The French Report
Chapter 1
The Preparations for the Attempt

The Aircraft

The machine destined for the attempt to fly the North Atlantic was a Levasseur airplane called “long-range aircraft type PL-8,” and was derived from the Levasseur marine (marin) tri-place PL-4, constructed for the Navy. This machine was described in Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft of 1927 (page 131b). It was equipped with a Lorraine-Dietrich 12 cylinder motor in W configuration of 450 horsepower. The name “marine” was given to it due to an original characteristic of its construction. In case of need, the landing gear was releasable, and the cockpit was watertight and specially designed so that the aircraft could land and float for a long time, if sea conditions permitted. Take-off was not possible, of course, in this situation. A film from the cinematographic and photographic establishment of the Army, in an archive under the title "Levasseur," shows a water landing with a similar aircraft: a pass over the water; a second pass with the releasing of the landing gear and salvage of it by a ship; and a third approach with landing, then recovery of the plane with a crane. The film’s technical quality is excellent.

The Jane’s of 1927 listed as characteristics for the PL-4 aircraft a net weight of 2,400 kg, a speed of 185 km/h, and a cruise altitude of 3,000 m at 175 km/h. In the Jane’s of 1928, the same plane, but with a total weight of 2,550 kg (the empty weight being augmented by 100kg), was rated at a speed of 175km/h; and at 3,000 m, 170 km/h.

It was not essential to research at what moment during the winter of 1926-27 the project which became the PL-8 was accepted by Mr. Levasseur, or on what dates the drafting of the building plans was begun and ended, and the airplane’s construction itself put in hand.

The Levasseur PL-8 jettisoned its releasable landing gear for this flight, thereby reducing its weight and also the drag on1 the water-tight lower wing. It was equipped with the Lorraine-Dietrich W-12 450hp motor. The author does not know if the motor had undergone official testing. The Bureau Veritas Office2 does not possess any documentation on this. The plane does not display any registration on it in the pictures.

The principal modifications brought to the PL-4 in order to make it the PL-8 are indicated as follows. Its specifications were extracted essentially from the Aeronautical Review (Nº 97 from June, 1927) in an unsigned article, and from the Aérophile Review (Nº 11–12 from June 1–15, 1927) under the signature of Marcel Ducout. Neither article gives a complete list, but they both agree.

The tri-place evolved into the bi-place. Transformed into a flying fuel tank, its fuselage became larger, which brought added comfort to the crew. The two crewmen were positioned side by side, but Coli was slightly behind and lower than Nungesser. They were in an open cockpit with a large windshield. The two aviators were equipped with fur and silk lined flying suits. The flying surfaces were reinforced and slightly enlarged. This altered the edges of the central scallops and eliminated the folding wing apparatus. The controls were “compensated and equalized.” The daily Paris-Sport of May 8, 1927, makes mention of an “elastic retainer for the joystick.” The landing gear was reinforced to take into account the increased weight. It weighed 123 kg. It performed its function completely at take-off and remarkably withstood the fall that followed its release.

Fuel was kept in three tanks made of duralumin, most probably containing a total of 4025 liters. (It will be seen later that the question of the actual amount of fuel at takeoff continues to cause problems.) The three tanks were installed just behind the engine’s firewall. An article from L’Auto newspaper of May 13, 1927, signed by M.F. (probably Marcel Faye) indicates the empty weight of these three tanks did not exceed 80 kg. In Le Journal of May 13, 1927, the following question was asked of Levasseur: “Was there a fuel dump system to empty the tanks within a few seconds?” He answered: “No, there was no such system, but there was a manual pump that allowed the fuel to pass from the front tank to the rear one, and in the case of landing, allowed a complete fuel evacuation in two or three hours.”

