Tag Archives: Chevalier de la légion d’honneur

22 December 1910: Hélène Dutrieu

Hélène Dutrieu (Library of Congress
Hélène Dutrieu (Library of Congress)
Pierre Lafitte
Pierre Lafitte

22 December 1910: Hélène Dutrieu won the first Coupe Fémina by flying her Farman airplane 60.8 kilometers (37.8 miles) in 1 hour, 9 minutes at Étampes, about 48 kilometers (29 miles) southwest of Paris, France.

The Fémina Cup was established by Pierre Antoinne Baptiste René Lafitte, publisher of Fémina, a ladies’ magazine. A prize of ₣2,000 was awarded to the woman who had completed the longest flight of the year.

Mlle Dutrieu won the prize again the following year with a distance of 243.8 kilometers (151.5 miles) and duration of 2 hours, 58 minutes.

Hélène Dutrieu was just the fourth woman to become a licensed airplane pilot. She began training with a Santos-Dumont Damoiselle, in which she crashed on her first flight. After trying with another aircraft builder, she went to the Farman brothers, who loaned her one of their airplanes and taught her to fly it. She held Aéro-Club de Belgique certificate number 27, issued at the end of August 1910, and a few months later, 25 November, she also received certificate number 27 from the Aéro-Club de France.

Mlle Hélène Dutrieu with a Santos-Dumont Damoiselle just before her first flight, 1908.
Mlle Hélène Dutrieu with a Santos-Dumont Damoiselle, just before her first flight, 1908. (Unattributed)

Hélène Dutrieu was born 10 July 1877 at Tournai, Belgium, to Florent Dutrieu and Clothilde van Thieghem. She became a professional bicycle racer and at the age of 20, Mlle Dutrieu won the women’s cycling world championship and won again in 1898. She also won the Grand Prix d’Europe.

In addition to bicycle racing, Hélène Dutrieu raced motorcycles, cars and airplanes. For her athletic accomplishments, the King of Belgium awarded her the Cross of St. André with Diamonds, and in 1913, France made her a Chevalier de la légion d’honneur, the first woman so honored for aviation.

During World War I, Mlle Dutrieu served as an ambulance driver, and was assigned to supervise all ambulances at one hospital. Later she was director of the Campagne à Val-Grâce military hospital.

Mlle Ditrieu married a member of the French Assembly in 1922 and became a citizen of France. Mme Dutrieu-Mortier served as a vice president of the Aéro-Club de France.

Hélène Dutrieu-Mortier died at Paris, 27 June 1961 at the age of 83 years.

Hélène Dutreu 1911
Hélène Dutrieu in her Farman airplane, 1911 (Unattributed)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 November 1934, Hélène Boucher, Croix de Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur

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Hélène Antoinette Eugénie Boucher, Chevalier de la légion d’honneur. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

30 November 1934: While flying her new Caudron C.430 Rafale near Guayancourt, France, Hélène Boucher crashed into a forested area at Voison-le-Bretonneaux. Apparently, the airplane stalled while on landing approach, rolled, and then hit the trees. The airplane was destroyed and Mlle Boucher was critically injured. She died while enroute to a hospital at Versailles. She was 26 years old.

Hélène Boucher’s funeral was held at Chapelle des Invalides, the first time that a woman had been so honored. Posthumously, the government of France awarded her the Croix de Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. She is buried at the cemetery in Yermenonville

Hélène Antoinette Eugénie Boucher was born at Paris, 28 May 1908, the daughter of Leo Boucher, an architect, and Helen Elizabeth Dureau Boucher. Following World War I, she attended high school at the Lycée Montaigne and then the Collège Sévigné, both in Paris.

Boucher learned to fly at the Aero Club of Landes, Mont-de-Marsan, making her first flight on 4 July 1930. She quickly earned a tourist pilot license, then in 1932, a public transport license. The Aero-Club de France awarded her its pilot certificate number 182.

Mlle Bouchere was awarded Certificate Number 182 by the Aero-Club de France. (Escadrille Féminine Méditerranéenne)
Mlle Bouchere was awarded Certificate Number 182 by the Aero-Club de France. (Escadrille Féminine Méditerranéenne)

She participated in a number of international and long distance air races, such as the Raid Paris-Saigon in 1933. She specialized in aerobatics and her performances made her a popular figure at air shows.

