Wills’s Aviation Card #69 – The Morane-Borel Monoplane.

69F.jpgHistory Behind The Card: The Morane-Borel Monoplane.

Card #69 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Vice Regal Mixture – Green-back issue

  • Léon Morane on April 11, 1885 in Paris, France – October 19, 1918 in Paris, France;
  • Robert Morane on March 10, 1886, Paris France on – August 28, 1968 in Paris, France;
  • Gabriel Borel in 1880 – 1944 (I also saw 1960 as a death date – this seems more common, but I present both because I can’t confirm);
  • Raymond Victor Gabriel Jules Saulnier in Paris, France on September 27, 1881 – March 4, 1964 in Chécy, France;
  • Jules Charles Toussaint Védrines on December 21, 1881 in Saint-Denis, Paris, France – April 21, 1919 in Saint-Rambert-d’Albon, France.

I started this article figuring it would be short and sweet… nope.

Here’s another example where different tobacco companies under Wills’s produced a different card from one another.

Our last post showed Card No. 69 depicting the Morning Post dirigible of 1910, while this entry shows off a more recent 1911 Morane-Borel Monoplane. It’s why people like me collect stuff… okay, I don’t really know why I collect stuff… I just do.


Emile Taddéoli in a Morane monoplane circa 1911-1913. It’s a very nice looking plane that looks like it would fly well in 2017.

According to the reverse of the card, this bird captured second-place in the British Daily Mail newspaper-sponsored Daily Mail Circuit of Britain contest, calling it one of the simplest, yet obviously successful machines around.

69 R 001

Every example of a green backed card from this series that I have found, always has a brown look to it, making me think it was never issued in a solid white background.

I’ve never heard of it, then again – before I started collecting these cards, there were many things I didn’t know about pioneer aviation.

This is one of those cards that is difficult to research, mostly because there is little data on the people involved – and the fact that most of the success achieved came much later than the aeroplane depicted on the Wills’s card.

What to do? I’ll try to be as thorough as possible.

Let’s first take a the people involved.

Leon and Robert Morane


Leon (left) and Robert Morane at the start of the Michelin Grand Prix of 1910 on October 5.

I had mentioned Leon Morane in my blog about John Armstrong Drexel HERE.

As far as fame goes, the Morane brothers on July 19, 1910 became the first to fly a plane in excess of 100 kph (62.5 mph) at Issy-les-Moulineaux, with a peak speed of at 106.5 kph.

According to www.earlyaviators.com who plucked the headline: Frenchman Claims World’s Aviation Record – Havre, Aug. 29, 1910 from the Daily Journal and Tribune newspaper of Knoxville, Tennessee, US of A on August 29, 1910 edition:

“In a flight in a monoplane here today, Leon Morane, a Frenchman, ascended to a height of 6,692 feet. At first it was claimed he went up 6,889 feet but on a revision of the figures the judges found that he had reached only 6,692 feet. They claim, however, that this constitutes a world’s record as the flight of J. Armstrong Drexel, the American aviator, of 6,752 feet they assert has never been officially ratified. Mr. Drexel’s flight was made at Lanark, Scotland, August 12. He used a Bleriot monoplane. The contention of the judges that Morane’s flight of 6,692 feet constitutes a world’s record is not borne out by the certificate issued August 20 by Kew observatory, which after testing the barograph carried by Mr. Drexel in his Lanark flight, gave him a record of 6, 752 feet.”

Here’s some more:

According to a newspaper article in The Day newspaper from New London, Connecticut from October 5, 1910:

More Aviators Come To Injury

Leon and Robert Morane Badly Hurt By Fall While Seeking Prize

Boissy, France, Oct. 5.—Leon Morane, who started at 9:48 o’clock this morning for Clermont-Ferrand in an attempt to win the Michelin aviation prize, fell here and sustained a broken leg. His brother Robert, who was a passenger, received a fracture of the skull.

Yup… that was the entire story, with the actual headline in the newspaper taking up more space than the copy.

