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British Industrial History

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Edouard Nieuport

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Édouard de Nié Port (1875 - 1911) was the co-founder with his brother Charles of the Nieuport aircraft manufacturing company, Société Anonyme Des Établissements Nieuport, formed in 1909 at Issy-les-Moulineaux.

An engineer and sportsman, Edouard was also one of the pre-eminent aeroplane designers and pilots of the early aviation era (from the late 1800s to the outbreak of World War I in 1914). As a pilot, he set a new world speed record of 74.37 mph (119.68 km/h) on May 11, 1911 at Mourmelon, flying his Nieuport type II-N, powered by a 28 hp (21 kW) engine of his own design.

Later that year at Châlons, he bested his own time with a new speed record of 82.73 mph (133.14 km/h). Racing for the Gordon Bennett Trophy in July at Eastchurch, he finished third, beaten for first place by one of his own aircraft, flown by the American pilot Charles T. Weymann.

As a designer, his aeroplanes won many awards, prizes, and competitions during 1910 and 1911, not to mention achieving some historical firsts: His early Nieuport II, flown at Rheims in July 1910, was judged by many as the best in the show. His Nieuport IV-G, flown for the Italian Army Air Corps in North Africa by Capitano Moizo, made, on October 24, 1911, the second-ever reconnaissance flight by a military aeroplane, and perhaps the first bombing run. His Nieuport IV-G, flown by Weymann, also won the Concours Militaire in October and November of 1911. At Buc the same year, the pilot Gobé set a new closed-circuit distance record of 459.968 miles (740.255 km) in a Nieuport design. In the Gordon Bennett Trophy race his designs placed both first and third.

Although Edouard was killed in a flying accident on September 15, 1911, and his brother Charles Nieuport, who continued the work, died in a crash landing barely a year later on 24 January, 1913, Eduard's designs continued to be built by the company and licensed for production internationally. His aircraft were exclusively monoplanes, not the biplanes for which the company became famous during the First World War. His monoplanes were sold throughout Europe, and involved in many other aviation firsts:

  • The first round trip over the Mediterranean in 1913, flown by Lieutenants Destrem and de l'Escaille of the Marine Nationale from St. Rafael to Ajaccio in Corsica and back.
  • A world altitude record of 20,079 ft (6,120 m) by Georges Legagneux, also at St. Raphael.
  • An epic seven-week flight from Villacoublay to Cairo by pilot Marc Bonnier and a passenger.
  • Some of the very first tests of machine-gun mounting on aircraft.
  • The first ever successful loop, performed by Lieutenant Nesterov of the Imperial Russian Air Service on August 20, 1913.

In January 1914, Gustave Delage joined the company, and began, with a variant of the type 10 parasol monoplane to which he added a small set of lower wings, to develop the brilliant sesquiplanes (an "almost biplane" with a full upper wing and a single-spar, half-chord lower wing) for which the Nieuport company would become famous during World War I.

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