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.


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/ )


Red Arrows and Patrouille de France here below

Tours French Air Force Base celebrated its centenary this year on Sunday, the 7th of June as the air base was born in late 1915, fielded with the aviation school on Caudron G3. MF33 Flight (1/33 Belfort) was born in Tours in October 1914 but there is no evidence that it was stationed at Parçay-Meslay airfield.

The airshow gathered lots of aviation professionals as well as recreational aviation booths. About 56,000 people attended the event – a bit more than expected. The Belgian F-16 solo display, the Moroccan Marche Verte, the Red Arrows, the Patrouille de France, then the Rafale were the highlights of the beautiful day. The Swiss Army Super Puma helicopter performed an outstanding display, and a P-51 D Mustang and a Spitfire delighted WW2 fighter aircraft enthusiasts. Other flypasts performed by two Dassault Flamant MD.311, de Havilland Vampire and Mosquito made the attendees dream.

The visitors could also admire numerous aircraft in the static display area: RSAF and Luftwaffe Eurofighter Typhoons, a curious Piaggio 149 as its roundel comes from the UPDAF – Uganda Peoples Defense Air Force, a Caudron C.800 glider which looked like the C.25S that were used in the movie “Don’t look now… We’re being shot at!” (La grande vadrouille) flown by famous French actors Bourvil and Louis de Funès. A nice RSAF (Republic of Singapore Air Force) Aermacchi M-346, a Dewoitine 501 which used to be stationed at Tours air base, a few WW2 Piper Cub, Dassault Mirage 2000-D, Mirage 2000-5, Rafale, and last but not least 2 A-10 Warthogs, and many more aircraft.

With the nice weather, cool northbound winds, and the smooth organisation, the event turned out to be a great success.



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 126 years old today.

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 flying his legendary SPAD VII tagged “Trompe la mort III” which meant “death-dodger” on October 25, 1916 when he was reported MIA 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 aeroplanedetouraine.fr 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 126 ans aujourd’hui.

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. Alors qu’il était en mission de guerre le 25 octobre 1916 lors de la reprise de Fort Douaumont sur son légendaire SPAD VII marqué du surnom ”Trompe la mort III” il fût porté absent ce soir là puis 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 aeroplanedetouraine.fr . 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: http://airforces.fr/2009/11/11/all-the-ww1-aces-of-the-french-air-force-23/