Nungesser & Coli … Did they make it non-stop across the Atlantic before Lindbergh … ?

The French are eager to know, finally, whether their aviation heroes – Nungesser and Coli – had flown non-stop across the Atlantic before Lindbergh. Soon, now, they may know. Charles Eugène Jules Marie Nungesser and Francois Coli left Paris’s Le Bourget Airport on May 8, 1927, to fly across the Atlantic non-stop.  The two aviators […]

l’Oiseau Blanc – The White Bird


The French are eager to know, finally, whether their aviation heroes – Nungesser and Coli – had flown non-stop across the Atlantic before Lindbergh.

Soon, now, they may know.

Charles Eugène Jules Marie Nungesser and Francois Coli left Paris’s Le Bourget Airport on May 8, 1927, to fly across the Atlantic non-stop.  The two aviators had met when both were soldiers in the First World War. Nungesser, a fighter pilot, had the third highest rating for air combat victories amongst French pilots. François Coli was an ace pilot who commanded a flying wartime squadron despite that he had lost an eye while in the French Infantry.

Nungesser and Coli

They set off in the Levasseur PL.8 biplane – a fixed-wing aircraft with two superimposed main wings – named l’Oiseau Blanc –The White Bird – to fly without halting the 3,600 miles (5,800 km) from Paris to New York.  The cockpit had to be enlarged so that both could fit in.

Never before had someone flown the Atlantic without halting and the two hoped to be the first to do so. Their rival – Charles Lindbergh – was at the same time preparing to accomplish that achievement too but flying from New York to Paris.

They did not succeed. Their plane disappeared.

Lindbergh succeeded. Having left New York in his Spirit of Saint Louis on May 20, 1927, he landed at Paris’s Le Bourget Airport on May 21. He knew that Nungesser and Coli had failed; he knew that their plane was missing, therefore the first thing that he said on reaching Le Bourget was to ask if there has been any news of Nungesser and Coli.

Nungesser and  Coli’s l’Oiseau Blanc was last seen off the coast of France at Etretat in Upper Normandy. The two’s flight plan would have taken them across southern England, then across Ireland to the Canadian coast and from there down to New York.

Twice from that last spotting of l’Oiseau Blanc 84 years ago there have been efforts to start searching for the wreckage of the plane, but as no one knew where exactly the plane had come down, the searches were without results.

Now there is to be a new search.

This search, which will commence in June 2012, is as a result of the unrelenting campaign of the now 72-year-old Bernard Decré, creator of the ‘Tour de France’ yachting race around the coast of France, and a pilot himself. Studying archives from the Canadian Air Force and Canadian Coastguards, he had come across reports that soon after the two aviators’ plane had come down, sailors on ships had seen two white wings of a small aircraft drifting in the Atlantic off the coast of the French  self-governing overseas territory of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. (Off the coast of Newfoundland.) It was sufficiently convincing for Decre to want to start looking for the plane’s wreckage in that area.

The search will be backed financially by millionaire Sir Michael Kadoorie from Hong Kong.

It will be carried out by the French air defense and aerospace company, SAFRAN, headquartered in Paris.

The cost has been estimated at €220,000 ($297,000 / £189,000).

Should SAFRAN find a fuselage then it would not be all that big a problem to identify it because on Nungesser and Coli’s plane, Nungesser had painted his First World War insignia – a skull and crossbones, and a coffin. Even if after 84 years in the sea the paint has been washed away, with modern technology the paint could show up after special treatment of the plane’s surface.

Nungesser, born in 1892, was 35 when his flew off from Paris for New York. Coli,born in 1881, was 46.

Charles Lindbergh

Lindbergh was just 25 years old when he set off from New York to Paris. He died on August 26, 1974. That year of 1927 when he became the first man to fly non-stop across the Atlantic, the American magazine Time chose him as its first Man of the Year.

Time’s very first Man of the Year – 1927

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

5 Responses

12-2-2011 at 14:23:01

Interesting, never heard of them before. If this turns out to be their plane it will upset the historians somewhat.

[…] Now there is to be a new search for the duo. To commence this coming June, it is as a result of the unrelenting campaign of the now 72-year-old Bernard Decré, creator of theTour de France air race and a pilot himself. Studying archives from the Canadian Air Force and Canadian Coastguards, he had come across reports that soon after the two aviators’ plane had come down, sailors on ships had seen two white wings of a small aircraft drifting in the Atlantic off the coast of the French  self-governing overseas territory of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. (Off the coast of Newfoundland.) It was sufficiently convincing for Decré to want to start looking for the plane’s wreckage in that area. >more […]

12-5-2011 at 06:23:12

[…] convincing for Decré to want to start looking for the plane’s wreckage in that area. >more Posted in Paris […]

3-11-2017 at 22:21:21

As of 11 March 2017, has there been any further developments?

3-12-2017 at 08:08:13

Sorry, I do not know.

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