The characteristics of the plane that attempted the flight differ according to the sources, even in certain geometric specifications; we now have the following figures:

Wingspan 14.6 meters
Length 9.7 meters
Height 3.9 meters
Wing area 60.5 square meters
Gross weight 5,030 kg (this is the most widely accepted weight)

In 1928, a second PL-8, equipped with a Hispano-Suiza engine of 600 horsepower, was built. The work of General Engineer of Air Louis Bonte entitled L’Histoire des essais en vol [History of Flight Testing] (Lariviere Edition, Docavia collection, 1975) speaks very little about the Levasseur airplanes. On one part of the photograph on page 200, the following caption appears: “The Levasseur PL-101 (Hispano-Suiza) could land on water, but not take off from it,” and also the following lines from page 205:

We will not speak of the numerous biplanes derived from the Goliath, the Levasseur and Villiers water planes, which add to the defects of land planes on the ocean. The idea of wanting to use an airplane like a ship, only a little faster, was originated by the Navy in between the two wars and was never a generator of progress.

The Engine

As far as one can conclude in leafing through the documents of this time period, the Lorraine-Dietrich 12 cylinder 450 hp engine in W configuration was a well-known engine, and equipped long-distance planes whose performances served as publicity for the company. L’Histoire de l’Aero-nautique [The History of Aeronautics] by Charles Dollfus and Henri Bonehe (Saint George edition of 1942) tells notably of Pinedo’s flight from Italy to Japan, via Australia, and back, in 1925, in a Savoia sea plane equipped with such a Lorraine engine. The plane weighed three tons and the flight covered 55,000 km. The engine was changed only one time, in Tokyo, and it was still in working condition.

This engine was water cooled. We note that Paris-Sport of April 28 said: “The radiator shutters could be opened and shut by the pilot in order to regulate engine temperature, which could have become too low, notably in the area of Newfoundland, in spite of the thermostat.” The radiators were installed at the lower wing roots on each side. The carburetors were equipped with a heating system.

Two points remain unclear. This engine, 450 hp at “nominal” power (able to furnish 525 hp at its highest power, said Le Matin of April 22, 1927), existed in two versions: one with a geared propellor; the other, chosen for this flight because it permitted better efficiency, with a reduction gear at 17:11. It was not possible to find out how many of each version was built. Mr. Marcel Jullian’s book Nungesser, Le Chevalier du Ciel [Nungesser, Knight of the Sky] (Presses-Pocket Editions, 1971), which has on the cover the subtitle Nungesser, l’As des As [Nungesser, Ace of Aces] was used for further reference. He speaks of a series of nominal 450 hp engines in May, 1927, with the note: “existing also geared down and supercharged to 480 hp.”

Can one assume that the potential of the two versions was identical? The answer could not be found to this question either. Not one remark on this subject in the texts that were read or one particular commentary on the planetary reduction gear were found. Some information about the Lorraine-Dietrich engine is found in Louis Bonte’s book – the text on page 145, and A. de Beilliencourt’s article on page 34. In April 1927, Major Sarmento de Beires accomplished a crossing of the South Atlantic from Bolama3 to Fernando de Noronha4 in a Dornier equipped with a Lorraine 450 with reduction gear. (Bolama was the name of the present capital of Guinea-Bissau.)5

Marcel Ducout, in his article previously cited in Aérophile No. 11-12 of June 1-15 gave the following specifications for the multiple-gear engine in a note associated with a picture of the engine:

  • 12 cylinders in a W configuration: 120-180
  • Total cylinder volume: 24.42 liters
  • Nominal output: 450 hp at 1900 rpm
  • Propeller reduction (ratio 1:1.545): 1230 rpm
  • Consumption: Fuel—215 grams (1900rpm) to 266 grams (1400rpm) per horsepower per hour
  • Oil—6 to 8 grams per horsepower per hour
  • Dry weight (with propeller hub): 415 kg

The two blade propeller was made especially for this plane; it was bigger than the ordinary propeller. It measured 3.80m in diameter, which left only 20cm of ground clearance, making takeoffs much more ticklish. It was made of forged duralumin with a pitch of 2.85m. We will see later, in the outline of the tests, that problems were caused by this propeller.

