A great name in a great war...
(text by Fhilip Vannieuwenhuyze)
Edouard Nieuport was born as Edouard Niéport and initially
wanted to become a cyclist. He changed his name to Nieuport and
followed the Ecole Supérieure d'Electricité in Paris.
After a short and successful cycling career Edouard founded,
together with his brother Charles in 1902 a construction company
under the name 'Nieuport-Duplex'. The factory made electrical
components for the combustion engines of cars and motorbikes
(spark plugs, alternators...), even aircraft engines used
parts from the Nieuport-Duplex workshop.
In 1908, a capital increase created new opportunities.
Under the name Société Générale d'Aero-Locomotion,
the Nieuport brothers started designing and building an aircraft;
which they named Nieuport-1 (NI-I).
The aircraft had barely flown and was destroyed by the flooding
of the Seine in 1910.
The Nieuport brothers mainly built monoplanes and established
their workshops on the outskirts of Paris, the company grew
and knew various locations. The name Nieuport-Duplex changed
in 1911, after a financial expansion once more by name:
'Société Nieuport et Deplante'
The first nine models that were built by the Nieuport brothers were all one-deckers. Edouard, who was himself an experienced aviator, died in September 1911 after making an unsettled landing during a gliding flight. His brother Charles, who continued the company alone, was given the same fate in 1913. After the death of the Nieuport brothers, the company was taken over by the wealthy Deutsch de la Meurthe family. The 30-year-old engineer Gustave Delage became technical director of the Société Nieuport and was responsible for the design and construction of the aircraft. When the First World War began in 1914,
France needed military aircraft. Delage designed a biplane
where the surface of the lower wing was only half of the
upper wing (sesquiplanes). This wing design resulted in
lower air resistance, better climbing performance and good
visibility from the cockpit. Both wings were reinforced
by a V-profile.
These two characteristics (sesquiplanes and V-profile)
typified the successful Nieuport aircraft that were built
by Nieuport during the First World War. The design plans
of the Nieuport 10 (Ni-10) that were initially drawn for
a sports and racing plane had to be returned to the drawing board. The sports design was first transformed into a reconnaissance plane (two-seater) and later into a fighter plane (one-seater). The success of the Nie-10 increased the production number to over 1000 copies. The Nieuport 11, nicknamed Bébé, was more compact and came in
January 1916 for the first time driven from the workshops. With its powerful 9 cylinder Le Rhöne star engine (80 HP) and its light weight (armored: 480 kg) the 'Bébé' was a fast (max speed: 145 km / hour) and very turnable climber.
The Nie-11 formed a solid answer to the German Fokker that ruled the Western front between August 1915 and early 1916. During the Battle of Verdun (February - November 1916), the impact of the Nie-11 on German air hegemony led to the formation of the 'Jagdstaffel' (JASTA). There were more than 7000 copies in the order book, especially the French Aéronotique Militaire, the British Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and the Russian Air Force were the major customers. A Hotchkiss or Lewis machine gun was mounted on the upper wing. The Nieuport 16 (Ni-16) was a slightly larger brother and reinforced version of the Ni-11 and had a more powerful engine (110 hp). The later versions already had a synchronized weapon that could shoot through the turning circle of the propeller without damaging the propeller.
The Nie-17 was a larger version of the Nie-16 but with an even more powerful engine (130 hp), a better weight distribution and a synchronized weapon. The device was operational from March 1916. The Nie-17 surprised friend and foe by
his exceptional climbing speed and good maneuverability. The German company
Siemens-Schuckert Werke even built its own version
(DI) based on captured French and British aircraft
(reverse engineering). In order to meet the high
demand, the production of the Nie-17 was extended to
several workshops in France.
Italy and Russia built the aircraft under license
On August 7, 1919, the French aviator
Charles Godefroy, first, sent his Nieuport XVI
(Nie-17) through the 'Arc de Triomphe' in Paris.
The Nie-17 was built in different versions and was
the favorite of the aces Albert Ball & William Bishop
The following Nieuport models were based on the Nie-17. The Nie-27 was the last Nieuport sesquiplane biplane with the typical V-profile between the two wings. After the retirement of director and engineer Delage, the company Nieuport-Delage merged with another aircraft manufacturer from Loire Aviation to Loire-Nieuport, which in turn was incorporated in 1936 into the French public company 'Société Nationale des Constructions Aéronautiques de l'Ouest ( SNCAO). During the First World War the name Nieuport guaranteed the delivery of superior aircraft in the French, British and American air forces. Thanks to their special design, the Nieuport aircraft conducted the war in the air and helped to confirm the allied supremacy in the warfighter.