Maxime LENOIR - 11-victory ace in 1916
Maxime LENOIR – 11-victory ace in 1916 – was not born in Paris but Chargé, in the Loire Valley

Post in English – le même article en français au bas de cette page:

December 22, 2014

Maxime LENOIR would have been 116 years old today. 116, like his aircraft registration number up on the fin of his legendary SPAD VII tagged “Trompe la mort III” which meant “death-dodger”.

Lenoir, Navarre, Guynemer, and Nungesser - WW1 Aces
Lenoir, Navarre, Guynemer, and Nungesser – WW1 Aces

He used to be one of the most renowned and talented pilots. He had been an aviation pioneer as he was among the very first pilots who performed the famous “looping the loop” aerobatic manoeuvre in the trail of Adolphe Pégoud between 1913 and 1914. He took part in a few air races, and a lot of air shows on his Blériot XI, nicknamed “Backjumper”. The local, national, and international press started to write articles about his prodigal sense of flying in the numerous airshows as the spectators cheered him every time he showed up. For instance, he was carried in triumph after he performed aerobatic manoeuvres above “La Girardière”, the Girard family airfield in Chargé, his home village where up to 5,000 people were gathered to attend his air show in May 1914.

Lenoir was rising to fame when Archduke Franz-Ferdinand was murdered and as the “European war” broke out, he joined up shortly after. In spite of his exceptional flying skills, Maxime Lenoir was unfortunately compelled to join the French cavalry. He then kept on requesting an assignment in the brand new military aeronautics recently created by General Hirschauer, and became a fighter pilot. However, he was first posted to the target-shooting department at the C18 flight, then he was transferred to the N23 flight as a fighter pilot. He waged a devastating war over the trenches, and against the Prussian aviation in fierce air battles over Verdun. He tested new weapons, and airplanes. He became one of the first pilots to shoot down a balloon. After a few victories in 1915, he became the N23’s best fighter pilot in 1916 with 11 victories, and most decorated among prestigious names – Pinsard, Casale, Gilbert, de Beauchamp, Rochechouart de Mortemart, Brindejonc des Moulinais, Roland Garros, Pulpe (from Russia), Baumont, etc. He was the best ace in his flight, and even reached the top four French aces in 1916 as he remained in the top-two aces in the summer of that year.

Maxime Lenoir looping the loop and airshows on Bleriot monoplane - early 1914
Maxime Lenoir looping the loop and airshows – early 1914

According to German soldiers’ testimony, Lenoir was a very skillful and fearsome ace. They knew him well as they knew Navarre, Nungesser, Guynemer, Dorme, and Boelcke, of course. It is important to note that Mannock, Rickenbacker, Collishaw, Bishop, Löwenhardt, Little, Udet, McCudden, Fonck, Von Richthofen, Beauchamp-Proctor, and McLaren were not so famous at that time for some of them were not aces or did not have so many victories. Air war between 1914 and 1916 was totally different from 1917/1918. As Lenoir had trained at Blériot’s Buc airfield, the best aerobatic flying school, he was able to cope with a jammed machine gun and dodge the enemy fire. Like a toreador, and in a very skillful way, he could lure the enemy pilots when his fellow pilots were under heavy fire. He was the best bullet dodger but took a lot of risks, too much maybe. He flew back to Vadelaincourt airfield with his aircraft crippled with bullets many times. He never hesitated to help his fellow pilots whenever he could since he dared to face up to several German airplanes in a row. He was deemed to be a very good friend, as well as salvation in the sky of Verdun. For instance, when he learnt that his friend Navarre (nicknamed “Verdun’s sentinel”) had been shot down and seriously wounded on June 17th, 1916, he took off immediately. Alone, he made for the location where his friend had been downed, and dashed to an LVG C that he shot down without delay. He became so famous that either his name or his portrait featured on magazines, candy wrappers, and stamps, among the greatest aces in the hall of fame.