A Lorraine-Dietrich W-12 450 without reduction gear (Nº 17637) is presently displayed at the National Technical Museum.6

Testing the Aircraft

Charles Nungesser had already had a long and noteworthy career as a pilot. To him fell the responsibility of mastering the aircraft for the attempt; so it behooved him (and François Coli) to acquire the maximum experience in it possible in the limited amount of time. We may simply note that the Nº 1257 Sport Universal Illustré of April, 1927, under a photo illustrating an article signed Pegase, summarized Nungesser: “Captain Charles Nungesser, the Great Ace of the War, has confirmed his exceptional qualities as a meritorious aviator by piloting aircraft of all models, and notably Caproni multi-seaters …” One may also find a reference dealing with piloting heavy planes in an article by Maurice Touzier published in Aerauto of April 3, 1927.

The plane was finished before April 15, perhaps in March (that is at least the indication from a reference at the Musée de l’Air), and the aircraft testing was carried out for 22 days, from April 15 to May 6. The base for the trials was Villacoublay, but some authors say that Chartres was used as well.

None of the trial flights were made with the maximum take-off weight foreseen for the crossing attempt, which was 5030kg. It has been reported that Nungesser’s reason for this is that he knew quite well the major risk that such a take-off implied, and that because of this preferred only to run the risk once. One will remember that on September 21, 1926, René Fonck’s aircraft, while preparing to do the New York – Paris crossing, caught fire following a take-off attempt with full fuel, and in the fire two crew members perished.

The plane’s trial flights were executed with one of the three engines provided by the Lorraine-Dietrich Company. This engine did not work very well either in the factory trials or in flight. Some flights took place, before departure, with the engine saved for the flight itself (probably about six hours’ worth).

Flight testing fell into two categories. The first type was designed to familiarize the crew with the team work necessary to the flight before the aircraft was ready. It is noted simply in La Presse of April, 1927, under R. Saladin’s signature, that Nungesser and Coli had left for Chartres where they were training with repeated long flights.

The second type concerned the aircraft itself. Le Petit Parisien of April 16 reports that the finished product was going to be transported that day to Villacoublay. Le Matin of April 18 mentions that the day before, the first trial flight took place at Villacoublay. Le Presse (under R. Saladin’s signature) and Le Petit Parisien of April 20 reported that a flight took place on the 19th at an altitude of 6000 meters at a temperature of -35°C, and at a total weight of 3000kg. La Presse indicates that the trials gave very good results, that the velocity figures were not given out, and that the builder did not yet know if his aircraft was capable of making the flight. Le Petit Parisien reported that the plane reached 207km/h, that the trials were going to continue at 4000kg, and that after a flight of a few hours from Paris to Lyon, the trials would be terminated. Le Matin of April 21 said that the flight of two days before at 3000kg, during the course of which the plane reached 4900 meters, permitted Nungesser to confirm that he could take off at 5000kg and go up to 1000 or 1500 meters.

In Le Petit Parisien of April 21, it is reported that the preparations were to last longer than originally planned. The first indication was seen when several propellers were tried, but no choice had been made. La Presse of April 23, still under R. Saladin’s signature, reports that the tests of the propellers, the engine, and the cockpit gave complete satisfaction. In the April 25 edition, Saladin reports that, the day before, trials had been made at 3000m with a weight of 2500kg with excellent results.

But he notes that the week before, with the metal propeller, light vibrations were felt; with a wooden propeller, there were no abnormalities. Tests for different models of propellers especially fabricated for the flight were the subject of several articles in the daily Paris Sport, most notably the April 22 edition, which reports that certain tests took place in the factory at Chalais-Meudon.

Le Petit Parisien of May 4, after having reported that in the wake of various incidents Nungesser and Coli’s preparations were longer than originally planned, said that they carried out their last trial flight the day before. This flight took place over la Beauce between Chartres and Villacoublay. The plane flew from 9:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. “… with great ease. With its new engine and its new propeller, and with a load only 1000kg inferior to its weight for the attempt, it maneuvered without the least difficulty.” A long article in Paris Sport on May 6 notes these facts and indicates as well that the compasses had just been calibrated by the crew, helped by the maker himself, Mr. Morel.