The fact that the headline screams “More Aviators” begs the newspaper to describe who else had suffered an accident at this aviation event in France. How high an altitude did the Morane brothers fall from? What caused the accident? Eyewitness account?

Sometimes, all the news that’s fit to print ain’t happening. Which is where authors and bloggers like myself come in.

Basically, on October 5, 1910, Léon and Robert Morane flew in the Michelin Grand Prix event in an attempt to to win the Michelin Aviation Prize. To win, competitors had to fly  from Paris to the summit of the Puy de Dôme in less than six hours. The Morane brothers attempt failed, as we saw in the newspaper article above, and both brothers were seriously injured.

There… that’s how you can present a few MORE facts in two inches of newspaper copy.

While Leon always seemed to get top billing, the poor bugger died of the Spanish Flu in 1918.

His brother Robert, along with Raymond Saulnier, formed the Société des Aéroplanes Morane-Saulnier on October 10,1 911 in Paris, with factories in nearby Puteaux.

When WWI ended, Robert Morane continued with aviation, but was more interested in producing aircraft and aircraft equipment for commercial use such as tourism and pilot school: producing a single-seater with sky-high canopy in 1924, the MS230 school aircraft with sales of 1,100 aircraft in 1930, and the Hispano-Suiza engine of 860 horsepower built between 1936-1937.

Even though Robert Morane was a well-known commodity in the aviation industry, there’s not much more information available on him after that date… which only means that when WWII started, their trainers and tourism aircraft weren’t in much demand.

And then there was that whole occupation of France thing by Nazi Germany (I don’t call Germany Germany during WWII… it really was Nazi Germany… and nothing like how the country is nowadays – beautiful country, and I think I have a thing for the women… damn that Girl’s of Munich article I saw in Playboy as a kid)…

What we do know, however, is that after Robert’s long life finally finished at a respectable 82 years of age, he was buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery, where brother  Léon Morane is, too.

But, because this blog aims to find as much about everyone as possible, there’s more below.

Jules Védrines

vedrines266x400.jpgJules Védrines was a pilot… and not just any pilot, but a test pilot… and a test pilot in the days when aeroplane’s had less power than some modern-day lawnmowers.

Born in Saint-Denis in Paris on December 21, 1881, he was brought up in what would have to be considered one of the “tough” parts of the city… a place that helped him develop a bit of a rough-and-tumble personality… which would actually help him in later years as a pilot, as being someone the common man could identify with.

He worked at the Gnome engine manufacturing factory before moving to England to work as aviator Robert Loraine’s mechanic in 1910.

Loraine, while primarily a stage actor, does have some claim to fame within the aviation (and video game industry). Flying a Farman biplane, in September of 1910, he achieved a measure of fame for being the first to fly from England to Ireland… except he actually crash landed in  the water about 60 meters (200 feet) from the shore… that’s close enough, right?

Later that same month, Loraine was a pilot of one of two Bristol Boxkites which took part in the British Army maneuvers on Salisbury Plain, during which he sent the first radio signals to be sent from an aeroplane in Britain.

Who was the other guy? Well… that would be Bertram Dickson, who was just featured in Pioneers of AviationHERE.

Loraine, by the way is famous… thanks to his personal diary that is cited in the Oxford English Dictionary for containing the first written example of the word joystick to describe aircraft stick controls.

Back to Védrines. After returning to France, Védrines earned his pilot’s license (No. 312) on December 7, 1910.

Globally, when newspapers couldn’t get enough news on aviation, Védrines was a media darling. That love affair began when in April of 1911 he flew over a Catholic religious procession known as Mi-carême dropping bouquets of violets as the people entered the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Classy… like an angel from up on high…

In May of 1911, Védrines won the 1911 Paris to Madrid air race flying a Morane-Borel monoplane.

On July 22, 1911, he came second in the Daily Mail Circuit of Britain race (held annually between 1911-1914) – a circular route with 11 compulsory stops covering a distance of 1,010 miles (1,630 km).