Maxime Lenoir had more than a hundred war missions, which was considerable at that time. Wounded twice in air combat, he kept on dogfighting. He took off the day after the take back of Fort Douaumont, wrecked havoc by the battle. He was reported absent on October 25th, 1916, at night then MIA (missed in action) until much later when he was declared “Dead for France”. However, he has never been found despite extensive searching.

DORME & LENOIR - 1916 Candy Wrapper
DORME & LENOIR – 1916 Candy Wrapper

Unfortunately, this is why aviation history forgot him for almost a century. One of the most brilliant pilots had disappeared from World War 1 history. He remained all the same in a few books in English, and Jacques Mortane, the French journalist left several publications highlighting the role of Maxime Lenoir in aviation and air combat. Then nothing, almost nothing written on this pilot who was awarded the Legion d’honneur, Médaille militaire, Croix de guerre, as well as the notorious Aeroclub of America, and Aeroclub of France gold medals!

Only two men kept his remembrance alive – first, Abel Anjorand who has always been a long-time friend of Lenoir’s family. He compiled a set of documents and pictures to leave a trace of the village’s ace to future generations. Didier Lecoq, a journalist and historian, has revealed Maxime Lenoir’s feats on his website for a few years. The WW1 ace could have stayed hidden for possibly a couple more decades without Didier Lecoq’s outstanding work. Didier Lecoq rightly pointed out that there is no building, no square, and no street called Maxime Lenoir.

French ace Maxime Lenoir congratulated by British officers
Lenoir congratulated by British officers

Last not least, there is good news since the national and regional officials have officially recognized Maxime Lenoir as the WW1 hero for Tours and Indre-et-Loire in the remembrance operation called “100 cities, 100 heroes, and 100 flags” since last summer. A ceremony to pay tribute to the local hero was held in the capital of Touraine, Place Anatole France on the left bank of the Loire river on Friday, September 19th, 2014. The Lenoir’s family, their friends and some veterans attended the ceremony which ended in the majestic festival hall at the city hall.

Though he did not know, Senior Master Sergeant (Adjudant – OR-8) Maxime Lenoir was to be promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in 1917. His disappearance in history handbooks for almost a century remains a mystery. Moreover, avgeeks, online gamers as well as modelists used Lenoir’s features “Trompe la mort III”, “Max”, and “Backjumper” tagged from markings just along with Guynemer’s “Vieux Charles”. No wonder if Maxime Lenoir recovered his position in aviation history for at least two books featuring the former ace are to be published between 2015 and 2016 – and quite rightly so. Among the 100 WW1 heroes, Lenoir turns out to be the 5th ace in victories out of 21 aces, and the second “Dead for France” ace after… Guynemer!

Postscript: it is the second article this blog has tagged “Maxime Lenoir” as another post featuring his name had been posted here: http://airforces/2009/11/11/all-the-ww1-aces-of-the-french-air-force-23/


En français:

Maxime Lenoir & Nieuport - summer 1916
Maxime Lenoir & Nieuport – summer 1916

Maxime LENOIR aurait eu 116 ans aujourd’hui. 116 comme le numéro de série sur l’empennage vertical de son légendaire SPAD VII marqué du surnom ”Trompe la mort III”.

Il fût autrefois un des plus connus et talentueux pilotes de sa génération. Il avait été pionnier de l’aviation alors qu’il faisait partie de ces quelques pilotes capable d’accomplir des boucles en voltige à la suite d’Adolphe Pégoud entre 1913 et 1914. Il s’engagea dans quelques courses d’avions et de nombreux meetings aériens sur son Blériot XI surnommé ”Backjumper”. La presse locale, nationale et internationale commença à publier des articles sur son sens prodigue du pilotage dans les nombreux meetings aériens étant donné que les spectateurs l’acclamaient à chaque fois qu’il se produisait. Par exemple, il fût porté en triomphe après avoir avoir accompli des figures acrobatiques au-dessus du terrain d’aviation de la famille Girard, “La Girardière” à Chargé son village natal en Indre-et-Loire où jusqu’à 5000 personnes s’étaient rassemblées pour assister à son show aérien en mai 1914.