R. Saladin in La Presse of May 6 says, to the contrary, that neither the trials nor the on-board mechanical tests were finished. In La Presse of May 8, he reports that Nungesser and Coli are at Le Bourget after having left on the 6th from Villacoublay at 6:32 p.m. and arriving at 7:20 p.m., escorted by two planes, one of which filmed the event. At Le Bourget the final landing gear would be installed, the instrument panel would be finished, and the completed aircraft would be verified and weighed.

The periodicals already cited, but published after the attempted flight, should also be referred to. L’Aeronautique Nº 97 of June, 1927, states specifically that the plane had undergone “methodical trials with progressive changes, demonstrating a cruising speed of 170kph when full, speed that the releasing of the landing gear should boost to 185kph.” L’Aerophile Nº 11–12 of June 1–15, 1927 (article by Marcel Ducout), reports that the flight trials lasted 22 days, and that they took place at Villacoublay. The speed reached with the gear, at 3500 kg, was 195km/h; it was estimated that a speed of 210km/h could be reached after releasing the gear. One could then count on a cruising speed in the neighborhood of 165 to 170 km/h with the gear and 180 to 185 without it. Climb out from take off to 300m, at 2500kg with the landing gear, was 12 minutes 30 seconds, whch gave an average ascending speed of 4m/second; near the ground the speed was 5.25 m/second. The practical highest altitude was estimated at 6500m. The same news periodical indicates that the large 3.80 metal propeller had been chosen “after trials of different propellers, both of wood and metal.”

We would like to apologize for this extensive listing of figures, but it seemed necessary to show clearly, first that the flight project was followed by the public, and second, that it was not of an improvised nature. Certainly, all had to proceed quickly, for the reasons previously stated.

Two essential points are taken from the preceeding. The first is that there was a propeller problem, and that no formal written proof was ever found that the plane did actually leave with the 3.80 m diameter metal propeller. Did the experts verify this for certain from the photos taken on the very morning of departure?

The second point concerns the plane’s speed. It is impossible to get a precise figure from the preceeding information. Examining reports which figure in other books or publications does not make the picture any clearer. Mention is almost never made of the power settings for the engine. In a certain number of cases, the plane’s weight is not known at the time of the trials. One can for now conclude simply that the aircraft with the landing gear should have been able to reach at low altitude a speed of 200km/h at its highest power, at a total weight of 3000kg. We will attempt later to determine the speed stemming from other information.

The Engine Trials

Power Setting
Fuel Cons. In Grams
Oil Cons. In Grams
1 hr
1 hr
490 hp
1 hr
470 hp
1 hr
455 hp
1 hr
440 hp
1.5 hrs
425 hp
1.5 hrs
400 hp
2.5 hrs
380 hp
2.5 hrs
350 hp
3 hrs
320 hp
5 hrs
295 hp
6 hrs
255 hp
3 hrs
215 hp
1 hr

The engine trials are more familiar, because they show the machine’s ability to eventually achieve the crossing given favorable wind and weather conditions. As indicated before, three engines were provided by Lorraine-Dietrich: one was to serve for the factory trials, the second for the plane’s flight trials, and the third for the flight. The factory trials, which Nungesser attended at least in part, took place at Chartres from April 21 to April 23, in the following conditions, as indicated in Marcel Ducout’s article in L’Aérophile Nº 11-12 of June 1-15, [cited in the table at left].

It can be seen that the specific consumptions revealed in the course of the trials are different from those mentioned in the note associated with the picture of the engine, even though all these figures are taken from the same article by Marcel Ducout. But the differences are not material.

L’Aérophile states categorically that “the trial was successful without accident or stopping.” It lasted 43 hours. The total consumption of fuel should have been 4010 liters, and the oil 57.39 liters. L’Aéronautique, Nº 97 of June, 1927, shows that at the end of 42 hours, and before the last trial of one hour at full power, the total fuel consumed was 3863 liters and for the oil, 54.56 liters.

