The Lioré et Olivier LeO H-246 was a flying boat designed and manufactured in France. Powered by four Hispano-Suiza 12Xirs V-12 liquid-cooled piston engines, it was designed for the Mediterranean routes of Air France.

Seating was provided for 26 passengers and four crew, and the French airline placed orders for six examples plus the prototype for delivery from 1939. The aircraft could fly up to 2,000km (1,200 miles) with a cruising speed of 255km/h (158mph or 138 knots).

Lioré et Olivier LeO H-246

Following on from the last video about the Czech made Let L-410 Turbolet, this time we stay in Europe for a look at the Sud-Est LeO H-246. During 1939, the prototype and first production aircraft were readied for Air France. In spite of the outbreak of war, passenger service commenced on 14 October on the Marseille to Algiers route in the upgraded prototype F-AOUJ, carrying 27 passengers, 540kg of cargo and 409kg of mail.

Inside, the cabin was divided in two by a bar on the port side and a toilet on the starboard side. 14 passenger seats were provided up front, with the remainder in the rear. Luggage and cargo was stored behind this and the main entrance door was on the port rear of the aircraft.

The third production aircraft was taken by the French Navy and modified into a bomber, allowing it to drop 600kg of bombs. It and three ex-Air France aircraft were requisitioned by the Germans and used on transport missions during the war. They were equipped with defensive armaments and all four were destroyed in air raids during the Spring of 1944.

Once the war was over, the two surviving Air France LeO H-246s (F-AREJ – which had been shot at by the RAF on 13 August 1942 and landed safely in Algiers despite four passengers being killed, and F-AREL) were used to restart the Marseille to Algiers service. They were used in this capacity through to September 1946 when they were finally withdrawn from use, having clocked up 1,079 and 1,459 flying hours respectively.

Overall Thoughts

There were just seven Sud-Est LeO H-246 flying boats produced, comprising of one prototype (later upgraded to production standard) and six production aircraft. Air France was the sole airline operator of the aircraft, using them for a relatively short period of time.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any video footage on YouTube, so we’re unable to see the plane in action. None of the aircraft survive so there is no way you can visit one in person. Additional information can be found here and here (including the production list).

Did you know that the Lioré et Olivier LeO H-246 flying boat existed? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image via Nico Braas Collection.
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