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SIGHTING A BLUEBIRD is a symbol of future joy and happiness. And so it was for the Freres Farman, Richard, Henri, and Maurice. These Farman brothers, Paris-born of English parents, were aviation entrepreneurs from its earliest days.
Their plans for the F.180 Oiseau Bleu didn’t work out, but this aircraft eventually brought joy and happiness to plenty of airline passengers. It also gave me an interesting GMax project for Microsoft Flight Simulator. Tidbits in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow are gleaned from my aviation book collection, Internet sleuthing, and GMax modeling of the Farman F.180 Oiseau Bleu.
An Overly Ambitious Goal. Avions Farman envisioned its F.180 airliner as establishing a Paris/New York route; this, the same year, 1927, that Charles Lindbergh flew his Spirit of St. Louis for more than 33 hours in the opposite direction.
Alas, the F.180’s resulting range of a modest 540 nautical miles (621 statute miles) dashed any hope of transatlantic service. However, the original Oiseau Bleu and its two siblings were successful for years with the Lignes Farman on the Paris/London route.
Advanced Features. The F-180’s flight deck was fully enclosed, whereas traditional wisdom suggested that exposure to the aerial environment was necessary for proper piloting. The aircraft’s fuselage had an oval cross-section, wide enough to accommodate as many as 24 passengers in three-abreast seating (albeit on the cramped side). More comfortable accommodations for 12 gave each an expansive view through a large window in a light and spacious cabin. A bar was also part of these more luxurious couchette (sleeper) accommodations.
Image from World Aircraft 1918-1935, by Enzo Angelucci and Paolo Matricardi, Rand McNally, 1976.
Twin Broad-Arrow Power. The F-180’s twin Farman 12We engines were of the W-12 broad-arrow configuration. Each had three banks of four cylinders, following the pattern of the English Napier Lion.
Power output of each engine was 500 hp. The engines were mounted in push-pull fashion, their nacelle embedded centrally in the F.180’s top wing. One benefit of this location was mitigating engine noise and vibration reaching the passenger cabin. A byproduct was incorporating radiators for the water-cooled engines in the forward pillars supporting the top wing.
Structural Matters. The Oiseau Bleu was a structurally conservative biplane design. Its fuselage was covered in wood; its wings were fabric-covered. (As early as 1920, the German Zeppelin-Staaken featured all-duralumin construction.)
Wikipedia identifies the very narrow track of its main landing gear as a design flaw. It’s likely that outrigger skids on the bottom wing extremities were necessary to counter lateral instability, particularly on the grass airfields of the era.
Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll see variations in the F.180’s development and a GMax rendering of my favorite, the Oiseau Bleu. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020