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The MB.81 was a French military aircraft built by Société des Avions Marcel Bloch as a flying ambulance since it was designed to carry one passenger, in or out of a stretcher. Developed in response to a government-sponsored competition in support of the new doctrine of "aerial first aid", it was employed exclusively in the overseas colonies, specifically Morocco and Syria. Unlike the MB.80 prototype, the MB.81 had a closed cockpit and a somewhat larger cargo space. This was the company's first design to reach production.
The aircraft was designed to be able to seek patients or casualties by scouting, even at high altitudes, during military operations in mountainous countries, like then-French Morocco over the Atlas Mountains.
The main design feature made it possible to transport a casualty lying prone, in a compartment placed between the pilot and the engine. The wings could also be adapted to hold casualties, remaining constantly under the sight of the pilot and connected to him by an Aviaphone communication system.
The MB.80 made its first flight at the beginning of summer 1932 in Villacoublay, piloted by Zacharie Heu. An all-metal monoplane with low wings, it was equipped with a French Lorraine 5Pc of 89 kW (120 hp) which allowed it to reach a speed of 190 km/h (120 mph) at an altitude of 6,400 m (21,000 ft) It was able to take off in 70 m (230 ft) and to land in 95 m (312 ft). In a 1932 test, the MB.80 carried out 209 landings in thirty-six hours without any problems.
The aircraft was built without any assistance from the government, but an initial order of 20 was placed by the Ground French Forces (the French Armée de l'Air was founded in 1933), and it was one of the aircraft that relaunched Marcel Bloch in the aeronautical construction industry.
The MB.81 entered service in 1935, and was used extensively throughout North Africa and the Middle East. A few were used in 1939-1940, before the French surrender, and in July 1941 in the battle for Syria between the Vichy French and the British/Free French.
- prototype (1 built)
- production version (20 built)
- Crew: 1
- Capacity: 1 seated or stretchered
- Length: 8.4 m (27 ft 7 in)
- Wingspan: 12.59 m (41 ft 4 in)
- Height: 2.9 m (9 ft 6 in)
- Empty weight: 580 kg (1,279 lb)
- Powerplant: 1 × Salmson 9Nd 9-cyl. air-cooled radial piston engine, 128.68 kW (172.56 hp)
- Maximum speed: 188 km/h (117 mph; 102 kn)
- Range: 654 km (406 mi; 353 nmi)
- Service ceiling: 6,400 m (21,000 ft)
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- Related lists
- List of aircraft of the French Air Force during World War II
- List of aircraft of World War II
- List of Interwar military aircraft
- List of military aircraft of France