Friday, 6 December 2013

Jacques Guignard - from Spitfire to S.O. 9000 Trident to Concorde - maiden flight of Concorde, 2 March 1969

Concorde first flew on 2 March 1969 with André Turcat at the controls and Jacques Guignard in the co-pilot's seat (below, second left), the first flight lasting 29 minutes.

Above; Jacques Guignard - from Spitfire to Concorde or "  l'homme de tous les Trident " - lit. 'the Trident man'. From an article series on the Trident in Le Fana de l'Aviation 1975

Born on 18 June 1920 Jacques Guignard trained as a pilot in 1939 and fled to England in 1940 after the fall of France following the German invasion. He retrained as an RAF Spitfire pilot. According to Chris Ehrengardt in "Pilotes de chasse Français 1939-45" he made two claims while flying Spitfires with 340 Squadron (GC IV/2 'Ile de France')- shooting down a Fw 190 on 29 June 1944 and a Bf 109 during September 1944. Jacques Noetinger in his " Rigueur et Audace aux essais en vol " credits him with a Do 17 shot down over Dieppe on 19 August 1942. His war ended in late 1944 after 370 missions. He wrote about his experiences in England in an issue of ICARE magazine (issue no. 138). Looking ahead he had decided to re-train as a test pilot and in 1945 he was selected to train at the Empire Test Pilot School at Boscombe Down (ETPS). Returning to France - with an English wife who would die of illness only a few years later - he took up a career test-flying some of the weird and wonderful French prototypes of the late 1940s and 1950s. Having tested the Vautour extensively he was at the controls for the first flight of the mixed jet powerplant and SEPR rocket-powered S.O. 9000 Trident at Melun-Villaroche on 2 March 1953 - a simple, light, 'cigar-shaped' point-interceptor 'fighter' potentially capable of Mach 2, with short straight wings of zero dihedral and sweep-back designed by Lucien Servanty. The SEPR rocket technology was based on German research and designed to assist takeoff and boost climb performance when the aircraft was scrambled in pursuit of enemy bombers. Another significant new feature of the Trident was the tailplane which comprised three entirely 'mobile' surfaces set at 120 degree angles to each other enabling the designer to dispense with the classic aileron/rudder/stabiliser configuration. The entire cockpit section detached from the aircraft where the pilot required to 'eject'. Followed from the ground by a radio car on the first flight, Guignard was heard to utter a laconic "ça vole.. its flies.." and once back on the  ground stated, " I don't know what it was like to fly..I never touched anything!"..While the aircraft was fitted with ailerons for the first twelve test flights, these were subsequently deleted in favour of the powered all-moving tail surfaces. Guignard went on to demonstrate the aircraft at the Le Bourget Salon in 1953 - as reported in Flight International, below - before a near-fatal crash on 01 September 1953..

SO.9000 Trident

Above;  the 're-designed' SO. 9050 Trident II 006 'M' on the runway at Istres.

 In a coma for ten days, his injuries were so severe his surgeons gave him just hours to live. By some miracle he pulled through but  it was 18 months before he was back in a cockpit but although he had not fully regained the use of his legs he went on to demonstrate a pre-series Vautour at the 1955 Le Bourget Salon. Guignard crashed in the Trident (for a second time) at Istres in 1956 but escaped unscathed as the cockpit section detached from the rest of the aircraft. After gaining several climb to altitude records during April 1958 (45,700 feet in 2 mins 37 secs from a standing start)  the Trident programme was terminated in favour of the Mirage III. With the fusion of various French aviation companies into 'Sud-Aviation' Guignard's next major test programme was on the Caravelle, all of which served during the long and painstaking preparations for the first flight of the Concorde. Jacques Guignard was on the flight deck that took Concorde aloft over Toulouse on 2 March 1969 - 'la une' (the front page) of  Paris Match below. By this stage he had over 7,000 flight hours in his logbook of which 5,000 had been testing and retirement beckoned.. He passed away during the night of 11/12 October 1988.

Featured post

Victor B.2 XL513 & XL 512 carrying Blue Steel - ebay photo find #57

An original Ministry of Defence photograph of Handley Page Victor B.2 XL513 equipped with a Blue Steel Missile. Note the four Vulcans on...