Version française
 

Other articles : [1] 2  >>

Pierre-Georges Latécoère’s work in space and time

Pierre-Georges Latécoère’s work
in space and time


Pierre-Georges Latécoère Pierre-Jean, fils du fondateur
25 août 1883 - août 1943 9 juin 1932 - 29 octobre 2002


The Latécoère company gave rise to one of the 20th century’s most amazing human adventures, culminating in the establishment of Latécoère Airlines’ Toulouse-Santiago airmail service linking France and Chile.

 


Didier Daurat Beppo de Massimi Marcel Moine



Workshops
Few stories have the epic qualities of the Latécoère and the Aéropostale airmail services, and fewer still faced and overcame so much adversity and danger. These extraordinary adventures were the work of such aviation pioneers as Mermoz, Guillaumet and Saint-Exupéry — all heroes in their own time. Undaunted, these early aviators viewed oceans, the peaks of the Andes, and African deserts as simply there to be crossed. Pierre-Georges Latécoère, their chief source of inspiration, literally gave his pilots wings by building airplanes to "fly higher and farther". He and others, including Didier Daurat and Marcel Moine, fostered a state of mind and a company spirit that brought out the very best in people, enabling them to surpass themselves in working towards a common goal.


Canvas
Pierre-Georges Latécoère founded his company (Société Industrielle d’Aviation Latécoère) in 1917 on receiving a government order for warplanes. A qualified engineer aged 34, he began building Salmson 2A2 aircraft, then Bréguet 14s in his factory at Montaudran just outside Toulouse. As soon as the war ended, he began thinking about the airplane’s peacetime potential. Aviation was still in its infancy, and few aircraft could fly even 400 km non-stop. Yet the vision of a regular service between Europe and South America was already firmly implanted in his mind. In setting up his company, he brought together the fragments of an industry in and around Toulouse, setting in motion a process that would later make the city France’s aviation capital.


Arrival in Barcelona
1918: The epic story of the Latécoère Lines begins

In May 1918, with the war dragging on, Beppo de Massimi, a brilliant aviator and officer, visited his childhood friend Pierre-Georges Latécoère. Pierre-Georges convinced Beppo to join him in pursuing his dream and as soon as the war was over, the two men focused on the task they had set themselves: on Christmas Eve 1918, just a few weeks after the Armistice of 11 November, Pierre-Georges Latécoère and pilot René Cornemont crossed the Pyrenees on the first direct flight from Toulouse to Barcelona. The Line had begun. An airfield was laid out on farmland at Montaudran. On 25 February 1919, two Salmson biplanes extended the "Line" to Alicante in southern Spain.


Montaudran factories


Pierre-Georges Latécoère was in one, piloted by Junquet, Beppo de Massimi and Lemaître in the other. On 19 March, Pierre-Georges Latécoère and Lemaître left for Rabat in Morocco. They arrived the next day and delivered fresh violets picked in Toulouse to Marshall Lyautey, France’s Resident General. The Marshall, convinced of the value of their undertaking, finally obtained government support allowing Pierre-Georges to set up Latécoère Airlines.



Breguet XIV

Fifteen Bréguet 14 biplanes powered by a single, 300-hp Renault engine were duly allocated to the new company. The two partners started recruiting pilots from among Beppo’s wartime comrades, including Beaute, Vanier, Delrieu, Dombray, Morraglia, and — most importantly — Didier Daurat. Daurat and Beaute were the driving forces behind the enthusiasm and energy that came to be known as "The spirit of the Line". At first the team flew a weekly run each way between Toulouse and Casablanca, but this was soon increased to two runs a week. By September 1920, just one year later, service was daily. And before long, its regularity and reliability attracted the first passengers.


Late 17

Other lines were soon established. Pilots Poulain and Vachet flew seaplanes between Alicante in Spain and Oran in Algeria, and also between Alicante and Algiers. Their seaplanes were fitted with radio transceivers to test the first air-to-ground links. Yet pilots still preferred to carry homing pigeons to overcome the shortcomings of early radio sets. On 3 May 1923, three planes led by Captain Roig set off from Casablanca for Dakar, Senegal, where they arrived three days later. Only two years later, on 1 June 1925, was the first regular mail run between Casablanca and Dakar inaugurated.


