BLACK SHEEP’S DEN – L’ANTRE DES TÊTES BRÛLÉES

There are some really nice aviator pubs and restaurants throughout the world, in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, New-York, in London, Farnborough, Gloucestershire, Paris, Le Bourget. Some only bear the name ‘aviator’ or another one relating to aviation.

AVIATORS BAR
Bar LES TETES BRULEES, 20 Rue Verdière, La Rochelle

While strolling down a street during the summer holidays, I stumbled upon a bar totally dedicated to pilots and aircraft in La Rochelle, France last summer. It was a bit busy on a sunny Saturday afternoon when I saw this sign “LES TÊTES BRÛLÉES” and a shield over the street corner on which I could make out a black sheep. Just above was an inverted-gull-shaped aircraft outline. The picture of a bull terrier on the awning could ring a bell too. This one wore sunglasses – there must be some fun in there, I mused. “Might it be Pappy Boyington’s den?” I wondered.

Some customers let us in and we were standing engrossed with the aviation world as if it were a dream. Flight suits and flight uniforms were hanging over tables. The bar – where laughter, grins and giggles are the norm – was surrounded with badges, aviation artifacts, aircraft and pilots photos up on the walls. There were aircraft models in a showcase, and several of them hanging all over the place. Some souvenirs were dedicated to naval aviation. It looked like a small – though dense – aviation hall of fame. There was a black sign above the bar featuring a short text in white letters, which said:

IN   WORLD   WAR  II ,

MARINE   CORPS   MAJOR

GREG   “PAPPY”   BOYINGTON

COMMANDED   A   SQUADRON

OF   FIGHTER   PILOTS ,   THEY

WERE   A   COLLECTION   OF

MISFITS   AND  SCREWBALLS

WHO   BECAME   THE   TERRORS

OF   THE   SOUTH   PACIFIC .

THEY   WERE   KNOWN   AS   THE

BLACK   SHEEP .

Sure, it rings a bell! This is the introductory text to the famous series “Baa Baa Black Sheep” about the brave VMA-214 pilots who operated from the Solomon Islands during the WW2, in the Pacific War. I could have heard the theme song from “The Whiffenpoof Song” turned into a drunk-voice, exhausted-though-happy chorus:

WE ARE POOR LITTLE LAMBS,

WHO HAVE LOST OUR WAY.

BAA! BAA! BAA!

Click off and listen:

AVIATORS PUBThe black sheep shield outside, the F4U Corsairs inside and this sign you cannot miss when you enter the pub make you breathe aviation history. Everything, even the lavatory walls covered with aviation slang graffiti, are very well in unison with the local atmosphere. Each conversation is focused on flying, pilots, aircraft, and of course fun!

There is a sort of an alcove in the back room made up of genuine airplane seats, artifacts, stickers and photos. You can even drink aviation. Even though Les Têtes Brûlées is not a POL depot you can be served a Kerosene, a great cocktail always served with a grin from the waiters. Jérôme, the boss, seem to be widely known in the aviation community, far beyond La Rochelle. Whoever they are. Pilots, flight attendants, crew members, engineers, aerospace lovers, they all know the Black Sheep’s den. Aviation geeks, this is a place where you have got to go for you can expect a nice welcome.

Click HERE to go to “Bar Les Têtes Brûlées”

Why Vought F4U Corsair “WHISTLING DEATH”?

EN FRANÇAIS:

Il y a dans le monde un bon nombre de bars et restaurants consacrés à l’aviation et quelquefois à l’aérospatiale: en Alabama, Géorgie, Caroline du Nord, New-York, à Londres, Farnborough, dans le Gloucestershire, à Paris, Le Bourget. Il y en a qui ne portent que le nom “aviateur” ou d’autres qui rappellent l’aviation ou l’espace.

Alors que je flânais dans une rue pendant les vacances d’été à la Rochelle, je suis tombé tout à fait par hasard sur un bar entièrement dédié aux pilotes et aux avions. C’était assez animé en ce samedi après-midi ensoleillé lorsque je vis l’enseigne “LES TÊTES BRÛLÉES” surplombant le coin de la rue, sur laquelle on pouvait distinguer un mouton noir.  Juste au dessus, la silhouette d’un avion aux ailes en W. L’image d’un chien bull-terrier sur l’auvent en terrasse me rappelait déjà quelque chose… Ce chien portait des lunettes de soleil – on doit bien s’amuser là dedans, songeai-je. Et voici ce que je me demandais soudain: “Se pourrait-il que cette échoppe soit une des antres de Pappy Boyington?”