During July and August 1934, Mlle Boucher set 11 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world records for speed and altitude flying a Caudron C.450, C.530, and a Mauboussin-Peyret Zodiac M.120.¹

F-AMVB was the second of two specially-built Société Anonyme des Avions Caudron C.430 Rafale racing airplanes, c/n 02/6886. (Rafael means gust: “a brief, strong, rush of wind.”) It was registered 18 October 1934 (Certificate of Registry 3947).

Hélène Boucher’s Caudron C.430 Rafale, F-AMVB.
Hélène Boucher’s Caudron C.430 Rafale, F-AMVB.

The C.430 was a two-place, single-engine monoplane with fixed landing gear. The airplane was constructed of wood, with the fuselage, wings and tail surfaces covered with plywood. Fuel was carried in two tanks in the fuselage, one forward of the cockpit and another placed between the pilot and passenger positions. The wings had no dihedral and were equipped with split flaps.

The Caudron C.430 was 7.100 meters (23 feet, 3.53 inches) long with a wingspan of 7.700 meters (25 feet, 3.15 inches)and height of 1.88 meters (6 feet, 2.02 inches). Its empty weight was 480 kilograms (1,058 pounds) and gross weight, 820 kilograms (1,808 pounds).

The airplane was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 6.333 liter (386.463 cubic inch) Renault Bengali 4Pdi inverted four-cylinder overhead-valve (OHV) engine, rated at 120 cheval-vapeur (horsepower) at 2,300 r.p.m., and 150 horsepower for takeoff. This was a direct-drive engine, turning a two-bladed Hélices Ratier adjustable-pitch propeller. The 4Pdi was 1.28 meters (4 feet, 2.4 inches) long, 0.93 meters (3 feet, 0.6 inches) high and 0.52 meters (1 foot, 8.5 inches) wide. It weighed 135 kilograms (298 pounds).

This gave the C.430 a cruise speed of 270 kilometers per hour (168 miles per hour) and maximum speed of 305 kilometers per hour (190 miles per hour). The service ceiling was 5,750 meters (18,865 feet) and range was 1,000 kilometers (621 miles).

The remaining Caudron C.430 Rafael, c/n 01, F-PJHB, is in at Musée Régional de l’Air, Angers Loire Aéroport, Marcé, Pays de la Loire, France, painted as Mlle Boucher’s blue and red racer with her registration markings, F-AMVB.

Tombe de l'aviatrice Hélène Boucher. (Bibliothèque de France)
Tombe de l’aviatrice Hélène Boucher. (Bibliothèque de France)

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 4483, 4494, 4496, 12005, 12032, 12033, 12034, 12110, 12111, 12112, and 14860.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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14–18 November 1932: Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson Mollison with her de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, Lympne Aerodrome, London, 14 November 1932. (Unattributed)
Amy Johnson Mollison with her de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, Lympne Aerodrome, London, 14 November 1932. (Unattributed)

14–18 November 1932: Amy Johnson, CBE, (Mrs. James A Mollison) flew her new de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, c/n 2247, registration G-ACAB, from Lympne Aerodrome, London, England, to Cape Town, South Africa, a distance of approximately 6,300 miles (10,140 kilometers) in a total elapsed time of 4 days, 6 hours, 54 minutes. This broke the previous record which had been set by her husband, Jim Mollison, by 10 hours, 28 minutes.

A contemporary news article described the event:

FLIGHT, November 24, 1932

MRS. MOLLISON’S FINE FLIGHT

Beats her Husband’s Cape Record by 10½ Hours

THERE are few, we think, who will not admit that Mrs. J.A. Mollison (Miss Amy Johnson) has accomplished a really remarkable feat in her latest flight—from England to Cape Town in 4 days 6 hr. 54 min., thus beating her husband’s previous record for the same journey of 4 days 17 hr. 22 min. by 10 hr. 28 min.

Not only is the flight a magnificent achievement as far as the time taken is concerned, but as a feat of endurance, pluck, good piloting and navigation, it must be placed foremost in the list of great flights.

Throughout the flight Mrs. Mollison had had only 5 hours’ sleep!

As reported in last week’s issue of FLIGHT, Mrs. Mollison set out from Lympne, in her D.H. “Puss Moth” (“Gipsy Major”), Desert Cloud, at 6.37 a.m. on November 14, and at 7.30 p.m. arrived at Oran, on the North African coast, 1,100 miles distant. She made an hour’s stop to refuel en route at Barcelona, and after a halt of 4 hours at Oran she started off on a night flight across the Sahara Desert towards Gao and Niamey.

