant Maughan was patrolling our lines, when he saw slightly below him an enemy plane (Fokker type). When he started an attack upon it he was attacked from behind by four more of the enemy. By several well-directed shots he sent one of his opponents to the earth, and, although the forces of the enemy were again increased by seven planes, he so skillfully maneuvered that he was able to escape toward his lines. While returning he attacked and brought down an enemy plane which was diving on our trenches.

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 46 (1919), Amended Supplement 1
Action Date: October 27, 1918
Officers of the 139th Aero Squadron, at Belrain Aerodrome, France, November 1918. 1st Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan is at the center of the photograph, kneeling, in the second row. (U.S. Air Force)
Officers of the 139th Aero Squadron, at Belrain Aerodrome, France, November 1918. 1st Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan is at the center of the photograph, kneeling, in the second row. (U.S. Air Force)

Maughan is credited with four enemy aircraft destroyed while flying a SPAD S.XIII C.I fighter.

Russell Lowell Maughan was born at Logan, Utah, 28 March 1893. He was the sixth of eight children of Peter Weston Maughan, an accountant, and Mary Lucinda Naef Maughan. He attended Utah Agricultural College in Logan and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1917.

Maughan was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Officers Reserve Corps, 28 May 1917. He was promoted to first lieutenant, 8 January 1918. This commission was vacated 10 September 1920 and he was appointed a first lieutenant, Air Service, United States Army, retroactive to 1 July 1920.

On 14 August 1919, Maughan married Miss Ila May Fisher at Logan, Utah. They would have three children, but divorced sometime after 1940. His son, Russell L. Maughan, Jr., would become an cadet at the United States Military Academy (West Point) and be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

Following the War, Lieutenant Maughan became a test pilot at McCook Field, Ohio. In 1921, he was reassigned to the 91st Observation Squadron, based at the Presidio of San Francisco.

On 14 October 1922, Rusell Maughan won the Pulitzer Trophy Race at Selfridge Field, near Mount Clemens, Michigan, before a crowd of 200,000 spectators. He set two World Speed Record during the race with his Curtiss R-6: 330.41 kilometers per hour (205.31 miles per hour) over a distance of 100 kilometers,¹ and 331.46 kilometers per hour (205.96 miles per hour) over a distance of 200 kilometers).² On 29 March 1923, he set another World Speed Record, 380.75 kilometers per hour (236.587 miles per hour),³ again flying a Curtiss R-6.

Major General Mason Patrick, Chief of the Air Service, with Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan, 8 July 1924. (Library of Congress)

On 23 June 1924, Lieutenant Maughan flew a Curtiss PW-8 Hawk from Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, to the Presidio of San Francisco on the west coast of California, in an elapsed time of 21 hours, 47 minutes including refueling stops enroute. This was the “Dawn-to-Dusk Flight.” For this transcontinental flight, Maughan was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

On 1 October 1930, Maughan was promoted to captain. He served in the Philippine Islands from 1930 to 1935, acting as an advisor to the government until 1932. From 1932 to 1935, he served as the post operations officer. He and his family lived in Manila. They returned to the United States aboard SS Columbus, a Norddeutscher Lloyd passenger liner, arriving at New York City from Southampton, 18 August 1935.

Captain Maughan served as an aviation advisor to the governor general of the Philippine Islands, from 1935 to 1939. On 16 June 1936, Captain Maughan was promoted to major (temporary). That rank was made permanent 12 June 1939. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel, 11 March 1940. Just prior to World War II, Lieutenant Colonel Maughan was sent on a survey tour to identify suitable locations for airfields in Greenland.

During World War II, Lieutenant Colonel Maughan commanded the 60th Troop Carrier Group, a Douglas C-47 unit, 1941–42, and then, with the rank of colonel, he commanded the 51st Troop Carrier Wing during Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa.

On 25 October 1946, Colonel Maughan married Lois Rae Roylance at Las Vegas, Nevada. She was 21 years his junior. They lived in Portland, Oregon.

Colonel Maughan later commanded Lemoore Army Airfield, California, and Portland Air Force Base, Oregon.

Maughan was discharged from the U.S. Air Force, 30 November 1947, at the U.S. Army Hospital at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. He died at the U.S. Air Force Hospital, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, 21 April 1958, at the age of 65 years. He was buried at the Logan City Cemetery, Logan, Utah.

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

The Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.XIII C.1 was a single-seat, single-engine, two-bay biplane designed by Technical Director Louis Béchéreau. The chasseur was first flown by René Pierre Marie Dorme, 4 April 1917. It was constructed of a wooden framework and covered with doped fabric. Sheet metal panels covered the engine and cockpit.

