History Behind The Card: “Piquerez” Biplane.
Card #54 of 85, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut black reverse
- Paul Jules Jean-Jacques Koechlin, in Mulhouse (Haut-Rhin), France, May 7, 1881 – August 17, 1916, Étinehem, France.
- Alfred Ritter von Pischoff, aka Alfred de Pischof (one F) aka Alfred de Pischoff (two F’s), in May 17, 1882 in Vienna, Austria – August 12, 1922, in Villacoublay, France.
At first glimpse, this tobacco card seems pretty straight forward… but is it?
What the heck is a Piquerez… is it a style of plane… or named after someone, and if so, why?
The reverse of the card indicates that the aeroplane was actually manufactured for a Monsieur Piquerez by the aeroplane manufacturing firm of Pischoff-Koechlin of Billancourt, France.
That seems pretty straightforward.
But… finding out more information on Mr. Piquerez was a non-starter, so it can be assumed that he did not design the Piquerez Biplane and have the Pischoff-Koechlin company build the plane for him. He was just a guy who wanted to impress the women as a pilot – hey… I’m sure it would have worked, so he was just a guy who bought himself an aeroplane.
I can also assume that he did not use the plane to achieve any notable aviation events… or that the plane did anything spectacular.
Why do I assume that? Well, if he had designed this successful bird, we would know more about him… and there would have been more aircraft bearing his name.
As it is… the firm of Pischoff-Koechlin came on with a flash and then petered out. Proof of that can be found in the fact that aeroplane manufacturer Pischoff seems to have his name spelled three different ways.
“What’s your name, kid?”
Maybe you have a new friend after you get out of the hospital.
To hear about the changes in spellings, a current relative of Pischoff says when a great-grandmother went to register for a birth certificate decades ago, the town hall employee filling out the paperwork added an extra “f”.
So… Pischoff… I am unable to find any birth or date data aside from the year of each (at least before I started writing this)… but that may be simply because I am sadly very limited in my knowledge of the French language. Whatever…
After starting off fiddling with the aerodynamics of gliders, Pischoff felt it was time he began designing a biplane: the de Pischoff 1907 biplane.
The biplane was built by Lucien Chauvière, who would later gain fame for his laminated wood propellers.
This tractor biplane (engine at the front to pull like a tractor) is one of the earliest examples of a tractor aircraft… people say it is the FIRST, but, since this aircraft wasn’t really successfully flown, I can’t see how it IS a first.
Wikipedia says: “(the Pischoff 1907 biplane) was an unequal-span, single bay biplane powered by a 25 hp (18 kW) Anzani engine mounted in the middle of the gap between the wings. Booms carried the aft-mounted elongated triangular fin and horizontal stabiliser, with rectangular rudder and elevator. It was mounted on a tricycle undercarriage with two front wheels below the wings’ leading edge and a third aft of the trailing edge.”
Here’s what the Pischoff 1907 Biplane looked like:
- Crew: 1;
- Wingspan: 10 meters (32 feet 10 inches);
- Wing area: 25 square meters (270 square feet)
- Powerplant: One Anzani 3-cylinder, air cooled, fan-configuration, 19 kW (25 horsepower);
- Propellers: 2-bladed Chauvière.
The plane was first tested in November of 1907, but it wasn’t successful… however:
- December 5-6, 1907, the biplane flew a few meters, but I would assume that was more than likely just the plane hopping;
- December 12, 1907, the aeroplane performed with flights of 50 meters (164 feet) and 100 meters (328 feet) at Issy – which again sounds like the plane was under-powered;
- On January 15, 1908, flights of 30 meters (98.4 feet), 40 meters (131.2 feet) and 80 meters (262.5 feet) were ‘achieved’… hops and not enough power to lift off.
The aircraft was damaged at some point in January of 1908, and work on it was abandoned.
Later in 1908, Pischoff partnered with Koechlin, and together they built a tractor monoplane with three pairs of wings in tandem, stepped up toward the front to a closed fuselage. It was powered by a Dutheil-Chalmers 20 horsepower engine.