At this stage some anxiety was felt owing to the absence of news concerning her progress for over 24 hours. Then came the news that she had landed safely at Gao (some 1,300 miles from Oran) at noon, November 15—having thus successfully accomplished a most difficult flight across the desert, without landmarks, at night. After a short stop for refuelling Mrs. Mollison left for Duala, but after flying for about an hour she noticed that her tanks were almost empty. She at once returned to Gao and found that they had put in only 10 galls. instead of 42 galls.!

After this irritating delay she proceeded once more, arriving safely at Duala in the evening, and continuing, after a short halt, towards Loanda. On this stage, during the night, the oil circulation caused her some trouble, and so she landed the next morning at Benguela (Port. W. Africa) to set matters aright.

Fortunately, the trouble was not serious—probably a portion of the Sahara in the filters—and she was able to proceed after a delay of some 9 hours. A halt to refuel was made at Mossamedes in the evening of November 17 and then came another night flight on the final stage of her journey.

Meanwhile, news of her start on the last hop reached Capetown, and from midnight November 17–18, huge crowds made their way to the Municipal aerodrome—although Mrs. Mollison could not possibly arrive much before midday. There were, therefore, several thousand people on the aerodrome by the time she arrived.

Mrs. Mollison appeared somewhat unexpectedly, from inland, shortly after 3 p.m., and it was not until the machine was about to land that the crowd realised that it was the Desert Cloud. She landed at 3.31 p.m. (1.31 p.m. G.M.T), and immediately the cheering crown broke down the barriers and surrounded the machine. It was some time before she could get out of her machine, but eventually she was got into a car, and before driving away she waved to the crowd and said: “Thank you very much for your great welcome. I said I would come back, and I have done so. It is really too kind of you to give me such a welcome.”

Safely inside the aerodrome building, Mrs. Mollison spoke over the telephone to Mr. Mollison, after which she was taken to some friends, where she could obtain some well-earned sleep.

1st day     Lympne–Oran (1,100)

2nd  ”        Oran–Gao (1,400)

3rd   ”        Gao–Duala (1,150)

4th   ”        Duala–Mossamedes (1,350)

5th   ”        Mossamedes–Cape (1,300)

(Concluded on page 1141)

Amy Johnson Mollison, CBE, with her de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, Lympne Aerodrome, London, 14 November 1932. (Flight)

MRS. MOLLISON’S FINE FLIGHT

(Concluded from page 1133)

Needless to say, Mrs. Mollison has received numerous messages of congratulation, amongst which were the following: —From H.M. the King: “Please convey to Mrs. Mollison hearty congratulations on her splendid achievment. I trust that she is not too exhausted. —George, R.I.”

From Lord Londonderry, Secretary of State for Air: “On behalf of the Air Council I congratulate you most warmly on the successful completion of your magnificent flight.”

Messages were also sent by the Royal Aero Club and Royal Aeronautical Society, Lord Wakefield, etc.

Mr. A.E. Whitelaw, the Australian philanthropist—who gave Mr. Mollison £1,000 in recognition of his Australia flight—is presenting a cheque for £1,000 to Mrs. Mollison in recognition of her achievement.

— FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer and AirshipsNo. 1248 (Vol. XXIV, No. 48.), 24 November 1932 at Pages 1133 and 1141.

The de Havilland Aircraft Co., Ltd., DH.80A Puss Moth was a single-engine high-wing monoplane with an enclosed cabin for a pilot and two passengers. It was constructed of a tubular steel frame covered with doped fabric. The airplane was 25 feet (7.620 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 9 inches (11.201 meters) and height of 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters). The Puss Moth had an empty weight of 1,265 pounds (574 kilograms) and gross weight of 2.050 pounds (930 kilograms).

G-ACAB was powered by a 373.71-cubic-inch-displacement (6,124 cubic centimeters) air-cooled de Havilland Gipsy Major I inverted, inline 4-cylinder engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. It produced 120 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m and 130 horsepower at 2,350 r.p.m. The engine weighed 306 pounds (138.8 kilograms).