The SPAD S.XIII was 20 feet, 4 inches (6.198 meters) long with the wings having an equal span of 26 feet, 3¾ inches (8.020 meters). It had an overall height of 7 feet, 6½ inches (2.299 meters). The total wing area was 227 square feet (21.089 square meters). The wings each had a chord of 4 feet, 7-1/8 inches (1.400 meters) with 0° dihedral and 1¼° stagger. The vertical gap between the upper and lower wings was 3 feet, 10½ inches (1.181 meters). The upper wing had a 1½° angle of incidence; the lower wing had 1° angle of incidence. There were ailerons on the upper wing only. They had a span of 7 feet, 3½ inches (2.222 meters) and chord of 1 foot, 7½ inches (0.495 meters). The horizontal stabilizer span was 10 feet, 2 inches (3,099 meters. Its maximum chord was 1 foot, 8¾ inches (0.527 meters). The vertical fin height was 2 feet, 7/8-inch (0.876 meters) and it was 3 feet, 11¼ inches (1.200 meters) long at the base. The rudder was 3 feet, 10-5/8 inches (1.184 meters) high with a maximum chord of 2 feet, 2 inches (0.660 meters).

The airplane had fixed wheeled landing gear which used rubber cords (bungie cords) for shock absorption. The wheel track was 4 feet, 10¾ inches (1.492 meters). A fixed skid was used at the tail.

The the S.XIII had an empty weight of 1,464 pounds (663 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 1,863 pounds (845 kilograms).

The SPAD S.XIII C.1 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 11.762 liter (717.769-cubic-inch-displacement) left-hand tractor ⁴ Hispano-Suiza 8B single-overhead-cam 90° V-8 engine, with a 5.3:1 compression ratio. The engine drove a fixed-pitch two-bladed laminated wood propeller through a 0.75:1 gear reduction. The Hispano-Suiza 8B was rated at 235 cheval vapeur (231.8 horsepower) at 2,300 r.p.m. It was 1.36 meters (4 feet, 5.5 inches) long, 0.86 meters (2 feet, 9.9 inches) wide, and 0.90 meters (2 feet, 11.4 inches) high. It weighed 236 kilograms (520.3 pounds).
The SPAD’s main fuel tank was behind the engine, with a gravity feed supply tank in the upper wing. The total fuel total capacity was about 30 gallons (114 liters). This was sufficient for two hours endurance at full throttle at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), including climb.
The SPAD XIII had a maximum speed at Sea Level of 131.5 mph (211.6 kilometers per hour) at 2,300 rpm; and 105 mph (169 kilometers per hour) at its service ceiling of 18,400 feet (5,608 meters), at 2,060 r.p.m. The airplane’s absolute ceiling was 20,000 feet (6,096 meters).
The fighter was armed with two fixed, water-cooled, .303-caliber Vickers machine guns, or two air-cooled .30-caliber Marlin M1917 or M1918 aircraft machine guns, with 400 rounds of ammunition per gun, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc.
According to a report by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
“. . .the SPAD XIII had the most favorable power loading of any of the aircraft considered and a high (for its day) wing loading. These characteristics coupled with a relatively low zero-lift drag coefficient and low drag area gave the SPAD the highest speed of any of the aircraft listed in the table. As shown by the data in figure 2.18, the climb characteristics of the SPAD were bettered only by three of the Fokker aircraft.”

A total of 8,742 S.XIII C.1 fighters were built by nine different manufacturers. Only one, Société Kellner Frères Constructeurs serial number 4377, the oldest existing original airplane, is in flyable condition. It is in the collection of the Memorial-Flight Association at L’aérodrome de La Ferté-Alais (LFFQ)

SPAD S.XIII C.1 serial number 7689, Smith IV, after restoration at the Paul E. Garber Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)
The same type fighter flown by Lt. Maughan on 27 October 1918, this is SPAD S.XIII C.1 serial number 7689, Smith IV, after restoration at the Paul E. Garber Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

¹ FAI Record File Number 15195

² FAI Record File Number 15196

³ FAI Record File Number 15194

⁴ The propeller rotates clock-wise, as seen from the front of the airplane.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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20 October 1920

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe. (FAI)
Joseph Sadi-Lecointe. (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale)

20 October 1920: At Villacoublay, France, Joseph Sadi-Lecointe flew his Nieuport-Delâge 29V to a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Record of 302.53 kilometers per hour (187.98 miles per hour) over a straight 1 kilometer course.¹

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe in the cockpit of his Nieuport-Delâge 29V racer, after winning the Gordon Bennett Trophy, at Orleans/Etampes, 28 September 1920. Under the terms of trophy, the nation whose team won the event three consecutive times took permanent possession. After Sadi-Lecointe’s victory, the Gordon Bennett Trophy was in the permanent possession of the Aéro-Club de France.

Sadi-Lecointe’s Ni-D 29V was one of three racing variants of the highly successful single-engine, single-seat Ni-D 29C.1 biplane fighter, which was the fastest in the world at the time. The Ni-D 29V was 21 feet, 3.5 inches (6.489 meters) long, with a wing span of just 6.00 meters (19 feet, 8¼ inches), shortened from the 31 feet, 10 inch (9.703 meters) wingspan of the standard production chasseur.