Interesting that they stepped down in horsepower from the 1907 biplane attempt… perhaps the Dutheil-Chalmers motor was very much lighter in weight.
On October 29, 1908, Pischoff and Koechlin began testing this new monoplane at Villacoublay, France, with the best result achieving enough lift to travel 500 meters (1,640.4 feet).
But that appears to be the height of their success.
The machine never became prominent – and if you continue reading below, you’ll see what may have been the final straw to break the camel’s back.
Let’s take a closer look at Alfred de Pischoff – two “f’s, because that’s what the French government used.
Starting at the end, we know that he died after falling out of his aeroplane after forgetting to attach himself securely to the aircraft.
As soon as you know that, you realize that nothing else good could possibly have happened before that.
So… with that 1908 flight, and Pischoff and Koechlin having flown it some 500 meters (1,640.4 feet) on a flight, the two must have hoped that with further refinements they would be able to have their tractor biplane up into the wild blue yonder.
Early in 1909 Captain Walter George Windham (see Card #40) commissioned Pischoff & Koechlin to manufacture a biplane for him—the Pischoff Flyer. It was exhibited at the first aeroplane event at Olympia in Great Britain from March 19-27, 1909.
Specs of the Windham Pischoff Flyer:
- Length: 35 feet (10.67 meters);
- Wing Area: 495 feet (150.88 meters);
- Weight: 390 pounds (176.9 kilograms)
- 2 cylinder Dutheil-Chalmers motor (plans for a 4 cylinder never occurred)
There was a guarantee from the manufacturer that the plane would fly 300-400 meters (1,000 – 1,300 feet), but there are no reports it ever successfully flew. No sales.
Next, they began working on a monoplane – a tractor monoplane powered by the same Dutheil-Chalmers 20 horsepower motor, and entered themselves and their new creation in to the world’s first aviation meet/race: Prix de Lagatinerie, May 23rd, 1909 — which was meant to open the Port-Aviation airfield at Juvisy, France.
Organized by two barons, the brothers Charles and Bernard de Lagatinerie, the main event was for FF5,000 (the Prix de Lagatinerie) given to the pilot who could fly his aeroplane around a 10-lap 1.2 kilometer (0.75 mile) course in the shortest time. The 2016 equivalent of FF5,000 of 1909 = FF12,750,017.03 of 2016… which we must then convert the obsolete French Franc to 2016 US$2,050,318.
That’s seems like an expensive prize… especially when the FF100 entrance fee works out to US$41,000.
In the event no one was able to do that, it was agreed upon beforehand that the prize would go to whomever flew the longest distance over that course.
The course was marked by two pylons, 600 meters (1,968.5 feet) apart.
Stops were allowed for refueling and fixes, but time spent on the ground would be added to the time spent in the air.
Start time was 2PM on May 23, 1909, with nine pilots having entered, with each paying a FF100 entrance fee prior to May 17.
Despite the entrance fee, only four pilots made it to the event.
- Léon Delagrange and his Voisin Delagrange No. 3 – an older Voisin model;
- Henri Rougier in a Voisin – a newer Vosin model;
- F. de Rue (a pseudonym for Capitaine Ferdinand Ferber) in a Voisin – a newer Vosin model;
- Alfred de Pischoff in a Pischoff and Koechlin monoplane.
The three Voisin aircraft were all pusher biplanes (motor at the back), and all were powered by 50 horsepower Antoinette water-cooled V8 engine. Power, baby!
The Pischoff and Koechlin aeroplane was a tractor monoplane (motor in the front), and was “powered” by that 20 horsepower horizontally opposed air-cooled, two-cylinder Dutheil and Chalmers engine. A difference of 30 horsepower. That’s huge!
At the race’s scheduled start time, there was a crosswind blowing of three to four meters/second (seven – nine miles per hour)… the runway was a freshly mowed field. Anyhow, the race was delayed until 5:45PM.