Des clients devant le bar nous firent entrer et nous sommes restés un moment debouts, captivés par cet univers de l’aviation, comme si c’était en rêve. Des combinaisons de vol et uniformes de personnels navigants étaient suspendus au-dessus des tables. Le bar, où fou-rires, sourires et ricanements semblent de rigueur, était décorés d’insignes, de pièces de collection d’aviation, de photos d’avions et de pilotes qui tapissaient les murs. Il y avait des maquettes d’avion dans une vitrine, et plusieurs qui pendaient un peu partout. Des souvenirs évoquaient l’Aéronavale. Cela ressemblait à un petit, quoique dense, temple de l’aviation. Pour l’accueil, au dessus du bar est affiché un panneau noir rappelant une célèbre séries TV américaine en lettres capitales blanches, traduites de l’anglais:

PENDANT LA DEUXIEME GUERRE MONDIALE,

LE COMMANDANT DES MARINES

GREG “PAPPY” BOYINGTON ÉTAIT

À LA TÊTE D’UNE ESCADRILLE

DE PILOTES DE CHASSE. CELLE-CI

ÉTAIT COMPOSÉE DE MARGINAUX

ET D’AVENTURIERS QUI DEVINRENT

LES TERREURS DU PACIFIQUE SUD

ON LES CONNAISSAIT SOUS LE NOM

DE “BLACK SHEEP” (MOUTON(S) NOIR(S))

Bien sûr que cela vous dit quelque chose! Il s’agit du générique de la célèbre série “Les Têtes Brûlées” qui retraçait la saga des courageux pilotes de chasse de l’escadron VMA-214 qui opéraient depuis les Îles Salomon pendant la seconde guerre mondiale. J’aurais pu même entendre la mélodie tirée de “The Whiffenpoof Song” transformée en un refrain à l’eau de vie entonné par des voix de soiffards épuisés:

NOUS SOMMES DE PAUVRES PETITS AGNEAUX,

QUI SE SONT ÉGARÉS.

BÊÊ! BÊÊ! BÊÊ!

Le mouton noir et cet insigne à l’extérieur qu’on ne peut pas manquer et les Chance Vought F4U Corsairs à l’intérieur, font que cet endroit, dès qu’on y met les pieds, respire l’histoire de l’aviation pour votre bonheur. Tout, même les murs des toilettes, est couvert de graffitis du jargon de l’aéronautique à l’unisson avec l’atmosphère des lieux. Chaque bribe de conversation est tournée vers le vol, les pilotes et les avions et bien sûr on s’y amuse beaucoup!

Il y a un genre d’alcôve dans l’arrière-salle faite d’authentiques sièges d’avions récupérés, de pièces de collection, d’autocollants et de photos. On peut même boire aviation. Même si les Têtes Brûlées n’est pas un dépôt des essences, on peut très bien vous y servir un “KEROSÈNE”, un super cocktail toujours accompagné d’un grand sourire du personnel de la maison. Il semble que Jérôme, le patron, soit très connu dans la communauté aéronautique et bien au-delà de La Rochelle. Quels qu’ils soient, pilotes, PNC, membres d’équipage, mécaniciens, passionnés de l’aérospatiale, tous connaissent “l’antre du mouton noir”. Passionnés d’aviation, il faut absolument que vous vous y rendiez parce que vous pouvez être certains qu’on va vous y réserver un très bon accueil.

Cliquez ICI pour vous rendre au bar Les Têtes Brûlées.

ENSEIGNEMENT AERONAUTIQUE

Voici une nouvelle page dédiée à l’enseignement aéronautique. Elle regroupe des liens qui dirigent vers des cours, des ressources pédagogiques, des livres, des annales et même des tests en ligne pour préparer le BIA (Brevet d’Initiation Aéronautique) et le CAEA (Certificat d’Aptitude à l’Enseignement Aéronautique)

Afin de consulter cette page, cliquez sur l’onglet ci-dessus “BIA-CAEA” entre “Home” et “CATEGORIES” ou cliquez sur ce lien: http://airforces.fr/bia/

WWI AIR COMBAT – WHAT IT CAME DOWN TO

What is more natural than looking back over major aviation innovations of the Great War today, the anniversary of the Armistice? Here is a very interesting video posted by the BBC on how the fighter pilots dealt with reconnaissance, bombing missions and dogfight techniques. Primitive flight controls are well explained as is the interest of performing missions with a triplane aircraft – three sets of wings are necessarily more narrow, providing the pilot with a better visual field.