You can see a video on YouTube featuring photo stills and some live motion picture work along with THE aviation song by clicking HERE. It won’t let me embed – even when I type it in character by character.If the link doesn’t work search YouTube by typing in: “Round Britain” air race in 1911

He also came third in the Circuit of Europe race, a race with a total of 990 miles (1,600 kilometers) flying from Paris-Liège France to Spa-Liège in France to Utrecht Netherlands to Brussels Belgium to Calais France to London England.

In 1912, flying a Deperdussin 1912 Racing Monoplane built by the Société de Production des Aéroplanes Deperdussin, he was the first person to fly an aircraft at more than 100 mph (160 kph) and he also won the 1912 Gordon Bennett Trophy race in a Deperdussin Monocoque aircraft.

In January of 1912, Védrines, a politically active fellow, flew a plane over the Chamber of Deputies in Paris, dropping political leaflets demanding they provide more aeroplanes for the French Army.

Later that year, Védrines  ran for and lost a seat on the Chamber of Deputies for the constituency of Limoux. He ran as a Socialist, which wasn’t a bad thing in 1912.

In 1913 he flew from Paris to Cairo in a Blériot monoplane. But upon arriving in Nancy, France, but officials were adamant to let him proceed, because they figured he would fly a short cut over German airspace.

Now I don’t know why a Germany a mere one year away from WWI would not want anyone flying over their country – oh… right – but Védrines felt that up in the sky, there were no boundaries… that aviators should be able to fly anywhere and everywhere – screw international boundaries.

One hundred years later… despite his good intentions… a couple of global wars, more in Asia, and every nation on the planet becoming very protective of itself, airspace is rigidly controlled, and more or less observed unless you are China (in Japan) or Russia (also in Japan).

At that time, however, Védrines took off from Nancy pretending he would not fly over German airspace, but would change course for Prague when out of sight from the airfield. Sounds like a plan…

All well and good, but Védrines seems to have forgotten that he would be visible to the Germans in Germany whose airspace he was flying in.

He was tried in absentia by the Germans and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment… which essentially means he should not go back to Germany. But he did…

Still on the same race, he pleases the Sultan of Constantinople (Istanbul) by dropping a Turkish flag atop the Imperial Palace.

Things went downhill again when in Cairo, Védrines became embroiled in an argument with a Mr. Roux, after Védrines accused him of some unpatriotic French behavior.

Roux asked for a duel… but Védrines wisely said he wasn’t brave enough.

To resolve the dispute, the French Ligue Aerienne president Mr. Quinton told Védrines that the issue could only be resolved by the duel or him leaving Cairo.

So…. Védrines left Cairo, returned to Paris and then challenged Quinton to a duel in place of Roux. I’m guessing he found out that Roux may have been an established veteran at duels (IE he wins), whereas Quinton may have been a paper pusher. Always pick your battles, is the lesson here, I guess.

Védrines wanted to duel with pistols at 10 paces – and was all the rage in the Paris media of the day – but dueling experts quickly determined that Védrines had no right to issue the duel, and it was called off, probably with an apology… but I can not confirm that.

Védrines and his Blériot XXXV Ibis he called La Vache,  August 31, 1914

Jules Védrines’ Last Flight
When WWI broke out -Védrines performed clandestine missions – landing behind enemy (German) lines to drop or pick up agents in his Blériot XXXV Ibis aircraft La Vache (The Cow) – pictured above. He flew some 1,000 hours of reconnaissance missions and was awarded Order of the Day for it in July of 1915.

The aircraft had a picture of a cow on it (not seen in the photo), but it was meant to be an homage to his family’s roots in the Limousin region of France.

With the war over, on January 19, 1919 he landed his Caudron G.3 on the roof of the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris, winning a 25,000 franc prize which had been offered before the war. After his death a stone commemorating the achievement was placed there.

Three months later, on 21 April 1919, he was killed when attempting to fly a Caudron C.23 long-range twin-engine night bomber after flying from Villacoublay, France to Rome, Italy, when the aeroplane’s engine conked out. Both men died on the forced landing near Lyon.