On-Board Equipment

The attempt to determine exactly the list of equipment installed on board l’Oiseau Blanc requires in-depth research. The lists which are found in various articles and published documents on the subject demand careful comparison.

As regards communication, Nungesser and Coli had deliberately decided against bringing radio equipment, on the grounds that its excessive weight more than countered any safety it could have given them.

A.   As regards the engine control instruments, Le Matin of April 23, 1927, gives the following list:

Oil temperature gauge — engine entrance
  engine exit
Oil pressure gauge  
Oil level gauge  
Fuel gauge  
Apparatus for verifying the functioning of the fuel pumps7

It should be noted that examination of the photos of the control panel did not permit the author to identify all the instruments just cited. If it is very desirable to have this point fixed precisely, and further to have a complete description of the cockpit and its equipment, one could perhaps make use of the schematic diagram published in Paris Sport of May 8, 1927.

B.  As regards navigation, one may work according to this list:

  • Two Krauss-Morel compasses
  • A Le Prieur navigraph [cinémodérivomètre]
  • A ground speed indicator8
  • A Coutinho sextant
  • A Navy chronometer-chronograph (or perhaps two)

This list is the one published in June’s L’Aéronautique Nº 97 and in Le Matin (except the taximeter) of April 23, 1927. There is some doubt about the presence of the two compasses, which could have been taken out. To determine the truth would take an in-depth analysis and research of the photographs taken immediately before departure. In any case, Coli’s compass, placed all the way to the right and rather low, should be barely visible. The article from L’Aérophile Nº 11-12 of June 1-15, 1927, already cited, states that the plane was equipped as well with a thermometer and a Richard humidity meter.

C.   As regards the flight instruments, the following is according to L’Aéronautique Nº 97 of June, 1927, and L’Aérophile Nº 11-12 of June 1-15, 1927 (Marcel Ducout’s article, already cited):

  • A Badin-Aera flight controller
  • One (or two) le Prieur sounding-lines (this sounding-line consisted of a steel wire with a weight at the end, which activated a warning signal in front of the pilot when the weight touched the earth or water once it was reeled out)

According to the newspaper Le Matin of April 23, 1927:

  • An altimeter (plus a barometer)
  • A flight speed indicator by Badin
  • An indicator for correct turning (in case of flight through clouds) [sic-CPM]
  • An indicator for climbing and descending in degrees [sic-CPM]

According to Sport Universal Illustré Nº 1261 of April 29, 1927, in a long article signed Pegase, accompanied by thirteen very good photos, which gives numerous technical specifications, notably on the fuel supply system:

The flight instruments give the plane’s relative speed, lateral and longitudinal attitudes during turns and in fog, as well as the gradient [pente] maintained constantly during the voyage by the progressive backing off of the engine’s power with the lightening produced by the consumption of fuel.
L’Aérotechnique Nº 57 of September, 1927, gives a rather detailed description of the Chauvin and Arnoux bank indicator (liquid level which moves in front of a scale), and a summarizing description of the Impar bank indicator which uses a small pendulum controlling a needle. The photos consulted by the author did not permit him to find evidence of the presence of one of these longitudinal attitude indicators on the control panel of l’Oiseau Blanc.

The Badin-Aéra flight controller, a complete description of which is found in the same number of L’Aérotechnique of September 1927, was at the time associated in these cases with a longitudinal attitude indicator or with a variometer, the only PSV9 equipment in France, and it remained in use a long time. L’Oiseau Canari of Assolant, Lefèvre, and Lotti, at the time of the West–East 1929 Atlantic crossing, was equipped (according to the documentation in the 50th anniversary display done by the Airport of Paris) primarily with a Badin flight controller and by a Bonneau-Le Prieur-Derrien gyroclinometer10 — of which a short description, accompanied by an extremely clear drawing, figures in the book Toute l’Aviation [All Aviation] by Edmond Blanc (Société Parisienne Editions, 1930).