Alors que la notoriété de Lenoir était croissante, l’archiduc François-Ferdinand fût assassiné et la ”Guerre européenne” éclata. Il s’engagea dans l’armée peu de temps après. Malgré ses compétences exceptionnelles en tant que pilote, Maxime Lenoir fût malheureusement contraint de rejoindre la cavalerie française. Il continua ensuite à demander une mutation vers l’Aéronautique militaire récemment créée par le général Hirschauer et devint pilote de chasse. Toutefois il fût d’abord affecté au réglage du tir à l’escadrille C18, puis il fût affecté à l’escadrille N23 comme pilote de chasse. Il mena une guerre terrible au dessus des tranchées et engagea des combats aériens acharnés contre l’aviation prussienne au dessus de Verdun. Il devint un des premiers pilotes à abattre un ballon. Après quelques victoires en 1915, il devint le meilleur pilote de chasse de la N23 en 1916 avec 11 victoires, ainsi que le plus décoré parmi des noms prestigieux : Pinsard, Casale, Gilbert, de Beauchamp, Rochechouart de Mortemart, Brindejonc des Moulinais, Roland Garros, Pulpe (venant de Russie), Baumont, etc.

D’après des témoignages de soldats allemand, Lenoir était un as très adroit et redoutable. Ils le connaissaient comme ils connaissaient Navarre, Nungesser, Guynemer, Dorme et bien sûr Boelcke. Il est important de rappeler que Mannock, Rickenbacker, Collishaw, Bishop, Löwenhardt, Little, Udet, McCudden, Fonck, Von Richthofen, Beauchamp-Proctor, and McLaren n’étaient pas aussi célèbres à ce moment là car certains d’entre eux n’étaient pas des as ou ne comptaient pas autant de victoires. La guerre aérienne entre 1914 et 1916 était totalement différente de celle menée entre 1917 et 1918. Comme Lenoir avait été formé au terrain d’aviation de Buc chez Blériot, la meilleure école d’acrobatie aérienne, il parvenait à échapper au feu ennemi lorsque sa mitrailleuse s’enrayait. Comme un toréador et de façon très habile, il savait comment leurrer les aéroplanes ennemis lorsque ses camarades pilotes subissaient un feu nourri. C’était le roi de l’esquive mais il prenait beaucoup de risques, trop peut-être. Il revint plusieurs fois au terrain de Vadelaincourt son avion criblé de balles. Il n’hésitait jamais à voler au secours de ses camarades pilotes à chaque fois qu’il le pouvait puisqu’il osait faire face à plusieurs appareils allemands d’affilée. Il avait la réputation d’être un très bon ami ainsi qu’un véritable salut dans le ciel de Verdun. Par exemple, lorsqu’il apprit que son ami Navarre (surnommé ”la sentinelle de Verdun”) avait été abattu et grièvement blessé le 17 juin 1916, il décolla immédiatement. Seul, il se rendit sur les lieux où son ami avait été abattu et fonça sur un LVG C qu’il descendit sans tarder. Il devint si célèbre que son nom ou son portrait figurait sur des magazines, des emballages de bonbons et des timbres parmi les plus grands as au temple de la renommée.

Maxime Lenoir totalisait plus d’une centaine de missions de guerre, ce qui était considérable à cette époque. Blessé à deux reprises en combat aérien, il continua à livrer des combats aériens. Il décolla le lendemain de la reprise du fort de Douaumont ravagé par la bataille. Il fût inscrit aux absents au soir du 25 octobre 1916 puis porté disparu et ce n’est que bien plus tard qu’il fût déclaré ”Mort pour la France”. On ne l’a cependant jamais retrouvé malgré de multiples recherches.