Prior to the first start time, our boy Alfred de Pischoff decided he might withdraw… but with the later start time, he figured he might be able to make the aeroplane fly like a Vosin aircraft.
After starting his engine and barreling down the grassy runway for a couple of hundred meters, de Pischoff was unable to get the monoplane into the air, and bowed out of the competition.
Undaunted, de Pischoff went back to the drawing board with Koechlin, but without him… if you know what I mean, and by himself designed the Pischof-Autoplan.
The Pischoff-Autoplan made its first flight in March of 1910, flying a distance of 400 meters (1,312.3 feet). It was actually the very first aeroplane to fly within the Austro-Hungarian Empire… which itself would soon see its last days.
On April 24, 1910, Pischoff earned his pilot’s certificate – I assume from the Aero Club of France. I would guess it was in the Pischoff-Autoplan.
It was actually a large plane—it looks like a car—with a large-looking motor, but probably under-powered for the weight it was carrying – hence the 400 meter flight plan that I discussed earlier.
Hmm… maybe Paul Koechlin had better luck.
Paul Koechlin was born in 1881 in a French industrial family.
I have no idea why Koechlin became interested in aviation suffice to say most of the world did too at that time. I have no idea what in his educational background made him think it possible, but he certainly wanted to, at the very least, design aeroplanes.
Beginning in 1908 through 1912, Koechlin gave it the old college try… whatever that means, from his company Aéroplanes P. Koechlin at 27 rue de Vanves Billancourt in France. The company not only built aeroplane parts for others, but also built components for other types of inventors… IE… he did not put all of his oeufs (eggs) in one basket.
The first aeroplane – a monoplane – was powered by a 70 horsepower GIP engine, and had a fuselage constructed of varnished mahogany – the first of its kind.The propellers he carved himself from a walnut tree trunk.
Other aircraft built by Koechlin are:
- 1908 – Koechlin No. 1, a biplane powered by a Dutheil & Chalmers 17 horsepower motor.
- 1908 – Koechlin & Pischoff, monoplane flying over 500 meters (1,640.4 feet) on October 29, 1908 at Villacoublay, France.
Specs of the Pischoff and Koechlin monoplane of 1908
- Wingspan: 6.3 meters (20.7 feet) and 5.3 meters (17.4 feet);
- Wing area: 25 square meters (269 square feet);
- Powerplant: Dutheil & Chalmers two-cylinder engine of 20 hp.
There’s an image of it much further above.
- There’s also a 1909 biplane – or at least that’s what the data accompanying the photo suggests… which looks a heck of a lot like the Wills’s card this blog is based upon… but guesses say this airplane is from 1908… could Wills’s have created a 1911 card based on an old three-year-old design?
- 1909 Koechlin Type A monoplane had a wingspan of 8.51 meters (27 feet 11 inches) (8.51 meters), and a gross weight of 258.55 kilograms (570 pounds), and capable of flying at a speed of 70.8 kilometers per hour (44 miles per hour).
In 1909, he opened a flying school in Port-Aviation in Viry-Châtillon in France using aeroplanes built by Pischoff-Koechlin.
In April 1910 he moved to and opened a pilot training school at Mourmelon, a suburb to the west of Paris. For FF2000 the student pilots could obtain their license but, it was well understood that breaks (of the wood of the airplane) would be at their expense.
On December 19, 1910 , Marthe Niel (1880-1928) becomes the second woman after Raymonde de Laroche (see Card #50) to successfully earn a pilot’s license (#226) by flying in a Koechlin C monoplane. She was born Marie-Ange Denieul in Paimpon, France… and when Koechlin sold his aviation interests to Vinet in 1911, it seems as though Niel (coincidentally?) also stopped flying.
Now… despite having a flying school (with Pischof), it does not appear as though Koechlin actually flew himself.
Proof of this appears to be with the onset of WWI when he was not placed in the French Air Force, but rather served in a supply regiment on the ground.
He was gravely injured at the Battle of Somme, dying in an ambulance on August 17, 1916.