Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome

This page contains photographs and information on the Nieuport XI and
The Caudron GIII aircraft.

1915 Nieuport 11 Biplane
aka Nieuport Bébé and Nieuport  Scout

The first set of photographs were taken in September, 1998. In 1997, we did not have the opportunity to see this beautiful reproduction. The aircraft is painted in the colors of Victor Chapman, a local man who was a founding member of the Lafayette Escadrille, and the first American airman to lose his life  in WWI. Since no American planes were ready for combat,  many Americans flew  this beautiful French fighter plane. Notice how the machine gun is mounted over the wing, above the propeller. This was before the synchronized propeller was invented. This aircraft was also known as the Nieuport Type 13 (based on the wing area in square meters), but the official nomenclature for this aircraft is Nieuport 11c.1.

Nieuport Fighter
Nieuport in flight

The prototype for the Nieuport 11 fighter was scheduled  to fly in the 1914 Gordon-Bennett contest. WWI stopped the contest, but England, France, Belgium and Italy were quick to order these planes for their military. Power was obtained from a 80 hp Le Rhône 9C rotary engine. This reproduction has an original Le Rhône engine and instruments. The Bébé (baby) was small in size (19' long and 25' wing span), but big in performance with a fast rate of climb nearly 550 ft/min, and  highly  maneuverable. The wing design featured a narrow, slender lower wing; many called it a half wing, and the upper wing had a swept back design. These wing features made the plane very maneuverable, and somewhat dangerous. The lower wing was sometimes known to break off in flight due to inadequate bracing. I believe the photograph above helps illustrate the wing characteristics. With a top speed close to 100 mph, and it's fixed mount 47 round Lewis 7.7mm machine gun: it was a formidable aircraft. At Rhinebeck this little fighter puts on a fantastic show. In the hands of the French ace, Jean Navarre, it was a  deadly weapon. This plane helped the allies rid the "Fokker Scourge" over the skies of France in 1916. French General Pétain needed air superiority for the Battle of Verdun. He regained control with the help of this little aircraft. The  German Fokker Eindecker was no match for this aircraft, and Germany no longer controlled the skies with the Eindecker. Later on, in 1918, when American squadrons came into the war, a newer version of Nieuport evolved and was named the Nieuport 28. This was the plane that American aces such as Eddie Rickenbacker scored many of his victories. By that time the French had the Spad. In reading the memoirs of Captain Rickenbacker , it can be learned that the Nie.28 was a magnificent fighter in the hands of expert flyers. The wings did fail (Nie.11) , the fabric peeled off (Nie.28) and the guns did jam, but with skill and luck the good pilots were able to overcome these major obstacles.


The 1913 Caudron G.III

1913 Caudron
The 1913 Caudron @ Rhinebeck in October, 1999.

I think it is amazing to see the difference in these aircraft. Two years made a big change in design. Both are French machines and were highly regarded in their time. The French produced over 2400 Caudron G.III's. The Caudron is a two place aircraft used mainly for observation, and training. The Caudron was proven to be tough and reliable. In addition to France, the Caudron was used and built under license in England as well as Italy where the mountainous terrain demanded an aircraft that had exceptional climbing ability. The maximum speed was 67 mph and the service ceiling was ~13k feet. The Caudron pictured above is painted in the colors of an Italian artillery reconnaissance/observation squadron. The aircraft usually was flown unarmed and continued to be used by the Italians until 1916 in an observation role. This aircraft is also powered by an 80 hp Le Rhône rotary engine. I hope to get a photograph of this aircraft in flight next year. It was too windy to fly this fragile beauty on this day. (Note: Much of the information on the Caudron was from the Fall 1999 issue of "Rotary Ramblings".)

All Photos taken by Fred Sgrosso.

Fuji 400 print film was used on the Nieuport photos, and Kodak Gold Max 400 film on the Caudron. The camera was an autofocus Canon EOS A2 fitted with my trusty 100-300mm Canon zoom.

This page was updated 11 December 99.

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