Gabriel Borel

Gabriel Borel.jpgFirst off, there is almost no information available on the internet regarding Gabriel Borel. I cropped the image from a larger one over at www.thefirstairraces.net.

But, there is a PDF of a magazine article from Life in the Great Outdoors published on March 1, 1918. Of course the magazine is actually in French (La Vie au grand air), so I had to not only re-type it out as it appears in French, but feed it into an on-line language translator to get a whisper of what it all means in English.

I’ll give you the gist:

To retrace the history of the Borel aviation house, is it not the history of the airplane itself?
The name of this mark is found indeed in almost all the victories of the heroic period of the debuts of the heaviest air.

(That is heavy-handed kiss-butt writing at its best).

In 1909, with an interest in the new sport of aviation, Gabriel (the article doesn’t mention a brother, but Wikipedia does – unnamed, of course) opened up a pilot training flying school in Mourmelon, France.


According to the article – and this is difficult to figure out – Borel had a team of pilots who participated in various aviation meets which helped bring fame to Borel for the skill their flying skill.

Thanks to the success of these pilots, Borel began to try and construct his own aeroplanes, coming up with the Borel Monoplane via his factory known as the Establishment Borel.

Simplistic in design, in 1911 the Borel Monoplane won the Paris-Pau Cup (800 km = 497 miles), the first and second semi-annual prizes of the Pommery Cup, the Poitiers-Paris race (330 km = 205 miles in 2 1/2 hours) – which for many years constituted the world record of speed in straight line.

Other races include pilot Jules Charles Toussaint Védrines winning the Paris to Madrid race, being the only one to finish; a 1,500 kilometer (932 mile) race from Paris to Rome.

In a large race called the European Circuit (racing from city to city across Europe), Vedrines in a Morel Monoplane won seven out of 10 stages.

In a similar race across England covering 1,609 kilometers (1,000 miles), the Borel Monoplane came in seventh, but possessing decent speed.

The Borel Monoplane would later achieve a world record for altitude when it flew with three passengers… but I am assuming this includes the pilot.

While Borel’s pilots are taking part ion various races with the Borel Monoplane, Borel is also building seaplanes, taking top prize in a seaplane race from Paris to Deauville—piloted by Geo Chemet.

By the time 1912 came around, aviation popularity began to wane. With fewer new people becoming involved in aviation, and even by 1913, country government interests not completely sold on the benefits of aeroplanes, things were tough all over.

With naught else to do, Borel tried to perfect his Borel Monoplane with new versions that he could sell to both France and other countries.

And despite the Wills’s card above, Borel actually became famous for his  – wait for it – Borel Seaplane. Man… he really needed someone to help him with the naming of his aircraft.

But then… war!

When what later became known as WWI broke out in 1914, many of Borel’s workforce went in to the military forcing Borel’s factory to close its doors.

But, by 1915, it became evident that good manufacturers of aeroplanes were actually needed, so Borel opened up the factory again in November of that year, gaining plenty of military orders for his aircraft.

In fact, the orders for aircraft were so heavy that Borel not only had his original factory, but opened up two others in Paris, including a subsidiary facility in Lyons, France.

It not only manufactured its own Borel Monoplanes, but also helped manufacture other aircraft such as the Nieuport, Spad and Caudron aeroplanes of various types.

For itself, Borel kept churning out plenty of his Borel Seaplanes and fighter planes, with the Borel Seaplane able to carry bombs and torpedoes to take out German submarines.

The1918 magazine article continues that thanks to efforts by Borel and his seaplanes, it will hopefully put an end to Germany’s maritime attacks.

The article goes on to say that if, “at the beginning of the hostilities, we had been willing to trust these machines, we could have achieved very brilliant success.”

It takes a further potshot at the French military for not understanding just how important aircraft like the Borel Seaplane could have been in ending the war sooner, rather than still later (it did not end until November of 1918).

