Category Archive 'Aviation'

04 Nov 2019

Putting a Biplane Through the Arc de Triomphe

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As part of the World War I victory celebration on the Champs Élysées, Jean Navarre, the ace among French fighter pilots with twelve air victories, was chosen to fly through the Arc de Triomphe. He was killed in the practice flight. A young flying instructor from Aubervilliers, Charles Godefroy, volunteered to take over.

At 7:20 on the morning of 7 August 1919, dressed in his warrant officer uniform, Godefroy took off from the airfield of Villacoublay in a biplane Nieuport 11 “Bébé”.

And here’s what happened…

08 Sep 2013

French Air Force Sending a Message to the High Command

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Charles Godefroy taking his Nieuport 11 “Bébé” through the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on August 7th, 1919.


For the occasion of the victory parade on the Champs Élysées on 14 July 1919, marking the end of hostilities in World War I, the military command ordered the airmen to participate “on foot” – like the infantry. This was a provocation to the pilots, who regarded themselves as “heroes of the air”. At a meeting in the “Fouquet” bar located on the Champs Élysées, a group of aviators decided to address this affront by selecting one of them to fly through the Arc de Triomphe during the parade. The choice fell on Jean Navarre, who had twelve air victories and was considered to be an ace among the fighter pilots. However, Navarre was killed in a practice flight on 10 July. With 500 flying hours, Charles Godefroy considered himself experienced enough to take over the task, which excited the young aviator. With his close companion, the journalist Jacques Mortane, he inspected the Arc de Triomphe several times to examine the air route and the air currents; then he began to practice at the bridge over the Small Rhône at Miramas.

On 7 August 1919, three weeks after the victory parade, under cover of secrecy and dressed in his warrant officer uniform, Charles Godefroy took off at 7.20 a.m. from the airfield of Villacoublay in a biplane “Nieuport 11 Bébé” (Bébé = baby – because of its low wing span of 24.67 ft / 24’8’’ or 7.52 m). He reached the Porte Maillot shortly thereafter. Coming from the west, he circled the Arc de Triomphe twice and began the approach along the Avenue de la Grande-Armée. He gathered speed and forced the plane down and through the Arc. He did not have much clearance – the width of the Arc is 47.57 ft / 47’6’’ (14.50 m). He passed at a low level over a tram in which passengers threw themselves to the ground, and many passers-by ran away frightened. Godefroy flew over the Place de la Concorde before returning to the airfield, where his mechanic checked over the engine. No one at the airfield had taken any notice of the flight, which had lasted half an hour.

The journalist Jacques Mortane had the whole event filmed and photographed. Articles have been published in many newspapers. The film screening was banned by the Commissioner of Police. Godefroy stayed officially in the background, but his name could not be kept secret for long. The authorities disapproved of the event and were afraid of it being imitated, but Godefroy escaped with only a warning.

Hat tip to Ratak Monodosico.

26 Oct 2010

Smuggled Croc Crashes Plane

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MSNBC reports that there was only one survivor.

A crocodile stashed in a duffel bag got loose on an airplane, frightened passengers and led to a crash that killed 20 people on board, according to an inquiry into the accident.

The lone survivor of the crash in the Democratic Republic of Congo told the story to investigators, the U.K.’s Telegraph reported on Thursday. A British pilot was among the dead.

The plane was on a routine domestic flight from the capital of Kinshasa to a regional airport in Bandundu when the bizarre tale unfolded on Aug. 25.

An unnamed passenger had hidden the crocodile in a large duffel bag with the intent of selling the reptile, according to the Telegraph. The animal escaped as the plane approached its destination.

Pandemonium ensued.

“The terrified air hostess hurried towards the cockpit, followed by the passengers,” a report obtained by the Telegraph said. The plane then became unstable, “despite the desperate efforts of the pilot.”

The plane crashed into a home a few hundred feet from the airport, though the people who lived in the residence were not in the house.

The crocodile reportedly survived the crash but was killed by a blow from a machete.

Apparently, the rush of 17 passengers and the air hostess to the cockpit unbalanced the plane.

Hat tip to Gizmodo via Karen L. Myers.

26 Sep 2010

Helicopter Hotdogging Gets Pilots Grounded

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AOLNews reports that the Navy (which had to pay for some repairs) was less appreciative than millions of viewers on the Internet of those helicopter pilots’ daring and legerdemain. The helicopters were Sikorsky MH-60R Multi-Mission aka “Romeos.”

Two Navy pilots from San Diego have been grounded after their helicopters dipped into Lake Tahoe last week. The Sept. 13 incident was caught on a dramatic video, which shows the two choppers hovering just above the water. At one point, one of the $33 million aircraft seems to lose control and flip over into the lake, but the pilot manages to bring it back up out of the water.

Both helicopters droped into the lake because they did not have enough power to stay in their hovering positions. …

The helicopters were on their way back to the air station in San Diego after an air show in Sacramento. They were headed to Lemoore Naval Air Station south of Fresno for refueling when the incident occurred.

Afterward, the helicopters had to land at Lake Tahoe airport for repairs. The incident caused between $50,000 and $500,000 in damage to the choppers.

15 Feb 2010


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MikroKopter, a German company selling kits, frames, and innovative designs to that country’s enthusiastic miniature aviation hobbyist community, has a very cool six-rotor model which, alas! will set you back $1,549.95USD for the basic model.

11:27 video

From Jan Hartigan via Bob Breedlove.

07 Aug 2009

Michael Yon Titled it “Pixie Dust”

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Michael Yon took this remarkable photo in Helmand province in Afghanistan. The helicopter’s rotors are hitting dust and producing sparks. Good thing there was no fuel leak at the time. Pretty shot of a dangerous situation.

04 Aug 2009

Commuter Roads Too Crowded?

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Martin Jetpack

If someone had come up with a working version of the kind of transportation device described in this Fox News story back in an earlier time, when Americans were much more frequently gifted mechanics and free of government regulations on everything and the threat of litigation, it would not have been very long before wealthy enthusiasts would be playing with these and arrival in the mass marketplace not far off.

Today? Well, when the Segway personal transportation device came out in 2001, San Francisco hastily banned it, before it had ever even been used on that city’s streets.

New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft unveiled a strap-on mini helicopter designed to travel at a speed of 62 mph for about 31 miles.

“To be able to fly solo in a fixed-wing aircraft can take 15 hours of flight training, but most people wanted to be able to learn to fly the jetpack in a few minutes,” inventor Glenn Martin said.

So, for now, adrenaline junkies will be able to get the thrill of flying solo through the air with a smaller version that goes about 6 miles an hour and is in a controlled outdoor area.

“It will still be flying as it’s never been done before, just in the confines of a rugby field-type space,” Martin Aircraft Company Chief Executive Richard Lauder told the Australian Associated Press. “Just because you have to stay under [6 miles an hour] doesn’t mean it won’t be an exciting experience.”

The cost will be about the same as other outdoor adventures like bungee jumping or skydiving, the company said.

The catch — it will only be available in New Zealand. …

Each Martin Jetpack costs about $150,000.

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