The DH.80A had a cruise speed of 95 miles per hour (153 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 108 miles per hour (174 kilometers per hour). The airplane had a service ceiling of 17,000 feet (5,182 meters). The standard DH.80A had a range of 430 miles (692 kilometers), but The Desert Cloud had additional tanks which increased its range to over 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers).

De Havilland built 284 DH.80A Puss Moths between 1929 and 1933. Only eight are known to exist. G-ACAB, then owned by Utility Airways, Ltd., was destroyed in a hangar fire at Hooton Park, Cheshire, 8 July 1940.

Amy Johnson flew this de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, from England to South Africa, 14–18 November 1932. She made the return flight the following month. (Arch. B. Bambeau via Fan d’ Avions)
Amy Johnson flew this de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, from England to South Africa, 14–18 November 1932. She made the return flight the following month. (Arch. B. Bambeau via Fan d’ Avions)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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11 November 1935: Jean Gardner Batten

Jean Gardner Batten, CBE, OSC, 16 October 1936, photographed by Leo White. (Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library)
Jean Gardner Batten, CBE, 16 October 1936, photographed by Leo Lemuel White. (Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library)

11 November 1935: During a record-setting flight from England to Brazil, Jean Gardner Batten became the first woman to fly solo across the South Atlantic Ocean, flying her Percival D.3 Gull Six, G-ADPR, from Dakar to Natal. Her elapsed time of 13¼ hours was the fastest for the Atlantic crossing up to that time.

On 7 May 1935, Jean Batten was honored with the distinction of Chevalier de la légion d’honneur at Paris, France. At Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 21 November 1935, Getúlio Dornelles Varga, the President of the Republic of Brazil, conferred upon her its Ordem Nacional do Cruzeiro do Sul (Order of the Southern Cross). The following year, Jean Gardner Batten of the Dominion of New Zealand was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in the King’s Birthday Honours List, 19 June 1936, for general services to aviation. Twice Batten was awarded the Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club, and three times she won the Harmon Trophy of the International League of Aviators. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) awarded her its Gold Medal.

“This young woman, gifted with the finest of qualities, has made a great contribution, both through her daring and her patience, to the progress of aviation in the world. This year, she is worthy of receiving the Gold Medal, very few holders of which are still alive,” said George Valentin, Prince Bibescu, president and one of the founders of the FAI, when awarding Jean Batten the medal.

Jean Batten in the cockpit of her Percival Gull. (Unattributed)
Jean Batten in the cockpit of her Percival Gull. (National Library of New Zealand)

Batten’s Percival D.3 Gull Six, c/n D55, was a a single-engine, low-wing monoplane, built primarily of wood and covered by doped fabric. It was flown by a single pilot and could carry two passengers.On 29 August 1935, the airplane was assigned Great Britain civil registration G-APDR (Certificate of Registartion 6242).

The airplane was 24 feet, 9 inches (7.544 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 2 inches (11.024 meters) and height of 7 feet, 4½ inches (2.248 meters). The D.3 had an empty weight of 1,170 pounds (530.7 kilograms) and gross weight of 2,050 pounds (929.9 kilograms).

The Gull Six was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 9.186 liter (560.57-cubic-inch-displacement) air-cooled de Havilland Gypsy Six I, an inverted inline six-cylinder engine which produced 184 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m., and 205 horsepower at 2,350 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engine turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller via direct drive. The engine weighed 432 pounds (196 kilograms).

The Gull Six was capable of reaching 178 miles per hour (286.5 kilometers per hour). Its service ceiling was 16,000 feet (4,876.8 meters) and range was 700 miles (1,126.5 kilometers).

On 17 July 1940, Batten’s Percival Gull was impressed into military service and assigned a military identification of AX866. The airplane was returned to the civil register in 1946. It is now on display at the Jean Batten International Terminal, Auckland Airport, New Zealand.

Jean Batten’s Percival D.3 Gull Six, G-ADPR, photographed 19 June 1954. (RuthAS)
Jean Batten’s Percival D.3 Gull Six, G-ADPR, photographed 19 June 1954. (RuthAS)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 November 1932: Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson, CBE, © Capstack Portrait Archive, National Portrait Gallery)
Amy Johnson, CBE, © Capstack Portrait Archive, National Portrait Gallery

14 November 1932: At 6:37 a.m., GMT, Mrs. James A. Mollison, better known to the world as Miss Amy Johnson, CBE, departed Lympne Aerodrome, London, England, for Cape Town, South Africa. She was flying her brand new de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, c/n 2247, registered G-ACAB, which she had named The Desert Cloud.