In his book Le Premier Paris–New York [The First Paris–New York], Mr. Maurice Bellonte says (Plon edition of 1976, page 41): “When the next year, in 1928, we had to decide on the flight instruments for flying with no exterior visibility from our plane, we would install a flight controller at every position …” Let us add that the “Point d’Interrogation” was also equipped with an artificial horizon, on the subject of which Mr. Maurice Bellonte recalled that it only gave lateral attitude. This flight controller looked like a unique box, very odd in appearance, because it was a vertical plate support, the height (13cm) equal to approximately 1.5 times the width; the top part being rounded to follow the speedometer’s circular-dial contour (Badin) under which were located the gyroscopic turning indicator and the apparent vertical indicator. In some cases, the flight indicator was not embedded in the control panel, but stuck out instead. This characteristic aspect facilitates identification of the standards of the time.

Examination of the photographs of l’Oiseau Blanc shows effectively that a flight controller was installed in the pilot’s position while in the factory (see the photograph published in L’Homme, l’Air, et l’Espace [Man, Air, and Space] by Dollfus, Beaubois and Rougerin; Illustrated Editions, 1965; and another excellent plan found in the Musée de l’Air’s archive). Other photos taken during the trials show that his flight controller was still in place. This is the case in the photo reproduced on the back cover of the work already cited, by Mr. Marcel Jullian, Nungesser, Ace of Aces, published by Presses-Pocket in 1972 (Dazy collection; Meurice photo), and one of the three photos illustrating the article by Jacques Mortane in the Journal des Voyages – Larousse, Nº 97 of May 19, 1927. The fact that the newspapers and periodicals published before May 8, 1927 listed as equipment the flight controller, specifiying that it was meant for piloting in clouds or fog, most likely means that the information was officially furnished.

The Badin-Crouzet Company still possesses, in its old equipment collection, a flight controller, almost certainly from a more recent time than the one that was installed in l’Oiseau Blanc. It only differs from the older ones in including, on the right side of the box, a Chauvin and Arnoux longitudinal attitude indicator (of the type in which the liquid column moves in front of a scale), and on the left side of the indicator a variometer. The weight of this flight controller, thus completed but fluid supply not included, is totally reasonable: 1.6 kg.

To end with the PSV equipment, one may note that Mr. Florian-Parmentier, in his book Le Roman de Nungesser [The Story of Nungesser] (Paul Dupont editions 1946), describes on pages 173 and following a flight executed by Nungesser under very difficult weather conditions which took place in 1926 in the United States. One reads on page 175 that, at one point during the flight, the gyroscope stopped working. If the information collected by Mr. Florian-Parmentier is correct, that gyroscope was very similar to a turn and bank indicator.

The Weather and Navigation

François Coli, a famous airplane pilot but also a former sea-faring captain, had long studied this flight. Le Figaro of April 1, 1927, reports:
The Paris–New York Committee met yesterday at the Commons, under the direction of General Girod, president of the parliamentary body of aviation and president of the commission of the Army … . The Committee reaffirmed that the information about the North Atlantic crossing attempts is at the disposal of all interested builders and pilots, in order to assist them in any attempt of a serious French character; and primarily to put at their disposal all useful documentation, in particular that pulled together by Coli and by the Committee in these past few years about the North Atlantic atmospheric conditions.
In his work Toute l’Aviation, already cited, Edmond Blanc said on the subject of orthodromic voyages on mercator maps:
Captain Coli, who disappeared with Nungesser in the North Atlantic, and who had beforehand prepared to attempt the flight with Tarascon, arrived at an outline including six loxodromies11 and five changes of course.
Finally, it is well to remember that the chapter entitled “Nungesser and Coli’s Attempt” of the Meteorology Memorial already cited starts with the following sentences about the preparation of the flight:
Coli had made contact with the National Meteorology Office during the winter, and had presented his flight plan as entirely set in his mind. It was in vain that weather objections were presented to him with insistence … . But his conviction, based especially on the advantage of “finding the earth” in this direction 2000km before the end of the flight, but in the other direction only right at the end, was unyielding … . The state of the ceiling, at least at the end of the route, worried the crew far less than the wind. Good weather was necessary only until the aircraft was sufficiently lightened, after all. Coli knew that the weather is rarely favorable at these latitudes, but he trusted the manageability of the unloaded plane.
atlanticmaptnThe course finally chosen by the crew for the flight, numbered 2 on the map [at right; click to see full-sized version], was established during the meeting held at ONM the evening preceding take-off, with the latest weather information. One may note finally the declaration of General Delcambre, ONM’s director, reported by Le Figaro of May 11: “The weather situation at departure was exceptional, but it should be said that the Atlantic crossing in the Europe–America direction will always be difficult… .”

