April 21, 1895|
|Died||June 20, 1988(aged 93)|
|Education||Université libre de Bruxelles|
|Institutions||Stampe et Vertongen|
Alfred Renard (21 April 1895 - 20 June 1988) was an eminent Belgian aviation pioneer.
Alfred Renard was born in Anderlecht on 21 April 1895. Already as a youngster, inspired by kites he saw his father make, he illustrated his technical ability by installing electricity and telephone at an uncle's farm.
In 1912, his inspiration is kindled by a prize of 10.000 francs, offered by French car builder Peugeot to the first cyclist to cover two flights, of 10 metres each, solely on her/his own muscular power. Alfred conceives and, with help from his brother Georges, concocts his own device for the test: a bicycle augmented with a home-brew propeller and a fabric-covered wing, unfolding through a lever when reaching the proper speed. The machine never flies, however, and the prize is carried by one Poulain.
During the World War I the brothers work a pedal-powered lathe, producing pieces for a Brussels workshop under the rafters of the family home; they also construct engines. They even venture into building a 5 metres long blimp that they fill with compressed air, their parents judging gas too dangerous.
The same World War I forces Alfred Renard to suspend his study at the Université libre de Bruxelles and the "Faculté des sciences appliquées", just at a time when aviation makes great progress. Only in 1920 will he gain his engineer's degree in civil construction, plus a "licence" (more or less a bachelor's degree) in aeronautics.
After study came the tour of soldier's duty - especially important in this small country that had suffered heavily under the war, and was taking part in the occupation of Western Germany. Renard served as a cartographer, designing military aerodromes. During this service he re-acquainted one of his former university teachers, Emile Allard, newly appointed chief of the military aviation technical service TSA, and creator of a Belgian Aeronautical Laboratory. After several visits to Gustave Eiffel in Paris, the two of them would build a wind tunnel at Sint-Genesius-Rode. They also designed an all-metal monoplane, built at Zeebrugge by company ZACCO (best known under the French acronym ACAZ) as the ACAZ T-2. It failed to meet commercial success.
Through the same Emile Allard, Renard got in touch with Jean Stampe and his cherished dream of operating his own flying school with his self-designed and self-built solid trainer aircraft. The venture was completed with Maurice Vertongen, its designs marked RSV for Renard-Stampe-Vertongen. The company statute left Renard free to keep his position as chief engineer at the Defense Ministry, meanwhile designing RSV-aircraft built and sold by Stampe et Vertongen
Renard Constructions Aéronautiques
In 1925 Alfred Renard creates his own company as Société anonyme des avions et moteurs Renard in Brussels. The main activity was the design and production of aircraft engines of 100, 120 and 240 hp. Some of them served Belgian military aviation, some were sold in Poland and in the USA. Also, a Renard 240 hp engine powered the second version of Belgium's first helicopter, built by and named after Russian engineer Nicolas Florine. In 1928, his brother Georges Renard joined the company which was then renamed Renard Constructions Aéronautiques. The brothers shifted away from engine design: their R-31 and R-36 were powered by engines from abroad.
World War II and aftermath
Foreseeing the German invasion in 1940, Alfred Renard planned to move his assets to France, but not in time. During World War II he disappeared from public view, to re-emerge in 1945 as a technical advisor with the Belgian State Railways NMBS/SNCB, making a study of light alloy railcars. In 1947 he rejoins Jean Stampe, having always remained on good terms with him, to become a manager at a new company Stampe & Renard till that company's dissolution in January 1970. On top of producing the Stampe SV.4 trainer, he works at propeller engineering, at the development of the Stampe & Renard SR-7 and the Stampe & Renard SR-45 project.
Run over by a motorcar, Alfred Renard died on 20 June 1988.
Notes and references
- André Hauet, Les avions Renard, Éditions A.E.L.R., Bruxelles, 1984
- Jean Boulet, Histoire de l'hélicoptère : racontée par ses pionniers, 1907-1956, Éd. France-Empire, Paris, 1982
- AELR / Fonds national Alfred Renard, Bruxelles