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe flew this Nieuport-Delage NiD-29V to win The Gordon Bennet Cup, 20 October 1920. (les avions Nieuport-Delage)
Joseph Sadi-Lecointe flew this Nieuport-Delâge NiD-29V to win The Gordon Bennett Cup, 28 September 1920. (les avions Nieuport-Delâge)

The airplane was powered by a water-cooled, normally aspirated, 18.473 liter (1,127.29-cubic-inch displacement) right-hand tractor Hispano-Suiza 8Fb single overhead cam (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine, modified to increase its output to 320 horsepower. This was a direct-drive engine, and turned a two-bladed-fixed pitch propeller. The engine was 1.32 meters (4 feet, 4 inches) long, 0.89 meters (2 feet, 11 inches) wide, and 0.88 meters (2 feet, 10½ inches) high. It weighed 256 kilograms (564 pounds).

The standard airplane had a top speed of 235 kilometers per hour (146 miles per hour), a range of 580 kilometers (360 miles) and a service ceiling of 8,500 meters (27,887 feet).

Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V (Unattributed)
Nieuport-Delâge Ni-D 29V (Unattributed)

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe learned to fly in 1910. The Aero Club de France awarded him its license number 431 on 10 February 1910.

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. He served as a pilot during World War I, flying the Blériot XI-2, Morane LA and Nieuprt X, then in December 1915 became a flight instructor at l’Ecole de Pilotage d’Avord. Sadi-Lacointe was promoted from the enlisted ranks to sous-lieutenant, 17 September 1917, and 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.

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.

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 joined La Résistance française, and operated with the group, Rafale Andromède. He was captured and tortured by the Gestapo at Paris, and died as a result, 15 July 1944.

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 de l’Aéro-Club de France. During his flying career, Sadi-Lecointe set seven World Records for Speed, and three World Records for Altitude.

MORT POUR LA FRANCE

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

¹ FAI Record File Number 15499

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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23 June 1924

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe, 1924

23 June 1924: Joseph Sadi-Lecointe set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Distance of 500 Kilometers when he flew a Nieuport-Delâge NiD-42 S sesquiplane to an average speed of 306.70 kilometers per hour (190.57 miles per hour) at Istres, France.¹

Nieuport-Deleage 500 h.p. (FAI)
Nieuport-Delâge NiD-42 S. (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale)

Two Nieuport-Delâge NiD-42 S racers were built by Société Nieuport-Astra. The airplane was a single-place, single-engine, strut-braced high-wing sesquiplane (“a plane-and-a-half”) with fixed landing gear. An airfoil was positioned between the wheels.

The NiD-42 S racer was 6.55 meters (21 feet, 5.9 inches) long and 2.20 meters (7 feet, 2.6 inches) high. The upper wingspan was 9.50 meters (31 feet, 2.0 inches) and the lower wing, 2.75 meters (9 feet, 0.3 inches). The vertical gap between the wings was 1.70 meters (5 feet, 6.9 inches). The lower “half wing” had an area of 1.60 square meters (17.22 square feet).

The racer’s empty weight was 1,170 kilograms (2,580 pounds), and gross weight was 1,440 kilograms (3,175 pounds).

Le sesquiplan Nieuport de Sadi-Lecointe sur lequel il realize son record de vitesse du monde. (L’AÉROPHILE, 1er-15 Octobre 1922, at page 294)

The fuselage was a wood monocoque assembly, built in two halves, using as many as six layers of 0.9 mm (0.04 inches) white wood strips, placed diagonally at alternating 90° angles. The completed fuselage was then covered in doped fabric. The upper wing was one built as one piece, using two spruce spars. The surfaces were plywood, covered with fabric. The struts were steel tubing with a streamlined cross section. Cylindrical Lamblin radiators were used for engine cooling, located under the fuselage. The lower “half-wing” was made of duralumin.

The NiD-42 S was powered by a water-cooled, supercharged, 18.473 liter (1,127.265 cubic inch displacement) Société Française Hispano-Suiza Type 42 (also referred to as the 8F series), a single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine with a compression ratio of 5.3:1. The standard normally-aspirated engine was rated at 320 horsepower, but Sadi-Lecointe’s was supercharged and required that benzol added to the fuel to prevent pre-ignition. When tested, the engine produced exactly 357.7 horsepower at 1,860 r.p.m. It was a direct-drive engine which turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller.

The NiD-42 S had a maximum speed of 330 kilometers per hour (205 miles per hour) and maximum range of 500 kilometers (311 miles).

This left front quarter view of the NiD-42 S shows the lower airfoil between the landing gear wheels which gives the airplane the sesquiplane designation. (hydroretro)

Joseph Sadi-Lecointe learned to fly in 1910. The Aero Club de France awarded him its license number 431 on 10 February 1910.

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. He served as a pilot during World War I, flying the Blériot XI-2, Morane LA and Nieuprt X, then in December 1915 became a flight instructor at l’Ecole de Pilotage d’Avord.

Sadi-Lacointe was promoted from the enlisted ranks to sous-lieutenant, 17 September 1917, and 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 SPAD S.XIII C.1 fighter. (BnF)

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.

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 joined La Résistance française and operated with the group Rafale Andromède. He was captured and tortured by the Gestapo at Paris, and died as a result, 15 July 1944.

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 de l’Aéro-Club de France. During his flying career, Sadi-Lecointe set seven World Records for Speed, and three World Records for Altitude.

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 Number 14618

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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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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