The article then goes on about the factory worker: “Let us add, in conclusion, that in Borel’s factories, as in almost all factories of airplanes, a large number of female labor is employed which gives all satisfaction.

“We asked the famous builder what he thought of the post-war period from the point of view of the aviation industry. Mr. Gabriel Borel was very affirmative.”

In Borel’s words: “I have already seen an evolution of aviation, and I believe that, although it does not occupy a position as large as it is today, it will nevertheless have a very real importance.
“Probably less rapid aircraft with an interesting commercial speed will be used, which will make it possible to carry out large-scale transport operations and to provide services in the colonial and postal sectors.
“On the other hand, it is evident that today’s huge factories will find themselves occupied in different domains, but very useful to the country.
“One can also trust industrial sportsmen: since the beginning of the history of sport in France, they have shown enough smart activity so that the Country can count on water when the Pail will flourish again.
“It is true that we are delighted with the precious collaboration of our builders for the post-war period, but only on condition that the state is interested in making a great effort.”

Interesting… Borel was quite correct in his prediction that the aeroplane would have great commercial value once the war was over.

So… from what I have been able to determine, the French aircraft Morane-Borel Monoplane as depicted on the card above was designed by Raymond Saulnier, with the initial aircraft built by the Morane brothers and Gabriel Borel.

But let’s go back a bit.

Les Établissements Borel is a French aviation manufacturing company that was founded in 1909 by Gabriel Borel. That’s fine.

Borel and his brother (can’t figure out what his name was) opened up a flying school soon after in Mourmelon, France.

On October 10, 1911, Gabriel Borel, Raymond Saulnier, Léon and Robert Morane joined forces to create the Société Anonyme des Aeropanes Morane-Borel-Saulnier, in Paris, France.

They build the Morane-Borel Monoplane.

From the July 20, 1912 edition of Flight magazine, we learn quite a bit about out the aircraft’s particulars.

We are able to publish this week two photographs of the aeroplane that the Societe Anonyme des Aeroplanes Borel are entering for the War Office Competitions. The pilot Chambenoit has been engaged to fly it at Salisbury.
In the machine, except that it is slightly larger all round in order to account for the extra weight of and (accommodation for the passenger, there is little evidence of difference from the single-seater model which, with that master pilot Vedrines at the lever, carried
everything before it in the events of 1911. That machine was undoubtedly a very good one, being designed by M. Saulnier. It was then called the Morane monoplane. Some time later its style was changed to the Morane-Borel monoplane. Another period, and a split occurred in the firm, Leon Morane and M. Saulnier branching off, forming their own company and creating the Morane-Saulnier monoplanes. So the name of the monoplane changed again—now it is the Borel monoplane.
But throughout all these changes of administration the design of the machine remained practically unaltered, and so it remains to-day.
To the more or less casual observer, about the only point at which this two-seater Borel differs, except as regards size and passenger accommodation, from Vedrines’ machine in the Circuit of Britain, is in the design of the tail. On this present monoplane, the elevators
are formed by balanced flaps hinged to the rear edge of the stabilizer. But even this is not a totally original point. It has been standard practice with the Borel monoplane for the past few months. In its general outline the monoplane follows the design of the Bleiiot to a very great extent. Its only fundamental points of difference from that monoplane are that its landing gear is of the wheel and skid type, its wings have no dihedral angle, and that they are reversed in shape to the Bleriot.
By this latter statement we mean that the Borel wings possess the same characteristic rounded tips as the Bleriot, but they fly with the bigger curve leading. In flight, the wings are somewhat analogous to a Chauviere propeller-blade, and score on two points—this form of tip reduces to a great extent ” end losses,” and a very powerful correcting warp is obtained.
The present monoplane is equipped with one of the new 12 litre 80-h.p. Gnome engines, protruding from the front of the fuselage without any bearing between crank-case and propeller. The seats are arranged in tandem.


This is the workshop where the Borel Monoplane was built, with examples parked out front. Image is taken from the excellent resource: http://patrick.serou.free.fr/vidamee-annexe-photos.html

Here’s something interesting… according to an April 15, 1911 edition of l’Aérophile, they have specifications for the Morane-Borel Monoplane.