From the flimsy Blériot XI to Sopwiths and Fokkers, the first aces developed early methods that are always taught in fighter schools even though beyond-visual-range air combat has taken over since. Major Charles Tricornot de Rose was considered by many as the father of air fighting as early as 1914. Then as shown in this video, the German ace Oswald Boelcke laid out a first set of rules for dogfighting called the Dicta Boelcke. Pilots’ life expectancy was not measured in years but in weeks.

FORMER AVIATION TEMPLE 1st AEROBATICS SCHOOL

Few people know that there was a major aerodrome near Paris more than a century ago. Though Louis Blériots’s Aeroparc contributed a lot to aviation history, it was demolished in 1970. Villagers, aviation fans and historians made a decision of renovating the remains of this aviation temple which looked like this reconstruction:

 

Renovation of  Aéroparc’s Entrance in Buc

(from Xavier Cotton’s article in French)

Louis Blériot's Aéroparc entrance being renovated
Louis Blériot’s Aéroparc entrance being renovated – early Sept. 2015

For the 100th anniversary of the English Channel crossing by Louis Blériot, a well-documented publication was released in 2009 – “Buc à travers l’aviation“. A Mirage III R was given too, by SECAMIC company. This Dassault recce aircraft can be seen in Avenue Jean Casale between Buc and Toussus-le-Noble, France. The Buc citizens could proudly look back at their prestigious aviation past as Buc and Toussus-le-Noble airfields used to be an aviation history cradle.

Villagers and historians wanted to value their aeronautical heritage in 2012 and they made a decision of setting a renovation project of Blériot’s Aéroparc entrance which is located at the beginning of Guynemer Avenue. Many documents from archives allowed them to incentivize an accurate reconstruction. As the pictures show, the renovation works have already begun as of September 2, 2015.

At the same time, the statue erected to commemorate Jean Casale (1893-1923), WWI ace and Blériot’s test pilot et pilote d’essai aux établissements Blériot, will also be restored for it has been damaged by the effects of time. As far as the Mirage III R is concerned, it would also need a new coat of paint.

AÉROPARC LOUIS BLÉRIOT IN BUC, FRANCE 1914 - Toni Giacoia collection
AÉROPARC LOUIS BLÉRIOT IN BUC, FRANCE 1914 – Toni Giacoia’s collection

You can support this work to renovate this important remnant of aviation history by making a tax-deductible donation at a rate of 60% through the Heritage Foundation (Fondation du patrimoine). Please, click on the link hereafter to see the project: https://www.fondation-patrimoine.org/fr/ile-de-france-12/tous-les-projets-593/detail-aeroparc-louis-bleriot-de-buc-13201 and it is possible to download the donation form at : http://www.mairie-buc.fr/images/stories/newsletter/novembre2012/bulletin_de_souscription_BUC.pdf.

Louis Blériot won international renown as well as his presence at the very first Paris Air Show (Salon de l’Aéronautique which occurred at “Le Grand Palais” in Paris instead of Le Bourget) in late 1909 thanks to his Channel crossing on July 25, 1909. He had crossed the English Channel on his Blériot XI monoplane which is still  exhibited at the Musée des Arts et Métiers. Accordingly, Blériot-Aéronautique received a lot of aeroplane orders since then. Louis Blériot wanted to open a flying school. He established his school near Paris, to the south of Versailles on Buc airfield in order to train pilots and test new flying machines. It was inaugurated on November 13th, 1912. The whole airfield and compound was called Aerodrome Louis Blériot.

There was a monumental gate before the main building which looked like a castle. It was the very heart of the school as well as a hotel for the student pilots and a restaurant. Hangars and grandstands were added so as to organise airshows. Many great aviators and aces landed and took off at Blériot’s Aérodrome such as Roland Garros, Maryse Bastié, Maxime Lenoir, Edmond Perreyon and the Swiss John Domenjoz. Célestin Adolphe Pégoud nicknamed “Le roi de l’air” – “King of the air” – was one of the first pilots looping the loop. Here is a video shot on September 21st, 1913 in front of a 200,000 attendance above Blériot’s aerodrome in Buc:

The airfield was very active during WW1 thanks to its SPADs, then in the 1920s. The downturn of the Aéroparc started when Louis Blériot passed away on August 2, 1936. Aéroparc Louis Blériot was occupied by the German troops during WWII and was bombed by the Allies several times in 1944. The Aéroparc facilities were given back to Blériot-Aéronautique but it was left in tatters. The movements stopped in 1966 and it was closed down in 1970 before being demolished a few years after. The remnants of the monumental gate were all that is left from this exceptional past. Therefore, the Aéroparc renovation aims at valuing this site’s aviation history heritage.

Sources :
“Passion pour l’Aviation” from Xavier Cotton’s article in French
First photo : Toni Giacoia  ( http://fclanglais.fr/ )