Wills’s Aviation Card #62 – “Goupy III.” Biplane.

44F 001.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Goupy III” Biplane.

Card #62 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – black back issue

  • Ambroise Goupy, November 5, 1885 in Paris, France – January 25, 1951, Paris, France.
  • Mario Calderara, October 10, 1879 in Verona, Italy – March 18, 1944 in XXX, Italy.

When I saw the name of the aeroplane as “Goupy III” I knew I had to find out more. I didn’t know what a Goupy was… turns out it’s a guy’s surname.

44R 001.jpg

The Wills’s card’s reverse says the Goupy II and hence III aeroplanes were built by Louis Charles Joseph Blériot ( July 1, 1872 in Cambrai, France – August 1, 1936, Paris, France)… well… yes, they were… but…

… the Goupy biplanes were only constructed at the Blériot aeroplane factory at Buc, France.

The plane(s) were designed by Ambroise Goupy and Mario Calderara… which is good, because I thought Blériot was only a manufacturer of monoplanes – and he was!

The Goupy II and Goupy III are a series of biplanes, while the Goupy I was an experimental triplane – but a successful one at that.

Ambroise Goupy card.jpg

From a series of French aviation postcard inserts (series of 25) from 1909, printed in Lille, France for the French company Chocolat Felix Potin, showing the Goupy I triplane and an image (the only one I could find!) of Ambroise Goupy himself.  

So… who was Ambroise Goupy?

I can’t find much information on him… Wikipedia says he was a  member of the Aéro – Club de France, and he was named a Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1914, then an officer in 1937.

We do know that he offered up some prize money to the first pilot to fly his aeroplane in a straight line, six kilometer course… won by Hubert Latham on June 6, 1909. But… I am unsure if this was for an aviation meet or just a general prize.

That’s it.

And what of Mario Calderara? All I know is that he helped Goupy with a bit of aeroplane design. Sigh.

An Italian Wikipedia site, however says that Calderara was the actual designer of the Goupy aeroplanes, and that Goupy was just the financial backer!

Why should we believe that?

Well… Italy actually produced a postage stamp of Calderara with the Goupy II aeroplane in the background!

That, plus the fact that very little is known about Goupy suggests that Calderara really was the brains – IE the designer of the actual aircraft – not Goupy!


Italian stamp issued on September 12, 2003 depicting Goupy II designer Mario Calderara.

So… Mario – what was his claim to fame? Well, he was the first Italian to hold a patent for an aeroplane in 1909 with the Goupy II, he was the first member of the Aero Club of Italy, earning pilot’s License No. 1, and was the first Italian to build a seaplane in 1911 with the Goupy Hydroplane.

Building a seaplane (hydroplane) was probably something monumental for Calderara, as he had been attracted to the sea since he was a child.

The eldest son Italian General Marco Caderara and Eleanor Tantini, Calderara entered the Italian Naval Academy in Livorno in 1898, achieving a promotion to the rank of Ensign in 1901.

As most people were of the day, he heard of the exploits of glider-specialist Otto Lilienthal and the later success of the Wright Brothers aeroplane, the Wright Flyer.

After hearing of their success in 1905 (their first flight took place in secret in December of 1903), Calderara took up correspondence with the Wright Brothers to pick their collective brain on how to construct his own aeroplane.

Surprisingly, in my opinion, his technical details were answered, and he maintained a strong relationship with the Wright’s.


Mario Calderera

Calderara then received permission from the Italian Navy to perform glider experiments towed by a motorboat, beginning in 1907.

Flying a biplane glider similar in design to the Wright concept, in the Gulf of La Spezia off northwest Italy, he placed the glider on floats, and tired it with ropes to a motorboat to control lift. Successful, he decided to fly it (unmanned) off the deck of the Italian destroyer Lanciere in an effort to get more altitude and more speed.

Taking off, the glider achieved a height of 15 meters-plus, but when the destroyer made a sharp left turn, the glider plummeted quickly and dove into the water—which we’ve all had happen when flying a kite…. happy time, happy time… OMG it crashed!

Unfortunately for Calderara, as the glider dove under the waves, he was pulled off balance and was dragged underwater by the glider’s steel wires – dragged under water at a depth of about three meters.

Rescued, but half-drowned, the Italian Navy forbade him from performing anymore such experiments.

