Deperdussin 1911 Type Militaire

In 1911, the Deperdussin Company in France built a trim, single-seat racing plane that heralded the sleek aerodynamic designs of later years. The plane’s performance was equal to its appearance. Not only did it win the Gordon Bennett Trophy in 1912, but it also became the first airplane to exceed 100 mph – setting a new world speed record of 108 mph. With the assistance of aircraft engineers Louis Béchereau and André Herbemont, Armand Deperdussin began producing aircraft in 1910 under Société pour les Appareils Deperdussin (Deperdussin Equipment Company), or SPAD. By far the most successful designs of the company, were the Deperdussin racing monoplanes of 1911-1913 that won many air races in the United States and Europe.

The Deperdussin was anything but conventional. Instead of building the plane’s fuselage with a conventional frame covered with fabric, Béchereau adopted a revolutionary new method. He designed a central form with glued strips of tulip wood over it to create the fuselage. The form was then removed, leaving only the sleek, rounded shell which was strong and light. This was known as a monocoque fuselage and is the type of construction used on many modern aircraft.

The eccentric Deperdussin, after being awarded a number of rich contracts by the French government, was charged with fraud, forgery, and embezzlement and sent to prison in disgrace. His designer, Béchereau, soon after joined forces with Louis Blériot, another well-known French designer, to reorganize Deperdussin Company as Société pour l’Aviation et ses Dérives, retaining the SPAD acronym. Under Blériot’s tutelage, the company went on to manufacture some of the greatest fighter aircraft of World War I.

The Museum’s aircraft was purchased from the Wings and Wheels Museum in Orlando, Florida in 1981. Prior to that, the aircraft had been on exhibit as part of the Jean Salis Collection in Paris, France. The San Diego Air & Space Museum acquired the aircraft through the generous donations of the Parker Foundation, the Gildred Foundation, and the late Mr. & Mrs. T. Claude Ryan.

San Diego Air & Space Museum

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