Maurice Prévost

Wealthy French silk merchant Armand Deperdussin founded his aircraft-building company Societe Pour les Appareils Deperdussin (SPAD) at Betheny near Reims, in 1910. He was fortunate in employing Louis Bechereau who designed a series of monoplanes of increasing capability, developed from an idea by Swedish engineer Ruchonnet and perfecting a monocoque form of fuselage construction that combined a desirable circular cross-section with light weight and strength.

Deperdussin Monocoque Racer - Pilot, Maurice Prévost, October 4, 1913

Typically, the Deperdussins were braced high-wing monoplanes, two king-posts on the forward fuselage carrying a skein of wires to brace the slender wings Lateral control was by wing warping. Landing gear was normally of fixed tailskid type, but seaplane versions had, for their day, a very neat float installation. Power came from two Gnôme rotary engines mounted on a common crankshaft. Bechereau's monoplane was the first to break the 200 kph (124 mph) 'barrier' and was the 'speed phenomenon' of the years before the First World War.

Deperdussin Monocoque Seaplane Racer - Pilot : Maurice Prévost, Monaco, April, 1913

A first major success came on September 9, 1912, when, powered by a 119-kW (160hp) Gnôme and piloted by Jules Vedrines the Deperdussin won the fourth James Gordon Bennett Aviation Cup race at Chicago, Illinois with a speed of 108.1 mph (174.01 kph). Piloted by Maurice Prévost the plane won the cup again on September 29, 1913 (October 4? Ed.) in Reims achieving an average of 124.6 mph (200.5 kph). During the race Prévost beat the world speed record three times, with a maximum speed of 126.7 mph (203.85 kph).

Deperdussin Monocoque Seaplane Racer - Pilot : Maurice Prévost, Monaco, April, 1913

A few months earlier, on April 16 (1913), Prévost had won another exceptional victory achieving first place in the first race for the Schneider Trophy in Monaco. Flying a float-equipped Deperdussin, (160 h.p. Gnôme), Prévost achieved a speed of 126 mph with an average speed of 45.75 mph (73.63 kph). The low average speed was due to the fact that the judges made Prévost repeat his take-off and about six miles (lOkm) of the course because of a supposed violation of the rules. This Deperdussin victory was the only time in the history of the Schneider Trophy (1912-31) that France won a race.

To complete the year's achievements, a Deperdussin piloted by Eugene Gilbert won the Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe air race around Paris on 27 October. Bechereau and Herbemont had created for Deperdussin the world's fastest prewar aeroplane but from this pinnacle of achievement came collapse of the Deperdussin company when it went into liquidation in 1913 after Deperdussin had been arrested for embezzlement. It was taken over by Louis Blériot and renamed Societe Pour L'Aviation et ses Derives (also SPAD), which gained fame for its products during World War I