In 1908 Calderara met pilot Léon Delagrange and aeroplane manufacturer Gabriel Voisin in Rome, who were there to perform some aeroplane demonstrations. Calderara asked Voisin is he could come and work for him, and so, in July of 1908, he moved to Issy-Ies-Moulineaux in France to work for Voisin designing aircraft for about one year’s time.

Calderara had to ask for a leave of absence from the Italian Navy, and received it—without pay.

At the Voisin factory, Calderara came in contact with Ambroise Goupy… a money-man who liked what he saw in Calderara’s aircraft designs, getting the go-ahead to construct the Goupy II biplane.

Goupy had already worked with the Voisin Brothers to construct the prototype Goupy I triplane, built apparently on Goupy’s own design… but I don’t see how a money-man would have done that, as I see no evidence he had any engineering background – but I don’t know so I can’t confirm or deny Goupy’s actual design credit for the Goupy I triplane.

Now… we do know that Calderara was the designer of the Goupy II… in fact, one Italian website I saw calls the Goupy II the “Calderara Goupy” aircraft.

While in France, Calderara  met up with Wilbur Wright in France, who n demonstrations, Wilbur Wright showed his plane to be able to stay aloft for up to 60 minutes—far, far longer than anything then-achieved by planes built by Voisin, Blériot, or Henry Farman.

It was in March of 1909, by the way, that the Goupy II biplane first flew (see below for more on the aircraft particulars).

Calderara, along with the Aero Club of Italy, then invited Wilbur Wright in 1909 to bring his Flyer over to  Rome, Italy, where in April of that year, Wright gave some flying lessons to Calderara (and later to Italian Army lieutenant Umberto Savoja) at the field now known as Military Airport Francesco Baracca Centocelle, but was then known as Centocelle Airport.

When Wilbur Wright returned to the U.S, in May of 1909, he opined that Calderara could fly by himself, and even that he could provide further lessons to Lr. Savoja.

Calderara, by the way, had purchased a Wright Flyer biplane.

Calderara made plenty of flights—even many of sustained duration‚—but on May 6, 1909, he crashed the aeroplane in windy conditions. After a brief hospital stay—a reputed concussion—Calderara, assisted by Savoja, repaired the Flyer, resuming flights at Centocelle in July of 1909.

The Aero Club of Italy had arranged for an international air meet in Brescia, Italy—similar in scope to what Reims, France had held in July of 1909… and Calderara was entered.

Three weeks before the scheduled meet, a tornado blew through the area where the aeroplanes had been stored, damaging some of the aircraft, including his Wright Flyer.

Calderara and Savoja, however, did rebuild it in a mere nine days, but used sub-par wood and canvas—whatever they could find, just to have a chance in the rally.

Instead of the Wright motor, Calderara used an Italian-made Rebus motor.

Basta fazool! It must have been one heck of a repair job, because Calderara ended up winning five of the eight prizes being offered.

All the other Italian pilots could not get their aircraft off the ground—except for Alessandro Anzani (later one of the better aeroplane motor manufacturers), who was using a French-made aircraft… but he ended up crashing and destroying his aeroplane.

Other pilots at the event—the successful pilots—included American Glenn Curtiss and Frenchman Henry Rougier.

The Brescia rally was a triumph for Calderara who, thanks to being the only Italian who could fly, became a national hero. As such, he was awarded Flying License No. 1 by the Aero Club of Italy.


Mario Calderara’s actual No.1 pilot’s license from the Aero Club of Italy. Image found at www.aerostoria.blogspot.ca.

Now… as you might realize, Calderara’s popularity wasn’t always such a great thing for the Italian Navy… in fact a Major Moris had an intense dislike for Calderara who reveled in his fame by chatting with the ins and outs of aviation with the newspapers. Moris, obviously felt that such matters should not be discussed.

Moris, by the way, was Caledrara’s direct superior.

Still, Moris did use Calderara’s new Goupy II (Caldera Goupy) biplane, after purchasing a motor (he purchased his sans power), providing it as a trainer plane for new pilots. Calderara being the teacher.

For whatever reason, the aircraft was removed from its usual Centocelle hangar to a non-covered outside spot in the Fall of 1910 and was subjected to all sorts of bad weather.

