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IMAGINE ATTENDING the 1911 Paris Salon de l’Aéronautique and coming upon the Tatin-Paulhan Aéro-Torpille!


Paris, 1911, the Tatin-Paulhan Aéro-Torpille (Aero Torpedo). Image from @éro-Land!

The two names would have been familiar. Louis Paulhan had just returned from a triumphal 7-month tour of the U.S. where he was a star at the 1910 Los Angeles Aviation Meet, America’s first.


On the left, Louis Paulhan, 1883-1963, French pioneer aviator and aircraft manufacturer. On the right, Victor Tatin, 1843-1913, French inventor and pioneer aerodynamicist. The image on the right from @éro-Land! (, which also contains fascinating information on model building.

In 1879, Victor Tatin built the world’s first flying model airplane. Its twin props were propelled by compressed air. Tatin’s Aéroplane lifted off at a speed of 18 mph and then circled its tether, not unlike a U-Control model.


Tatin’s 1879 model Aéroplane, the original craft at Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, Paris (le Bourget). Image by Uploadalt.

The full-size 1911 Aéro-Torpille was even more sleek and innovative in every way.


The Aéro-Torpille. Image from Flight, February 17, 1912.

An air-cooled 50-hp 7-cylinder Gnome rotary resided amidships, its portion of the fuselage given louvred aluminum panels. A lengthy driveshaft spun a propeller of 8-ft. diameter located at the rear.


The Aéro-Torpille’s primary wood and fabric construction was typical of the era; everything else was innovative. Image from

Unlike other aircraft of the time, the Aéro-Torpille’s fuselage had a circular cross-section. Its pilot sat in front of the engine and, indeed, ahead of the high-mounted monowing.


The Aéro-Torpille’s wings were especially graceful. Image from @éro-Land!

The wings had curved leading and trailing edges as well as a decided arched upswing from root to wingtip. Warping of their trailing edges provided a modicum of lateral control.


Undercarriage details. The Gnome rotary resided behind the louvred aluminum panel. Image from @éro-Land!

The undercarriage was unusual as well. Semi-circular pieces of hickory were hinged at the front and attached by elastic cords at the rear. Wire wheels were covered with drag-reducing discs.


Attaining a speed of 93 mph, the Aéro-Torpille was the fastest aeroplane at the French military trials of 1911. Image from Jane’s Historical Aircraft from 1902 to 1916, Doubleday, 1973. Both and list the book.

Tatin and Paulhan’s craft bested all others at the 1911 French military trails. However, it proved difficult to handle and was not developed further.

Tatin died in 1913. By then, Paulhan got interested in the flying boat designs of Glenn Curtiss; his company appears in Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft 1913 as Paulhan-Curtiss.


Tatin-Paulhan Aéro-Torpille model. Image from Les Collections du Musée de l’Air, Modèles Réduits, Le Musée de L’Air, Paris (Le Bourget).

In March, 1912, the Aéro-Torpille was sold to an Italian aviator. I wonder if he realized the stunning piece of aircraft history he had acquired? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013

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This entry was posted on October 23, 2013 by in Vintage Aero and tagged , , .
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