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Voisin (aircraft)

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Voisin (aircraft)

For other uses, see Voisin (disambiguation).
Société Anonyme des Aéroplanes G. Voisin
Industry Aerospace
Founded 1906
Headquarters France
Key people Gabriel Voisin
Maurice Colieux

Voisin was a French aircraft manufacturing company, one of the first in the world. It was established in 1906 by Gabriel Voisin and his brother Charles, and was continued by Gabriel after the death in an automobile accident of Charles Voisin in 1912; the full official company name then became Société Anonyme des Aéroplanes G. Voisin[1][2][n 1] (English: Aeroplanes Voisin public limited company). It created Europe's first manned, heavier-than-air powered aircraft capable of a sustained (1 km), circular, controlled flight, including take-off and landing, the Voisin-Farman I.

During World War I, it was a major producer of military aircraft, notably the Voisin III. After the war Gabriel Voisin abandoned the aviation industry, and set up a company to design and produce luxury automobiles, called Avions Voisin.


Gabriel had previously collaborated with fellow aviation pioneer Louis Blériot, forming the company Ateliers d' Aviation Edouard Surcouf, Blériot et Voisin in 1905.[3] Gabriel Voisin bought out Louis Blériot and on 5 November[3] 1906 established the Appareils d'Aviation Les Frères Voisin with his brother Charles [3] (English: Flying Machines of Voisin Brothers). The company was based at Billancourt, a suburb of Paris; this was the first commercial aircraft factory in Europe.[4]

Early history

Like many early aircraft companies, Voisin were prepared to build machines to the designs of customers, which work served to support their own design experiments. The company's first customers were a M. Florencie,[5] who commissioned them to build an ornithopter he had designed, and Henri Kapferer, for whom they built a pusher configuration biplane of their own design. The latter was underpowered, having a Buchet engine of only 20 hp (15 kW), and it failed to fly. However, Kapferer introduced them to Leon Delagrange, for whom they built a similar machine, powered by a 50 hp (37 kW) Antoinette engine. This was first successfully flown on 30 March 1907, achieving a straight-line flight of 60 m (200 ft). In turn Delagrange introduced them to Henri Farman, who ordered an identical aircraft. These two aircraft are often referred to by their owners' names as the Voisin-Delagrange No.1 and the Voisin-Farman No.1, and were the foundation of the company's success. On 13 January 1908 Farman used his aircraft to win the "Grand Prix de l'aviation" offered by Ernest Archdeacon and Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe for the first closed-circuit flight of over a kilometre. Since the achievements of the Wright Brothers were widely disbelieved at the time, this was seen as a major breakthrough in the conquest of the air, and brought Voisin Frères many orders for similar aircraft; around sixty were built.

Designs of 1907-1914

Only one built.
Initially flown as a landplane but later fitted with floats. Examples were sold to the French Navy and to Russia.
  • 1912 Type Monaco
Smaller version of the Canard floatplane. Two built to take part in the 1912 Monaco Aero Meeting.
  • 1912 Voisin Icare Aero-Yacht
Flying boat built for Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe
  • 1912 Voisin Type L or Voisin Type I
Developed for the French Army's 1912 trials. It performed successfully, and some seventy were built in France, and a small number in Russia
  • 1914 Type LA or Voisin Type III

Voisin designs in World War I

Main article: Voisin III

production of the Type III increased with the outbreak of the First World War. The Voisin III was followed by improved Type LB and Type LBS, or Voisin IV and Voisin V aircraft. The larger Type LC, Voisin VII, followed in 1916, but was not a success and only a hundred were built.

Soon after the outbreak of the First World War, it became apparent that the French aviation industry could not produce aircraft in sufficient numbers to meet military requirements. Manufacturers from various other fields became aviation subcontractors, and later license-builders. The earliest such partnership was between Louis Breguet and Michelin. Gabriel Voisin was late to this field, although his designs were produced in quantity by Russian licensees. By 1918, Voisin was involved with the Voisin-Lafresnaye company, a major constructor of airframes, and the Voisin-Lefebvre company, a major builder of aircraft engines.

Following the Voisin VII came the more powerful, and more successful, Type LAP and Type LBP, known as the Voisin VIII. This was the French army's main night bomber in 1916–1917, with over one thousand built. The Voisin IX, or Type LC, was an unsuccessful design for a reconnaissance aeroplane, which lost out to the superior Salmson 2 and Breguet 14. The Voisin X, Type LAR and Type LBR, was the Voisin VIII with a more reliable Renault engine in place of the previous Peugeot design. Deliveries were much delayed, but some nine hundred were built by the end of the war.

The last significant Voisin design, the Voisin XII, was successful in trials in 1918, but with the end of the war, no production was ordered. Unlike previous Voisins, the Voisin XII was a large, twin-tractor-engined biplane night bomber, rather more elegant than previous, boxy Voisins.

Voisin X ambulance variant

In 1918, a Voisin X (No. 3500) was used to create the Voisin 'Aerochir' ('Ambulance'). The aircraft was capable of flying a surgeon, together with an operating table and support equipment, including an x-ray machine and autoclave, into the battlefield. Eight hundred pounds (360 kg) of equipment could be carried in under-wing panniers.[6]

Post World War I

Main article: Avions Voisin

After 1918, Gabriel Voisin abandoned the aviation industry in favor of automobile construction under the brand Avions Voisin.

Other types of aircraft

  • Voisin Triplane


See also



  • (French) Carlier, Claude, Sera Maître du Monde, qui sera Maître de l'Air: La Création de l'Aviation militaire française. Paris: Economica/ISC, 2004. ISBN 2-7178-4918-1
  • Davilla, James J., & Soltan, Arthur M., French Aircraft of the First World War. Stratford, Connecticut: Flying Machines Press, 1997. ISBN 0-9637110-4-0
  • Opdycke, Leonard E French Aeroplanes Before the Great War Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1999 ISBN 0-7643-0752-5
  • Voisin, Gabriel, Mes 10,000 Cerfs-volants, Editions La Table Ronde, Paris, 1960.

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