A little known fact is that the French aviation industry also produced flying boats. The Latécoère 521 first took to the sky on 10 January 1935, and was considered a long-range aircraft at the time, flying up to 4,100 kilometres or 2,500 miles.
While originally designed to be powered by four engines, the final configuration featured six Hispano-Suiza 12Y power plants. This flying boat was a true giant of its day.
Latécoère 521 Video
Following on from the last video about the Vickers Viking, we stay in Europe to look at the French Latécoère 521. There are two presentations here, with the first lasting just 30 seconds. This English newsreel shows the fuselage being rolled out of the factory.
Following that is a longer video lasting just over two minutes. Featuring still photographs as well as more newsreel footage, this gives a real feel for the aircraft.
The double deck design is quite obvious here, especially in the head on shot. I was not expecting the upper deck to be so much narrower than the rest. It links in well with the first video when you see the plane in two halves.
A maximum of 72 passengers could be carried. The lower deck comprised of a salon with 20 armchairs and tables, six deluxe double cabins, and other seating for 22 passengers. Upstairs another 18 passengers could be carried. Transatlantic passenger capacity was usually 26, all on the lower deck.
I had no idea this aircraft existed until I saw a picture of the Latécoère 522 “Ville de Saint Pierre” on the Facebook page of the Foynes Flying Boat Museum. Just five flying boats were produced, the original 521, a single 522 and three of the 523 armed maritime patrol version.
On 14 July 1939, the aircraft completed the first non-stop crossing of the North Atlantic by flying boat. It took 28 hours and 27 minutes to fly from New York to Lac de Biscarrosse in France. After around 12 crossings, World War II occurred and the aircraft were destroyed.
Other flying boats of the era such as the British Short Empire, the American Boeing 314 and the Martin M-130 all saw far more passenger service than the French plane. Even so, it was an achievement in aviation and one to remember.
Did you know of the existence of the Latécoère 521 and 522? What do you think of the videos? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
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