The adverse weather damaged the plane so badly that it had to be put down – destroyed…

It was just after this, that Calderara was assigned to the Italian Ministry of the Navy, and it was now that he asked if he could construct a new type of aeroplane—one that could take off from and land in water.

There was one other such aircraft—the Fabre Hydravion designed by Henri Fabre—but it flew a few times before crashing and not being rebuilt.

No… Calderara wanted to take his seaplane to the next level.

Calderara designed and built his seaplane—initially called the Calderara Seaplane aka the Calderara Navy-hydro monoplane aka the Hydrovol.

—the largest flying machine in the world, in 1911, and flew it very successfully in the spring of 1912, carrying three passengers plus the pilot in flight.

Later that year, Calderara was invited to London, England, and showed the above film (less the Italian voice-over) to select people there, including the Honorable Winston Churchill, who was then the First Lord of the Admirality.

As WWI approached, and needing his help, the Italian Navy imposed on Calderara to return to his naval duties… and, during the conflict, he was placed on several warships, ultimately in charge of a torpedo ship in the Adriatic sea.

But, between 1917-19, Calderara was given command of a new school for training seaplane pilots for the US Navy, along with the rank of Corvette Captain… the U.S. thought highly of his work, and was awarded the American Navy Cross.
Calderara worked in the Italian embassy in Washington, DC, U.S. between 1923-25, eventually leaving the Italian Navy with the rank of Frigate Captain.

He moved to Paris, and began working in the French aviation sector, representing U.S. businesses manufacturing airplane components.

Sensing something was up in France, Calderara left Paris and returned to Italy in 1939, simply leaving behind all of his holdings and home… which financially distressed himself and his family.

Calderara died after a short illness on march 18, 1944. He is still considered one of Italy’s greatest aviation personalities… hence the cool postage stamp.

Let’s take a look at what Goupy paid for and Calderara designed:

Goupy I Triplane/Goupy I bis

The Goupy I triplane is also known as the Goupy I bis… with the word bis meaning “encore”… so perhaps an homage to Voisin – see just below.

It is said that the Goupy I triplane was the first such plane to fly, back in September 5, 1908—but other sources say it was the first French triplane to fly.

The Goupy I was designed by Goupy alone, and was built by Appareils d’Aviation Les Frères Voisin (Flying Machines of Voisin Brothers), owned by brothers Gabriel and Charles Voisin.

The company was the first aircraft manufacturing company, and one of the world’s first.

They designed and built Europe’s first manned, heavier-than-air powered aircraft capable of making a sustained one kilometer, circular, controlled flight, including take-off and landing—the Voisin-Farman I.

While Voisin aircraft had always been pusher (engine at back) biplanes with a front elevator, Goupy’s design showed the Goupy I as a tractor (engine in front) triplane.

The kicker, however, is that the Goupy I has the ends of the wings connected by Voisin’s characteristic “side curtains” – implying that either Goupy was inspired by Voisin, or the Voisin brothers suggested Goupy use the design feature.

The only unorthodox aspects of the design were its triplane tail unit, which was used by A. V. Roe in triplanes I, II and III in 1909 (see HERE), and the way that the interplane struts of both the wings and empennage were covered with fabric to create box kite-like cells.

The tailplane was a Hargrave cell (a box kite-like design created by Australian Lawrence Hargrave), which is what Voisin preferred. However, Goupy did add a pair of small moving elevators mounted on the leading edge of the outer surfaces and a central rudder.

As originally constructed, the middle wing was mounted in a mid-wing position on the fuselage, with the top and bottom wings clear of the fuselage, and power was provided by a 50 horsepower Antoinette engine.

There was a single central wheel in the middle of the fuselage, with a smaller one at the tail.

The Goupy I‘s design was later revised so that the bottom wing was mounted at the base of the fuselage, the middle wing to the top of the fuselage, and top wings clear of it.

At the same time, the engine was changed to a 50 horsepower Anzani of similar power and the wings extended outboard of the side curtains. I assume the Anzani was either lighter or simply performed better than the Antoinette engine.

And, the central wheel was replaced by a pair of wheels at the front of the aeroplane below the engine to provide better support, keeping the rear wheel at the back end of the fuselage.

