Days Gone By and the French Speed Record
French Speed Record
When we think of French aviation and high-speed jets, we automatically think of the striking French-made alpha jets that have been sold across the world for military purposes.
Speed and maneuverability have actually been incredibly important in French aviation over the past century, however, and the nation once ruled the skies in speed records.
French speed racing became something of an art-form
Speed races, record times and slick aviation were an important part of aircraft development in the early 20th century and it was the French that led the way for a long time.
They developed stunning jets capable of great speed to compete in speed records, races, steep vertical climbs and whatever else would prove that they have the fastest, more desirable places.
French companies focused on building racing craft for this very purpose, a venture that was supported by the nation and its government to the point of subsidization. As a result, the French were kings of the air for decades – that was until a true competitor came along.
Soon the Americans would show up to try and beat the French at their own game
In the early 1920s, American pilots and aircraft manufacturers decided to get involved with these speed records. The head company was Curtiss Aircraft, a leader in jet design based in New York.
The attitude to these races and record attempts was a little different in the US. Here the American government was less keen to put so much money into his creation of these fast planes for nothing better than sport.
Curtiss got past this obstacle by ensuring a simple change of focus – their fast planes would also be fighting planes for Army and Navy use. The team took to the skies in the Curtiss R-6 and the Curtiss R2C-1 and proved to be a worthy challenge for the French, eventually beating them with some impressive records.
The French and Americans long competition for speed records was hard fought with impressive victories.
1913: The French achieve the first record in a Deperdussin – 126ph
1920: The French continue their streak in a SPAD – 192mph
1920: The French upgrade their Nieuport 29V military fighter for a new record – 196 mph.
1921: the French create a new record in the updated Nieuport 31 – 205 mph
1923: The Americans pilot a Curtiss R-6 to finally beat the French – 232 mph
1923: France bounce back in a streamlined Nieuport-Delage Sesquiplane – 233mph
1923: The US Navy get back in their Curtiss R2C-1 and beat the time with ease – 266 mph.
1924, France prove to be unbeatable with a new record – 278 mph
As the years progressed, the French continued to cement their place as leaders in record-breaking flights and continued to showcase the speed of their planes and the skill of their pilots. While the US continued to create a craft with military capabilities in mind, the French held onto their title for years to come.
This nation was the one to beat and their continued development of some of the best fighter planes and alpha jets meant that they remained a key figure in world-class aviation.