Malheureusement, voilà pourquoi l’histoire de l’aviation l’a oublié pendant presque un siècle. L’un des plus brillants pilotes avait disparu de l’histoire de la première guerre mondiale. Son souvenir subsistait tout de même dans quelques livres en anglais et Jacques Mortane, le journaliste français laissa plusieurs publications soulignant le rôle de Maxime Lenoir dans l’aviation et le combat aérien. Puis plus rien, on n’écrivit presque rien sur ce pilote qui fût décoré de la Légion d’honneur, de la Médaille militaire, la Croix de guerre, ainsi que lui furent attribué les prestigieuses médailles d’or de l’Aéroclub d’Amérique et de l’Aéroclub de France!

Deux hommes seulement, ont su conserver son souvenir intact. D’abord Abel Anjorand qui a toujours été un ami de longue date de la famille Lenoir. Il a compilé toute une série de documents et d’images pour laisser une trace de l’as du village à de futures générations. Didier Lecoq, journaliste et historien révèle depuis quelques années les exploits de Maxime Lenoir sur son site . L’as de la première guerre mondiale aurait pu rester caché pendant peut-être encore quelques décennies sans le magnifique travail de Didier Lecoq qui fait remarquer fort justement qu’aucun bâtiment, aucune place, aucune rue ne porte le nom de Maxime Lenoir.

Il y a enfin une bonne nouvelle puisque depuis l’été dernier, les responsables nationaux et régionaux reconnaissent officiellement Maxime Lenoir comme le héros de la Grande guerre pour la ville de Tours et l’Indre-et-Loire dans l’opération de commémoration ”100 villes, 100 héros, 100 drapeaux”. Une cérémonie pour rendre hommage au héros local s’est déroulée dans la capitale de Touraine, place Anatole France sur la rive gauche de la Loire le vendredi 19 septembre 2014. La famille Lenoir, leurs amis et des anciens combattants ont assisté à la cérémonie qui s’acheva dans la majestueuse salle des fêtes de l’hôtel de ville.

Bien qu’il ne le sut pas, l’adjudant Maxime Lenoir devait être promu sous-lieutenant en 1917. Sa disparition des manuels d’histoire pendant presque un siècle demeure un mystère. Ce qui est encore plus étrange, c’est que des fans d’aviation, des joueurs en ligne ainsi que des modélistes ont utilisé des symboles de Lenoir comme ”Trompe la mort III”, ”Max” et ”Backjumper” tirés pour certains de décalcomanies accompagnant le ”Vieux Charles” de Guynemer. Ce n’est pas étonnant que Lenoir retrouve sa place dans l’histoire de l’aviation car au moins deux livres évoquant l’ancien as doivent paraître entre 2015 et 2016 et fort justement. Parmi les 100 héros de la Grande guerre, il s’avère que Lenoir est le 5ème as par le nombre de victoires sur un total de 21 aviateurs et il est dans cette liste le second as ”Mort pour la France” juste après… Guynemer !

Post-scriptum: c’est la seconde fois que Maxime Lenoir figure dans un article de ce blog:


Felix Baumgartner, the famous Austrian skydiver, is still waiting for better meteorological conditions to make a new attempt in the Red Bull Stratos project to break the sound barrier while freefalling. This new feat might happen within the next few days as it has already been scheduled on October 14.

According to the video below, Felix BAUMGARTNER’s top 5 jumps are:

  1. Wingsuit Channel Crossing
  2. Taipei 101 BASE Jump
  3. Petronas Towers BASE Jump
  4. Seating of the Spirits Cave Jump
  5. Man vs. Plane


Felix BAUMGARTNER was to jump on the 9th of October 2012. However, this jump which could have become the highest skydive in the aerospace history has been put off due to gusty winds.

