Safran: in search of the <i>White Bird</i>

Paris, December 15, 2011

Safran has signed a two-year partnership agreement with the association La Recherche de l'Oiseau Blanc ("In Search of the White Bird"). It will be participating in search operations off the coast of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, to find the wreckage of the Oiseau Blanc (White Bird), the legendary plane flown by French pilots Charles Nungesser and François Coli, that may have crossed the Atlantic 12 days before Lindbergh in 1927.

The association has made considerable progress over the last four years, but now needs further financial and technical resources to provide incontrovertible proof that the French crew was indeed the first to have flown across the Atlantic non-stop.

Safran will be helping the association on its fourth search campaign to find the Lorraine-Dietrich engine that powered the White Bird and is one of the cornerstones of Safran's heritage*. The association will be directing a team of divers and engineers off the coast of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon to carry out a new series of searches.

Safran Chairman and CEO Jean-Paul Herteman said: "As a French aircraft engine maker, and because of our historical ties with Lorraine-Dietrich, we felt it was our duty to participate in the search for the White Bird. The Lorraine-Dietrich was an exceptional engine, offering unrivaled performance at the time. By looking for the aircraft's engine, Safran is in fact seeking to find a piece of our own history."

"I'm very proud that a company like Safran is working with our association on a project that I consider a key to our shared history," added Bernard Decré, president of the association "In Search of the White Bird". "Our partnership with Safran is not only financial, but reflects a real team approach to solving an 84-year old mystery, one that could change the history of aviation."

A Lorraine-Dietrich engine currently stored at the Le Bourget Air and Space Museum should shortly be transferred to the collection of the Safran Aerospace Museum in Villaroche, near Paris.

* The company Lorraine-Dietrich was founded in 1871. It built automobiles and rolling stock, then heavy machinery and aircraft engines. It was acquired by Gnome & Rhône in 1941. In 1945, Gnome & Rhône was nationalized, along with other French engine-makers reaching back to the dawn of aviation, and renamed Snecma. Snecma merged with Sagem in 2005, creating the Safran group.

Lorraine-Dietrich aircraft engines: selected achievements from 1927 to 1930


  • First crossing of the South Atlantic (on a night flight) by a twin-engine seaplane, piloted by Portuguese captain Sarmiento de Beires, during his exploration of South America.
  • Pilots Challe and Rapin fly from Paris to Saigon (12,000 km) in nine days.


  • Lieutenant Lassalle and Warrant Officer Duroyon fly a Potez airplane 14,000 kilometers in five days, on round trips between Paris-Oslo, Paris-Madrid, Paris-Warsaw, Paris-Rome and Paris-Lisbon.


  • Pilots Paillard, Le Brix and Jousse fly from Paris to Calcutta (11,000 km) in five days.
  • Three Dutch navy twin-engine Dornier seaplanes fly from the Netherlands to Indonesia (16,000 km), making the first air crossing of the Indian Ocean (1,620 km).
  • The CAMS 37 seaplane mail carrier makes eight trips from the Ile de France ocean liner to the American and French coasts, saving up to 48 hours in mail distribution.


  • Potez airplanes make round-trip weekly mail runs between Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile (1,200 km), each time crossing the Andes mountain chain at an altitude of over 16,000 feet, under very difficult conditions: -50° temperature, snow storms, violent wind gusts, etc.


Safran is a leading international high-technology group with three core businesses: Aerospace (propulsion and equipment), Defence and Security.
Operating worldwide, the Safran group has more than 54,000 employees and generated sales of 10.8 billion euros in 2010. Working alone or in partnership, Safran holds world or European leadership positions in its core markets.
The Group invests heavily in Research & Development to meet the requirements of changing markets, including expenditures of 1.2 billion euros in 2010. Safran is listed on NYSE Euronext Paris and its share is part of the CAC 40.

Communications Department
Catherine MALEK
Press Contact
Tél +33 (0)1 40 60 80 28

Groupe Safran
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75724 Paris Cedex 15 – France

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