triplane as it was when given to the "Air and Space"
10th August 1911.
representing the triplane in its second form.
of the triplane, by Mr Désiré Delforge, photographer at
Discovery of a precursor
equipped with variable incidence upper and lower wings; the French
pilot François Chassagne tested it in 1912.
and breveted in 1911 by César Battaille, inventor and industrial
living at Basècles (Hainaut).
1972, the family Battaille gave the remains of the machine at
the Air and Space section of the Royal Army museum of Brussels.
and historical context
was in the early days of aviation. Still in its infancy, airplanes
were still experimental. Builders were often pilots and continuously
out of founds.
why they often participated in races to get the quite big prices
attributed to the winners.
for publicity, several cities were organizing aviation meetings
with attractive prices. In 1909, the meeting of Reims was made
possible thanks to the generosity of the great Champagne producers
grouped in a comity presided by the marquis of Polignac.
total of the prices amounted 200.000 gold-francs. As an indication,
the price of a brand new Farman was 25.000 gold-francs.
reputation of the organising firms gave to the « week of Reims
» an international prestige that attracted large crowds in the
field of Bétheny, next to the doors of the city, from the 22nd
till the 29th August 1909. Blériot just crossed the Channel. He
was there, as well as other celebrity of the time: Farman, Latham,
Curtiss, Paulhan amongst others.
of the period, representing the airplane, as it will be,
of the Triplane's remain.
1990, the fuselage
structure is finished and the landing gear is being built.
few weeks later, there was another meeting held between the 5th
and the 14th September: the "week of aviation of Tournai".
pilots went there also: Paulhan on a "Farman", Brégi,
Lastemas, Bonnet-Labranche on "Blériot" and some local
aviators: Vandamme with a "Serive" glider, Henri Crombez
on "Debongnies monoplane" and the toumaisien Walter
Bulot presenting his triplane.
meeting was hindered by bad weather and only Paulhan, with his
Octavie III, was able to do some good flights; amongst those a
Toumai-Froidmont trip (in other terms 12 km in 10 minutes) and
a flight till Taintignies, where he landed next to the castle
of Monsieur H. Crombez, burgomaster of the locality and father
of Henri Crombez.
one mounted the Debongnies type A (Anzani of 18 HP). It was the
first aircraft of Belgian construction to take the air.
was less lucky. Sunday the 12th of September, towards 15 o'clock,
he crashed and was badly wounded when a sudden and violent wind
blew while flying at an altitude of 30m.
Bulot tried in vain to take off with his own built triplane: too
heavy, the plane was just able to roll on 100m without leaving
of the Battaille triplane
it the view of the "Antoinette" at Reims or, at Tournai,
during the presentation of the tiplane Bulot that César Battaille
started to think building his own triplane?
is impossible to precise when the first drafts have been traced
and when the decision to built has been taken.
in the sculpture workshop of César Bataille that the airplane
was conceived and small pieces manufactured.
the new tank, at left Bruno Dona, at right René Vanderidt
many pieces to manufacture, the radiator.
Landing gear, engine, airscrew and top wing in place.
a few sketch have been found, very damaged and undated. Drawings
must have existed but have disappeared since. We have as well
a copy of the brevet.
note about the drawings joined with the brevet: they are inexact
if compared with the existing hardware.
was a common practise at the time: Mr Henri Bollekens, aircraft
builder from 1910 to 1917,told us that the first airplane manufacturers
were doing so to avoid copy and plagiat by concurrent firms.
aircraft was built by Henri Jonnieaux, more than probably with
the help of Alfred Bertiaux, mechanic at the Battaille factory
of Basècles. The construction was done between 1910 and 1911.
referring to a handwritten note at the back of a frontal picture
of the aircraft, the first flight took place the 16th of August
trials of the triplan Battaille continued. Went it really airborne
or was it simply bumping? The father of César, Octave Battaille,
wanted to limit the risks encountered by his son and diminished
the credits allocated to the engine, so limiting the available
Grégoire (GYP) four cylinder of 40 HP engine was selected. The
very limited power would allow only for very brief flights.
the trials, the airplane was continuously modified, a common practise
of the time.
First World War stopped the trials. It must have been in reparation
at this time: when found back, it was dismantled and a part of
the fuselage was new, the main booms having been repaired.
the end of the war, César Battaille, pushing aside bombs and airplane
construction, concentrated on his industrial and artistic activities.
One of the original
wings, found hanging at the ceiling of an abandoned garage.
The many ribs needed to construct the missing wings being manufactured.
of the wings.
One of the very
first aeroplane next to one of its descendant.
triplane, dismantled, has been hanged at the ceiling of a barely
used hangar of the Basècles factory.
with dust, it degraded and distorted gradually.
Battaille triplane at the Air museum
the end of 1971, thanks to the action of Commandant Verelst, the
remains of the aircraft were retrieved and donated to the museum.
was in a sorry state: an incomplete fuselage, remains of the tail
and various bits and pieces.
was not a lot but, without any surviving drawings, it was a lot:
the airplane still exists.
only available documents were:
brevet and its unreliable drawings;
pictures - format 9 x 13.
of the very bad condition of the airplane, it was decided to start
working on it immediately to save what can be saved.
remain of the fuselage was put in a jig, dismantled, repaired,
re-varnished and remounted.
tail was next, missing of too damaged pieces being manufactured.
Using the scare documentation available, a new landing gear had
to be drawn and built.
fuselage covering had to be completely renewed and a new upper
fuselage, seat, steering wheel and masts built.
original rudder was completed, a fuel tank and a radiator built.
no 4-cylinder Grégoire engine to use for the restoration, an available
contemporary engine, whose engine mounts corresponded to the ones
of the triplane, was selected: a Chenu engine of 1908-1910.
in 1998, ready to be fabric covered.
Note that the
radiator is still not in place.
Preparation of the wings, 1997.
Fabric covering of one of the median wings.
spring 1991, Mr Winders, small nephew of the inventor and manager
of the Battaille factory of Baseclès, reported the following:
during cleaning works of an old area of the factory, workers found
a wing suspended to the ceiling of an abandoned garage.
team of the BARMS retrieved this relic, nothing else than the
upper wing of the triplane.
wing, in a very good stage of conservation, was composed of spruce
booms and oak ribs fixed with woodscrews. A metallic tube maintained
rigidity and allowed the rotation of the wing.
has to be noted that the wing is composed of 22 ribs, when study
of the pictures reveals 26.
it a last modification, or a spare wing that has never been used?
we had now the exact profile of the ribs, we knew how those wings
were built and a good idea of how the wings rotation mechanism
By extrapolation, medium and
lower wings were drawn and built.
In 1988 the work is finished,
at least for the structure. The fabric covering required a lot
Amongst other, the manufacturing of a machine
to produce the hundreds of special roundels that were used to
attach the fabric with the structure.
Once finished, the triplane had still to
be put in a surrounding remembering the others realizations of
its inventor, César Battaille.
The Chenu engine, its airscrew and the radiator finally in place.
Fuselage being moved to the first floor.
After a long
wait for a crane able to move the cumbersome ancestor to the Great
Hall's first floor, a stand has been built by non-vertigo benevolent.
Protected by a sheet of
fabric from birds gifts and other dirt quite abundant in this
area, the stand put the triplane in value while some plasters,
straight from César Battaille's sculpture workshop, remember the
inventor's other activities.
The past and present activity
of the family being remember by some "genuine" fertilizer bags.