Late 4

 

Other lines were soon established. Pilots Poulain and Vachet flew seaplanes between Alicante in Spain and Oran in Algeria, and also between Alicante and Algiers. Their seaplanes were fitted with radio transceivers to test the first air-to-ground links. Yet pilots still preferred to carry homing pigeons to overcome the shortcomings of early radio sets. On 3 May 1923, three planes led by Captain Roig set off from Casablanca for Dakar, Senegal, where they arrived three days later. Only two years later, on 1 June 1925, was the first regular mail run between Casablanca and Dakar inaugurated.


Late 5
In 1924, Latécoère hired a young pilot named Jean Mermoz (on 10 October 1927, Mermoz and Negrin would take off from Toulouse and fly non-stop to Dakar, Senegal). In January 1925, a three-airplane expedition led by Prince Murat set off to fly from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The planes, with pilots Roig, Vachet and Hamm at the controls, set off on the return flight to Rio on 21 January, arriving on the 23rd.

 


Late 6
In 1926, Beppo de Massimi hired a young pilot named Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who was later to head the Cape Juby refuelling station in Morocco. The writings of Saint-Exupéry, Kessel, de Massimi and Daurat immortalized the heroism of Latécoère’s pioneering pilots. Pierre-Georges Latécoère thus achieved his goal of establishing a regular air service between France and South America — the first between Europe and the Americas. A true leader himself, he was assisted by many valued partners, starting with chief engineer Marcel Moine who had joined the company in 1917.

 


Late 8
The company’s achievements can be summarized as follows: 83 designs and 39 prototypes, many among the largest in the world at the time; 11 production runs of Latécoère designs, including aircraft for Latécoère’s own airlines and many large military seaplanes, representing a total output of 776 planes; and 31 world records, for both France and Latécoère airplanes, including the first crossing of the South Atlantic, on 12 May 1930, by a Laté 28.3 seaplane flown by Mermoz.-

 


Late 28-3-28-5

Over the years, Pierre-Georges Latécoère set up several factories and seaplane bases, including the Montaudran factory near Toulouse, seaplane bases at Saint Laurent de la Salanque on France’s Mediterranean coast and Biscarrosse on France’s Atlantic coast, and a factory at Anglet near Bayonne, also on the Atlantic coast.

 

Late 300
1939: Latécoère moves to rue de Périole

In 1939, as war clouds gathered over Europe, Pierre-Georges Latécoère answered the call of the naval air service (Aéronautique Navale) by setting up a new aircraft manufacturing plant on the company’s current premises in rue de Périole, Toulouse. The first task was to produce 30-tonne flying boats for the naval air service.


Late 521
In 1940, Latécoère sold his Montaudran and Anglet factories and the Biscarrosse seaplane base to Bréguet (Société des Ateliers d’Aviation Bréguet). And during the German occupation, his company scaled down its plant and managed to produce nothing of benefit to the enemy forces.

 

 

Late 611

The 70-tonne Latécoère 631 flying boat was developed during the early days of the German occupation, including most of the test flights. A major engineering achievement, it was well ahead of rival designs by French and international competitors.

 

 


Late 631

The prototype was seized by the Germans at Marignane on the Mediterranean coast and flown to Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance, where it was destroyed in an allied bombing raid the day after its arrival. The second Laté 631 was camouflaged and hidden not far from Toulouse with the help of Latécoère employees, along with key components for the third and fourth models, so avoiding destruction by the Wermacht prior to its retreat.

 

Following the liberation, Air France ordered seven Laté 631s, also known as the Lionel de Marmier type, for its transatlantic services.These 75-tonne flying boats gave France and Air France the world’s heaviest airplanes.

 

Back

 


Site map | Contact | Legals| Back to top

Last update : 1st August 2017 at 15:57:53