Contemporary news articles reported the event:

A Race to the Cape

     Two attempts to better Mr. Mollison’s 4 days 17 hr. 22 min. for a flight between London and Cape Town have been planned for this week. The first (which was due to start at midnight on Tuesday) by Mrs. Mollison (Miss Amy Johnson) and the second by M. Otto Thaning, the Danish Vice-Consul in Johannesburg, who recently flew from Africa to Denmark. Mrs. Mollison has sensibly stated that her flight is not a pioneer venture and she disclaims any intention of either teaching Imperial Airways their business or of claiming any special value for the flight. It is to be a sporting attempt to reach the Cape as reasonably quickly as a “Puss Moth” can, and a flight for fun or for sport is a perfectly legitimate air gambol. Her machine is a standard “Puss Moth” called Desert Cloud. It is fitted with the new “Gipsy Major” (or IIIA) engine. It also has the long range tanks which her husband used on his Cape flight earlier in the year. She will thus have a range of 2,000 miles or more. If she feels fit and untired she will be able to make hops of 1,500 miles or more and reach the Cape in very few landings. Naturally and wisely she has timed the flight to take advantage of the full moon period of the month. Her route will be the West Coast or Great Circle course of about 6,200 miles, as compared with the 7,000 mile Imperial route. It is practically the same route used by her husband and as the one which the Fairey (Napier) long range monoplane will use. Should she improve on her husband’s time it will of course be a stout effort, but any Cape flight which brings South Africa within a week of London is a good show. . . .

— FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer and Airships, No. 1246 (Vol. XXIV, No. 46.), 10 November 1932 at Page 1055.

Amy Johnson Mollison, CBE, with her de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, Lympne Aerodrome, London, 14 November 1932. (Flight)
Amy Johnson Mollison, CBE, with her de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, Lympne Aerodrome, London, 14 November 1932. (Flight)

And from the Southern Hemisphere:

Amy Johnson Starts Capetown Flight

LONDON, November 14. — Mrs. Mollison (formerly Amy Johnson) left Lympne Aerodrome at 6:37 o’clock this morning in an attempt to break her husband’s London to Capetown flight record of 4 days, 17 hours, 22 minutes. She is flying a Puss Moth named “Desert Cloud”. It has extra fuel tanks permitting a range of 2000 miles. She will follow the same route that her husband pioneered on his flight along the east coast and including the crossing of the Sahara Desert.

— The Barrier Miner, Broken Hill, New South Wales, Vol. XLV. — No. 13,553. Tuesday, 15 November 1932 at Page 1, Column 8.

The de Havilland Aircraft Co., Ltd., DH.80A Puss Moth was a single-engine high-wing monoplane with an enclosed cabin for a pilot and two passengers. It was constructed of a tubular steel frame covered with doped fabric. The airplane was 25 feet (7.620 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 9 inches (11.201 meters) and height of 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters). The Puss Moth had an empty weight of 1,265 pounds (574 kilograms) and gross weight of 2,050 pounds (930 kilograms). G-ACAB was powered by a 373.71-cubic-inch-displacement (6,124 cubic centimeters) air-cooled de Havilland Gipsy Major inverted, inline 4-cylinder engine which produced 120 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m and 130 horsepower at 2,350 r.p.m. The DH.80A had a cruise speed of 95 miles per hour (153 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 108 miles per hour (174 kilometers per hour). The airplane had a service ceiling of 17,000 feet (5,182 meters). The standard DH.80A had a range of 430 miles (692 kilometers), but The Desert Cloud had additional tanks which increased its range to over 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers).

De Havilland built 284 DH.80A Puss Moths between 1929 and 1933. Only eight are known to exist. G-ACAB, then owned by Utility Airways, Ltd., was destroyed in a hangar fire at Hooton Park, Cheshire, 8 July 1940.

Amy Johnson flew this de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, from England to South Africa, 14–18 November 1932. She made the return flight the following month. (Arch. B. Bambeau via Fan d’ Avions)
Amy Johnson flew this de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, from England to South Africa, 14–18 November 1932. She made the return flight the following month. (Arch. B. Bambeau via Fan d’ Avions)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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