In this new record attempt Felix BAUMGARTNER will be so high up – 120,000 ft, or 36.6 km – that if his suit leaks, his blood will boil. When he jumps, he will fall so fast that he will break the sound barrier as explained in this video:


A 3-hour ascent is expected to reach such an altitude, and it could take him more than a quarter of an hour to fall down back to the earth, and land… And now the animation on how it could unfold from the stratosphere right over Roswell, New Mexico, USA: (Click on the link below – MUST SEE!)






Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian skydiver, performed a challenging test jump on Thursday March 15, 2012.

Felix Baumgartner has the right stuff. He is a well known BASE jumper. B.A.S.E. means Buildings; Aerials; Spans (jumps from bridges); and Earth (jumps from cliffs). He performed numerous stunts such as jumping from the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, World Financial Center T101 in Taipei, and the Millau viaduct.

Yesterday’s jump test is just a stage in his attempt to break a new free-fall record. He jumped above Roswell, New Mexico at an altitude of 71,581 feet ie 21.8 kilometers; 13.6 miles; or Flight Level 716. He should then carry out another jump test before leaping again from a capsule lifted by a helium balloon at around 120,000 ft ie 23 miles or 37 km this year, and could become the first man to break the sound barrier while free falling.




This is not a simple leap in the sky. People may not understand how dangerous skydiving at such heights is. The air density is so low that it cannot brake movements as drag becomes poorer up there.

Therefore, a position mistake can make the human body tumble violently or spin very fast. High rotation speeds involve high-G forces due to the centrifugal force, and may lead to G-LOC (G-force induced Loss Of Consciousness), and even to the rupture of blood vessels.

Moreover, if a spacesuit were to leak (due to a dormant seal failure or a cracked/crazed faceplate, for instance), the blood could be boiling (ebullism at 37°C above 63,000 ft or 19 km) because of the very low air pressure, and the body could be swelling, and actually freezing to death as the external temperature can reach down to -70°C, and even lower, not to mention the risk of pulmonary barotrauma.

The current record is held by Joseph Kittinger (a former USAF pilot who is curently advising Felix Baumgartner on his project) who jumped from 102,800 feet in 1960. He temporarily lost the use of his hand which got twice as big as a glove seal was leaking during the final part of the ascent. With this test jump, Felix Baumgartner already belongs to the highest three skydivers along with Joe Kittinger, and Russian Eugene Andreev who performed the longest parachute jump from 83,523 feet (25.5 km).

The following video shows that this feat is not only a matter of pushing limits as researchers are working on this Red Bull Stratos project to prepare flight safety of the future spacecraft:

Enigma of Yuri Gagarin’s death on March 27 – 43 years ago

The cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin – the 1st man to have travelled into outer space on his Vostok 1 spacecraft on April 12, 1961 – died on March 27 1968. However, the precise cause of the jet crash remains uncertain.

Colonel Gagarin and his instructor Vladimir Seryogin (as Gagarin, director of the Star City, had to obtain his fighter pilot rating again), flew a MiG-15 Midget that day, and they should not have kept the fuel tanks under their jet. As the spin turned into a deadly crash, it has been suggested since 1986 that the afterburner turbulence of a Sukhoi Su-11 Fishpot-C interceptor aircraft could have caused the MiG-15 to go out of control.

The MiG-15 had first been designed to intercept USAF nuclear-capable B-29s.

Some governmental documents were declassified in 2003. They revealed that in addition to the official investigations, the KGB tried to advance a new line of inquiry. Since then, it has been deemed that the accident could not be due to any conspiracy theory. Though little is certain about this mistery, you can click on the frame below to read further information:

What killed Yury Gagarin: Soviet report’s findings

09:30 27/03/2011 On March 27, 1968, news of a terrible tragedy broke: Yury Gagarin, first man into space, had been killed in a plane crash. Although experts continue to debate what caused the crash, they all agree that Gagarin’s death was quite bizarre.>>