General Remarks

Choosing this plane to attempt this difficult crossing gave rise to criticism in certain newspapers of the period. The Nº 9-10 of L’Aérophile of June 1-15, 1927, in an article of about twenty lines, signed by the initials M.L., shows more confidence in the Farman project than in Nungesser and Coli’s. We saw before the opinion expressed in Louis Bonti’s book about these Navy planes. These opinions to the contrary, however, this plane was, for its time period, and at least for France, correctly equipped with pilot aids so as to reasonably face up to the risks of a flight in difficult weather conditions, free from much icing or on a dark night. It would no doubt have been desirable for it to be equipped with two flight controllers, powered separately. Its navigation equipment was normal.

The newspaper La Presse of May 4, 1927 quoted, under R. Saladin’s signature, the terms of a telephone conversation with Nungesser which said:

… It is impossible for me to say when Coli and I are leaving. Our trials are not completely finished, and nothing is forcing us to stop them. Coli, who is ultimately in charge of the expedition in terms of weather and navigation, is patiently waiting for the weather conditions to improve before risking a departure for New York. Such an attempt should be undertaken only with all the risks considered by the crew taking it on. The least negligence, the least mistake, the least impatience could make everything fail … In any attempt like this the engine is the most important element. We have worked so much on it that only a curse could make the mechanical part fail. The aircraft question (boat hull and wings) is now the point. I think that we are going, given the present state of aeronautical science, with the maximum chance for success and safety …
The facts reported above show that the attempted flight was by no means improvised. It is regrettable that ultimately the press felt impelled to exploit the story by keeping the well-managed preparation’s seriousness so quiet, in spite of the fact that its very haste showed the concentration involved in the effort.

1 The translation of this phrase was quite uncertain: "... ce qui réduisait le poids et la trainée et aussi de l’aile inférieure étanche, semble-t-il." Neither the author nor the editor could find a good reference to explain it, and we are left with guess work. Ed.
2 The French Lloyd’s, a major insurance organization. Ed.
3 A city in Guinea-Bissau on Africa’s extreme west coast. Ed.
4 Most probably a city on the east coast of Brazil; the editor has been unable to find it on any map. Ed.
5 This is actually not the case — the new capital, Bissau, is a separate city. Ed.
6 A similar engine is now on display at the Musée de l’Air at Le Bourget Field in Paris. Ed.
7 This sentence is translated literally; neither the author nor the editor knows to what type of equipment Le Matin might be referring. Ed.
8 Un taximètre à alidade de relèvement. Ed.
9 Pilotage sans visibilité — blind-flying equipment. Ed.
10 Some kind of gyroscopic rate of climb indicator. Many of these instruments are known only by name now. The author did not include the drawing he found in this report. Ed.
11 Loxodromy is a method of ocean navigation using rhumb lines, which cut across all meridians at the same angle on the same compass course, to accommodate the straight lines of flat maps (such as Mercator Projections) to the actual curve of the earth. It makes possible the pre-plotting of compass headings with a high degree of accuracy, and was in use on ships for many years before airplanes were invented. A loxodromy is the line itself, as plotted and sailed or flown. This method is still in use for surface and air vessels which do not have electronic and/or satellite navigational systems. Further information, and diagrams, can be found in any good navigational text.

Translator’s Note Introduction Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3
Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Supplement Acknowledgements

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