The image above is a French postcard from the era. It’s translated (English) parts say, for the most part:

  • 3 superimposed planes of 7.5 meters of span on 1.6 meters of depth and 44 square meters of total surface;
  • Distance from shots, 0.95 meters.
  • At the rear inside a cell of 4 meters x 1.6 meters, a balancer 3 meters x 0.75 meters, then the vertical rudder 1.25 meters x 0.7 meters;
  • Fuselage: length 9.8 meters, mounted on swivel chassis not supported; two wheels in front and one wheel in the back;
  • Propeller: 2 bladed at the front. Diameter of 2.3 meters x 1.4 meters;
  • Expected speed, 54 kilometers per hour (15 meters a second);
  • Total weight 476 kilograms;
  • Engine Anzani 50 horsepower

Most of that is self-explanatory… and I freely admit that some of it isn’t – at least to me. If anyone is fluent in French and can provide a better definition – I would greatly appreciate it.

Wikipedia says, and matches the postcard data:

General characteristics

  • Crew: One pilot;
  • Length: 9.8 meters (32 feet-2 inches);
  • Wingspan: 7.5 meters (24 feet-7 inches);
  • Wing area: 44-square meters (474-square feet);
  • Gross weight: 476 kilograms (1,050 pounds);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Anzani steam-cooled, direct-injected V-8 engine providing 50 horsepower at 1,100 RPM;
  • Propeller: two-bladed, single propeller;
  • Maximum speed: 54 kilometers an hour (33 miles per hour).

Goupy II biplane

Goupy 2.jpgThe Goupy II biplane was designed by Mario Calderara, and paid for by Ambroise Goupy, and constructed at the Blériot workshop in Buc, France in 1909 (see above for why here), first achieving flight in March of 1909.

The Goupy II had two innovative features that were influential in aircraft design. It was the first tractor biplane to fly, and was also the first staggered wing biplane.

Considered unusual for the era, the tractor (engine at front) and staggered wings soon became an industry standard

The only features that would not be typical of aircraft in the years to come would be its biplane tail unit, and the whole-chord wingtip ailerons fitted to both upper and lower wings. The uncovered wood box-girder fuselage, typical of early aircraft, was later covered.

The first flight of this biplane was made in March 1909. It was taken to and shown at the Paris Air Show at the Grand Palais in October of 1909.

Goupy also took the Goupy II to Reims, France for the Grande Semaine d’Aviation de la Champagne, the first public air show in the world an aviation meet held near Reims in France in August 1909.He also took it to air meets at Burton and Doncaster, England, using pilot Emile Ladougne to fly it at the later shows.

The Goupy II also flew in the Paris-Madrid race in May of 1911, but used Pierre Divétain as pilot.


The remains of Louis Emile Train’s monoplane after his crash into spectators at the Paris-Madrid air-race of 1911.

The race began with auspicious start on May 21, 19911… pilot Louis Emile Train crashed his aeroplane into a stand of officials killing France minister of war Maurice Berteaux, seriously injuring council president Ernest Monis, and hurting Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe (a French petroleum magnate and aviation supporter).

The race was restarted two days later, but only one aircraft managed to finish the race – pilot Jules Védrines flying a Morane-Borel monoplane, winning the race in 14 hours and 55 minutes after a trouble-free flight.

Anyhow… the Goupy II did not fare well in the race, failing to perform well enough to even complete the first stage of the race.

General characteristics

  • Crew: One pilot;
  • Length: 7 meters (23 feet);
  • Wingspan: 6 meters (19 feet 8 inches);
  • Wing area: 26-square-meters (280-square-feet);
  • Empty weight: 209 kilograms (460 pounds);
  • Gross weight: 290 kilograms (640 pouns);
  • Powerplant: 1 × R.E.P., seven-cylinder, semi-radial air-cooled engine providing 29 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 97 kilometers per hour (61 miles per hour) – hmm, I doubt that the 29-horsepower motor could have given the aeroplane THESE speeds.

This plane was offered up for sale to the general public.

As you can see from the image below, the Goupy aircraft is offered with a different engine – a Gnome 50-horsepower engine – which seems like it would be far better than the 29 horsepower offered up earlier.

It also states that the maximum speed to be from 70-85 kilometers an hour (43.5-52.8 miles per hour).

The price for a Goupy II aeroplane was FF12,000 without the motor or propeller; and FF25,000 with a Gnome motor and any type of propeller of the customer’s choice.