This date implies that it was actually designed and constructed BEFORE the forming of the Société Anonyme des Aeropanes Morane-Borel-Saulnier.

Near as I can tell, the initial aircraft design was the brainchild of Saulnier… and since IT was called a Morane Monoplane, either Morane and his manufacturing facility were the ones to build the first version of the plane discussed here, or they were the ones putting up the money to build it and actually built it.

I have no proof over which way it went down, suffice to say that Morane had his name on the finished product.


Specifications from l’Aérophile, April 15, 1911, p. 170 show:

  • Crew: one;
  • Length: 6.50 meters (21 feet 6 inches);
  • Wingspan: 9.50 meters (31 feet 1 inches);
  • Wing area: 14 square meters (151 square feet);
  • Empty weight: 200 kilograms (441 pounds);
  • Gross weight: 430 kilograms (948 pounds);
  • Motor: 1 × Gnome Omega 7-cylinder air-cooled rotary piston engine, creating 50 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 111 km/h (69 mph).

However… data found at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum website have slightly different numbers… and despite having data from “the day” per l’Aérophile, there’s a real reason why the Canadian data might actually be more correct… you’ll have to go down a bit more to find out why that is.

Specifications (per the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum)

  • Length: 7 meters (23 feet);
  • Wingspan: 9.1 meters (30 feet);
  • Height: 2.7 meters (9 feet);
  • Empty weight: 259 kilograms (550 pounds);
  • Gross weight: 320 kilograms (700 pounds);
  • Motor: 1 × Gnome Omega 7-cylinder air-cooled rotary piston engine, creating 50 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 115 kilometers per hour (70 miles per hour).

What do the differences mean?

Either one source or the other is incorrect – and I’m pretty sure the Canadian museum is correct, OR… the manufacturers simply were making changes to the over all design of the plane as they gained more knowledge.

There is also a much later military version capable of pushing 80 horsepower…

Anyhow, after the initial Morane Monoplane debuted, changes to its design ensued and it became known as the Morane-Borel Monoplane (per the description in the Flight magazine write-up).

A short while later, Borel was out, and a new design was put into affect by Morane and Saulnier who formed their own business for their own Morane-Saulnier Monoplanes.

The former Morane-Borel Monoplane (our card) was now simply renamed the Borel Monoplane.

I know… holy crap, right? That was confusing. But accurate (thanks Flight magazine).

Continuing to clarify re: the French magazine article – which seemed to just present the side that Borel was the only one who had a hand in the Borel Monoplane (which might be correct), let’s take a look at the other guys who were involved with Borel, namely Morane-Saulnier.

I’m pulling THIS from Wikipedia:

“Together, Morane and Saulnier’s first aircraft was the Model A, a development of a monoplane design produced by the Morane company (sometimes called Morane-Borel, from the brothers partnership with Gabriel Borel). Using a wing-warping mechanism for control, this was the type in which Jules Védrines won the Paris-Madrid race on May 26, 1911.”

Okay… so far so good… it’s a real bugger to combine two magazine articles (one in French) with the Wikipedia entry.

“In 1911 a Model A Monoplane was launched propelled by a Gnome engine of 50 hp.”

But… Morane-Saulnier began working on creating a hydroplane version of the Model A Monoplane… a seaplane with a crew of two, achieving its first flight sometime in 1913.

The 50 horsepower Gnome engine was replaced with the more powerful Gnome Lamda rotary motor capable of producing 80 horsepower.

Other changes to the Seaplane version was that the pilot sat forward, slightly shifted to the right, to allow a better view for the second crewman in the back seat.

Borel Seaplane Specifications (from the July 26, 1913 edition of Flight magazine):

  • Crew: one. Later editions: two;
  • Capacity: one passenger;
  • Length: 8.38 meters (27 feet 6 inches);
  • Wingspan: 11.68 meters (38 feet 4 inches);
  • Wing area: 18square meters (190 square feet);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Gnome Lambda seven-cylinder rotary engine, pushing out 80 horsepower;
  • Propellers: 2-bladed, 2.59 meters (8 feet 6 inches) diameter.

