Deperdussin Monocoque

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Deperdussin Monocoque
Adt busson mono2.jpg
The Deperdussin Monocoque racer and four of its pilots. From left to right: Guillaume Busson, René Vidart, Jules Védrines and Maurice Prevost
Role Racer
Manufacturer Société Pour les Appareils Deperdussin
Designer Louis Béchereau
First flight 1912

The Deperdussin Monocoque was an early racing aircraft built in 1912 by the Aéroplanes Deperdussin, a French aircraft manufacturer started in 1911 and reorganized as SPAD in 1913. It is so named because of the method of construction of its fuselage. The aircraft is noted for winning the Gordon Bennett Trophy in 1912 and 1913, and for raising the world speed record for aircraft to 130 mph (210 km/h).


The first use of monocoque construction in aviation is attributed to Eugene Ruchonnet, a Swiss marine engineer who had built an aircraft nicknamed the Cigare in 1911,[1] which had a fuselage constructed by building up several layers of thin wood, each lamination being applied at right angle to the one underneath. The usual method of construction of an aircraft's fuselage at this time was to use a wire braced box-girder covered in fabric. Ruchonnet's technique, in which the outer surface of the structure is load-bearing, would become the usual method of aircraft construction.

The Deperdussin Monocoque was a development of an earlier racing aircraft designed by Louis Béchereau which was first flown at the end of 1911 and was the first aircraft to exceed 100 mph in level flight. This aircraft made partial use of the monocoque technique, with a pair of curved load-bearing shells used in conjunction with a conventional wooden box-girder fuselage.


The Deperdussin Monocoque was a mid-wing monoplane with parallel-chord wings with the spars made of hickory and ash and ribs made of pine. The fuselage was made in two halves, each made by glueing and pinned a layer of tulip wood to a framework of hickory supported by a former, and then applying two further layers of tulipwood, the thickness of the shell being around 4 mm (532 in).[2] The shells were then removed from the formers, internal fittings added and the two halves glued together and covered in fabric. Every effort was made to reduce drag: a large spinner was fitted over the hub of the propeller and the undercarriage was an aerodynamically clean design made from a pair of u-shaped plywood frames.

Service History[edit]

Deperdussin entered three aircraft for the 1913 Gordon Bennett Trophy race, which was held as part of the week-long aviation meeting at Rheims in September 1913. These were flown by Prevost, Gilbert and Rost. A fourth aircraft was entered by Crombee, representing Belgium in the competition. The aircraft flown by Prevost had been modified by reducing the span of the wings. Elimination trials were held to decide who would be the three entrants to form the French team. Prevost came first and Gilbert third, second place being won by Jules Vèdrines in a Ponnier monoplane.

The race was won by Prevost, who completed the 200 km (120 mi) course in 59 min 45.6 seconds, an average speed of 210 km/h (130 mph)[3]

Specifications (1913 Gordon Bennett winner)[edit]

Data from [4]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 6 m (20 ft)
  • Wingspan: 6.65 m (21 ft 10 in)
  • Wing area: 9.7 m2 (104 sq ft)
  • Gross weight: 612 kg (1,350 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Gnome Lambda Lambda air cooled 14-cylinder two-row rotary, 120 kW (160 hp)
  • Propellers: 2-bladed Chauvière, 2.31 m (7 ft 7 in) diameter


  • Maximum speed: 210 km/h (130 mph; 113 kn)


  1. ^ Hallion, Kenneth Taking Flight New York, Oxford University Press, 2003 p. 319 ISBN 0-19-516035-5
  2. ^ http://[ The 160 h.p. Deperdussin Racing Monoplane]Flight International 22 November 1913
  3. ^ The Gordon Bennett RaceFlight International 4 October 1913
  4. ^ The 160 hp Deperdussin Monocoque Flight International 22 November 1913


  • Wayne Biddle - Barons of the Sky: From Early Flight to Strategic Warfare. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8018-6828-9.
  • Émile Auguste Duchêne - Flight Without Formulae: Simple Discussions on the Mechanics of the Aeroplane. Longmans, Green and co., 1914.
  • Jane's All the World's Aircraft. London: Sampson Low Marston. 1913. p. 89.