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IMAGINE ATTENDING the 1911 Paris Salon de l’Aéronautique and coming upon the Tatin-Paulhan Aéro-Torpille!
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.
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.
The full-size 1911 Aéro-Torpille was even more sleek and innovative in every way.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013