In 1917 the Navy acquired a French Borel aircraft to be used in the School of Naval Aviation. Photos show that this aircraft might be the one produced in 1913.


A 1913 Borel Seaplane shown here in 1919 Brazil.

But we are talking about a four-year gap… so you can be sure that during the war, and the way that it forces manufacturers to come up with bigger and better weapons, the 1913 Borel Seaplane was long obsolete by 1917.

When WWI ended in November 11 of 1918, Borel’s aviation factories suffered a steep decline from 1919 on.

Lastly… I came across a website hosted by the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum… which is supposed to be pretty much up on their history of aviation.

They actually have a Morane-Borel Monoplane on display in its collection…. except they call it the Borel-Morane Monoplane… with the two names reversed.


According to the Canadian museum, the basic design of the monoplane was inspired by the Blériot XI, a French monoplane developed by Louis Blériot and Raymond Saulnier… Saulnier, of course, was part of the Société anonyme des aéroplanes Morane-Borel-Saulnier… so yeah… a Saulnier designed aeroplane.

Saulnier only worked briefly with Blériot, before leaving him to work on his own aeroplane… and then to join his childhood friend Leon Morane and Gilbert Borel to construct the Borel-Morane or Morane-Borel.

You might ask yourself just why this blog writer allows the Canadian museum to call it what it does, when it’s obviously a Morane-Borel Monoplane.

Well… the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum are actually the owner of that aeroplane in the above photo – the only known such Morane-Borel or Borel-Moran Monoplane known to still exist.  That’s why. They own it. They are a museum of world renown… they can call it what they like.

Who knows… maybe they are correct, and everyone else is wrong. I would love some clarification, however.

The Monoplane, according to the Canadian museum describes the single-seat aircraft has having: a simple V-leg landing gear with a small skid beside each wheel, a tall double tail skid, elliptical wingtips and a high rectangular rudder. The tailplane is fitted with tip elevators and the aft fuselage was sometimes left uncovered. The wing is braced with wires attached to a pyramidal pylon and the aircraft was usually powered by a cowled Anzani or Gnome engine of about 50 hp. The number of ribs in the Borel-Morane wings varied with the aircraft version.

That information can be found at http://casmuseum.techno-science.ca/en/collection-research/artifact-borel-morane-monoplane.php.

The actual aircraft in the possession of the museum can be traced back to the original owner: imported to the U.S. from France in 1912 by Belgian exhibition pilot Georges Mestach and his manager and mechanic Ernest Mathis.

The museum did the research showing that Mestach and Mathis took the plane across North America to make money stunt flying, with visits including Quebec City, Sherbrooke and Winnipeg (all in Canada, of course).

The aircraft crashed several times, once in Winnipeg, where the harsh prairie winds proved too much for the Borel-Morane. Another crash occurred during an air meet in Chicago, and resulted in North America’s first midair collision fatality. Earl S. Daugherty, an American exhibition pilot, then acquired and flew the aircraft and it remained in his family’s possession until the Museum purchased it in 2002.

It’s also safe to say that when the museum acquired the aeroplane, it was hardly in flyable condition… perhaps during restoration different wing lengths were considered from what we saw per l’Aérophile.

Geez… the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum mentions in its write-up North America’s first mid-air collision but does not state when, where exactly, between whom or even how it happened. I would think that an important omission.

Let me look… hmm… on September 14, 1912 at Cicero Aviation Field in Chicago, Illinois, Pilot Howard W. Gill was killed and pilot Georges Mestach in the Borel-Morane Monoplane was injured when their aircrafts collided in the mid-air during a race.