Goupy III biplane

Goupy III postcard.jpg

Man… there’s not a lot of information on the Goupy III… which is too bad, because that was the subject chosen for this Wills’s card.

Translated from the French on the postcard directly above, we have a few of the specifics:

General Specifications

  • Crew: 1;
  • Wingspan: 6 meters (19.69 feet) wide x 1.6 meters (5.25 feet) deep;
  • Fuselage length: 7 meters (22.97 feet);
  • Propeller: 1, with four blades at the nose;
  • Powerplant: 1 x reciprocating REP motor capable of putting out 25 horsepower;
  • Weight: 290 kilograms (639.34 pounds).

Goupy Hydroaeroplane

The Goupy 3-place hydro biplane on the fourth Exposition internationale de locomotion aérienne in the Grand Palais at Paris [France, 1912]

No matter what you may see elsewhere, make no mistake about it, the Goupy Hydroaeroplane was essentially a Goupy III biplane with pontoon floats added and the wheels removed.

While the Goupy III was the brainchild of Mario Calderara paid for by Ambroise Goupy, the Goupy Hydroaeroplane was also from the mind of Calderara.

The two pontoon floats, however, were designed by Alphonse Tellier. Tellier eventually designed seaplanes himself, but his first successful flight was not until June of 1916 in his Tellier T.2 biplane.

The Goupy Hydroaeroplane was displayed–as seen in the postcard directly above–at the 1912 Paris Aero Salon.

Other than this demo model, there is no evidence of any others being built nor of it ever having taken flight from the water.

Goupy Hydroaeroplane.jpgIn fact, a newspaper reviewing next year’s December 5-25, 1913 Paris Aero Salon commented negatively on any further advancements of Goupy aeroplane designs, noting also that there was no seaplane on display.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1 pilot;
  • Capacity: 2 passengers;
  • Length: 10 meters (32.8 feet);
  • Wingspan: 12.70 m ( 41.67 feet);
  • Empty weight: 450 kilograms (992.1 pounds);
  • Powerplant: 1 x 9-cylinder 100 horsepower Gnome rotary engine or a Gnome 80 HP motor per 1913 Jane’s;
  • Maximum speed: 120 km/h (74.6 miles per hour).
  • Number built: 1

Of course, speed and capacity were optimistic guesses… and the motor… it never flew. My guess is that Mario Calderara left the firm, so the Goupy seaplane concept died with this prototype.

But now we have the seaplane that Calderara designed and built…

Calderara Navy-hydro monoplane/Hydrovol

Calderara Hydrovol 2.jpgBuilt in 1911 and flown in 1912, the Hydrovol (according to JANE’S ALL THE WORLD’S AIRCRAFT 1913) was the first successful seaplane flown, but it was also one of the largest monoplanes (period) ever built and flown, with a wing surface of 770 square feet.

The frame of the aeroplane is formed of three skins of wood, with sail-cloth between each.

The fuselage sits only 4’6” (1.34 meters) above the water line, with three pontoons – the outer two of which were separated by 21 feet (6.4 meters).

In the case of an emergency, the Hydrovol was designed by Calderara so that the occupants could leave the aeroplane’s fuselage and take refuge on the under structure which serves as a raft, with even the possibility of a sail being rigged.

Calderara even made it possible for the wings to be cut loose.

Calderara Hydrovol.jpg

The Calderara Hydrovol was the first true seaplane to actually fly. Hopefully you all saw the video above.

Okay – that’s it for now.


About mreman47

Andrew was born in London, UK, raised in Toronto, Canada, and cavorted in Ohtawara, Japan for three years. He is married, has a son and a cat. He has over 35,000 comic books and a plethora of pioneer aviation-related tobacco and sports cards and likes to build LEGO dioramas. He has written and been an editor for various industrial magazines, has scripted comic books, ghost-written blogs for business sectors galore, and hates writing in the 3rd person. He also hates having to write this crap that no one will ever read. He works on his Pioneers Of Aviation - a cool blog on early fliers - even though it takes him so much time to do. He also wants to do more writing - for money, though. Help him out so he can stop talking in the 3rd person.
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2 Responses to Wills’s Aviation Card #62 – “Goupy III.” Biplane.

  1. Pingback: Checklist For Wills’s Cigarettes Aviation 1911 – 75-Card Series | Pioneers Of Aviation

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