: 2 min

A look back at the epic L'Oiseau Blanc, 90 years on

This enigmatic aircraft, which caught the general public's imagination on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1920s, continues to fascinate today. What happened to L'Oiseau Blanc, or The White Bird as it was commonly known in the English-speaking world?

On May 8, 1927, L'Oiseau Blanc, a biplane, disappeared during an attempt to make the first non-stop transatlantic flight between Paris and New York City. The aircraft was flown by two French pilots, Charles Nungesser and François Coli, who were also reported missing.

moteur Lorraine 12Eb
The Lorraine 12 Eb engine

The Lorraine 12 Eb engine powering L'Oiseau Blanc is something of a cornerstone of the historical heritage of Safran and the aerospace industry. The 450 hp engine was developed in the 1920s, with more than 8,000 of them manufactured by Lorraine-Dietrich, acquired in 1941 by Gnome & Rhône, the ancestor of Safran as we now know it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Taste of France” is the largest showcase event organized to promote France in the U.S. and worldwide, and took place in Bryant Park, in New York, on September 28 & 29, 2013. This event highlighted the excellence of French industry, tourism, cuisine and culture, technology and innovation. Show participant Safran showcased not only its jet engines that power many U.S. single-aisle commercial aircraft, but also displayed a variety of its technologies and products manufactured by our American workers and used daily by the American citizens.
L'Oiseau Blanc model

Over the past 90 years, several hypotheses have emerged to explain the disappearance of L'Oiseau Blanc and its two pilots. The most common of them is that the aircraft hit thick fog and then went hurtling into the ocean. Other research suggests that the biplane reached Newfoundland and then crashed close to the archipelago of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, or even closer to the coast of Maine in the United States. Others have come to the conclusion that rum-runners had mistaken L'Oiseau Blanc for a US Coast Guard aircraft and was shot down – a plausible scenario during the prohibition period.

 

 

Less than two weeks after the disappearance of the infamous biplane, the American Charles Lindbergh successfully completed the non-stop transatlantic flight with the Spirit of St. Louis, leaving from New York and touching down at Le Bourget airport on May 21, 1927. 

One question remains: who was the first to make the non-stop transatlantic flight? 

 

Charles Nungesser et Francois Coli

Even today, the names Charles Nungesser and François Coli are still very present in our collective imagination. In addition to the streets named after them in several cities across France, a statue was erected in their honor at Paris-Le Bourget airport, their point of departure, as well as a monument in Étretat, where they were seen for the last time from France. Less often, though, do we associate their venture with Safran, whose ancestor powered L'Oiseau Blanc!

Hit enter to search or ESC to close