Wikipedia lists the date as September 20, 1912, but that date is incorrect, I believe… because there was no meet held on September 20… it was over by then. Proof of that as follows…

The following three images are from http://www.lincolnbeachey.com/cicart.html


chiaur650x420.jpgAs the final event of the day, Howard Gill and Tony Jannus raced biplanes around a course marked by pylons. That race had been completed, but Gill had not yet landed when officials told George Mestach to take-off.

George Mestach 1.jpg

Mestach believed he was to be the only one aloft, racing against the clock, not other aeroplanes, and failed to see Gill’s biplane ahead and below him. The landing gear of Mestach’s Morane-Borel monoplane struck and fractured the tail structure of Howard Gill’s Wright Model EX biplane. Mestach managed to make a safe but hard landing and was badly cut, but Gill perished after his uncontrollable biplane fell 50 feet. to the ground.

According to http://www.lincolnbeachey.com/cicart.html:

A crisis ensued. Heated complaints were openly voiced by aviators that the race should not have been held that late in the day, when the sun was low and visibility was decreased. Before Gill and Jannus started their race, Gill told officials (A.C.I. members, many of whom were not aviators) that it was too dark to race and that an accident would happen if more than one aeroplane went up. Statements were made later that the Meet’s officials had forced the aviators to fly in the deepening darkness, for fear of disappointing the crowd. Mestach stated that he had also protested flying in the darkness, and had been assured that his machine would be the only one flying. Incensed aviators adopted their own rules and conditions under which they would continue to participate in the Meet… one of those conditions was that no contests were to be held under unfavorable weather or lighting conditions. The aviators placed the responsibility for Gill’s death squarely on the shoulders of the Meet’s officials for allowing their poor judgment to endanger the aviators. Aviators, it seems, did not blame Mestach for Gill’s fatal plunge.

Anyhow, that’s about all I can find on the Morane-Borel or Borel-Moran monoplane.

A confusing entry to be sure. I think I spent weeks researching this one… probably longer than it took to build one back in the day from scratch.

As mentioned, I would love it if someone could clarify the actual NAME of the aircraft. I know its semantics, but I believe it’s important… and probably was important to both Morane and Borel… perhaps they had their own private battles as to which name should be placed first.

I’m also looking for confirmation on the death date of Borel (see very top of the article).

This, dear reader, is why I write this stuff out. It doesn’t seem right to me that people who gave so much of their very existence on this planet, have confusing histories. Please help me out, if you can.

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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10 Responses to Wills’s Aviation Card #69 – The Morane-Borel Monoplane.

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  2. moranepilot says:

    I would never imagine the protoplasts of my more modern Morane have such complicated story behind!


    • mreman47 says:

      That, my friend, is why I enjoy writing this blog. Things are always more complicated and interesting than they seem on the surface. I could go up to anyone on the street—and provided they were honest—I could ask the right questions and get a fabulous story out of them about themselves. People think they are themselves quite boring… but I think just asking the right questions will reveal so many interesting details even they had forgotten about.
      The aviation history is the same.
      When I look for information, I ask myself as many questions as I can… about what I would expect to see in an article… and usually, my questions go unanswered.
      It then becomes my challenge to try and get those answers.
      Unfortunately, I will never be able to get a feel for the aviator’s true personality. For that, I would need to do the one-on-one conversation… an impossibility considering most have been dead for 50 to 100 years. Cheers.


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  6. Jackie says:

    I too thank you for writing the article.
    I find it very interesting on what is said about my great grandpas brother George.
    Who knows I may one day be able to answer the question you put forth, from a letter or post card found from him.


  7. Kevin kirkman says:

    My family owned Borel – Morane about 90 years I have many pictures of Earl Daugherty in it , It was in my Barn with the Polson before Canadian Museum and Ohio Museum wanted to restore correctly. My Aunt Kay Daugherty had been misled so many years from Aircraft giants to restore them correctly, I found good homes for them


    • mreman47 says:

      Hi Kevin! Thanks for writing! Now… you called it Borel – Morane, and I called it Morel-Boran because of the card… which order of the names is correct? Cheers, and yeah, glad your aunt found good homes for those awesome planes.


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