Franco-British Aviation, the seaplane specialist
The Franco-British Aviation Company or "FBA" was a French-British seaplane manufacturer funded en 1913 in London. This entry should be in in the British section, but activities were quickly relocated to France, as the main designer, Louis Schreck, was French. He was technical director of the French subsidiary located in Argenteuil but took over global operations. The first task of the company was to develop a seaplane hull, derived from the Donnet-Lévêque Type A. This was a single-engine biplane, with a pusher engine mounted on struts mid-wings. Called FBA- Leveque at the beginning it was later renamed FBA Type A and entered production for the French Navy. This was a success, and it was soon widely exported among the entente nations: France, United Kingdom and the Russian Empire.
Production went on with the Type A in 1914 propelled by a 100 hp Gnome Omega and also used by Austria-Hungary (before the war), Brazil, Denmark, Italy, and Portugal. Productions figures are unknown but the Type A was followed by the near-identical Type B (Gnome 9B) in 1915 (150 built) and Type C (Gnome 9c, 130 hp) in 1916 (300) built, whereas since 1916 a revised version Type H also flew, the most largely built of all, with 1400 machines. The Type H proceeded from an admiralty request that wanted 1500 seaplanes to track U-boats over the Atlantic. The program was defined by Admiral Lacaze to arm naval air bases, which ordered 500 Donnet-Denhaut 150 hp seaplanes, Lévy-Le Pen models and and 500 FBA type H. Of these, 400 FBA were built in Argenteuil (Val-d'Oise) and the remainder 100 in Paris in Pierre Levasseur factories (which would be a main contractor for the French naval air arm in the interwar, in particular for the aircraft carrier Bearn). Italy ordered 900 type H at the end of 1916, which could not be met by the parent company. A new assembly plant was setup in Nice and a construction license was granted to Savoïa, cranking up 892 type H under license with Hispano-Suiza engines under licence by Isotta Fraschini. The US Naval Air arm also received 11 Type H for testings.
FBA Type H in Belgium
The Ultimate evolution of the FBA Type A, the Type S of 1917 was a model with equal wings without stagger, pilot and observer sharing the same cockpit. The FBA Type S was powered by a 280 hp Lorraine or Hispano-Suiza engine, the hull hydrodynamic properties were refined and the tail section was reworked. 250 were ordered, and received by the French Navy at the end of 1917 but only about 180 units were in actual service before the Armistice. The type was still used in 1923. The Type H was arguably the most successful model of the lineage, capable of patrolling four hours at 140 kph long distance from the coast. They all had machine guns for strafing attacks, ASW grenades and even sometimes light 37mm guns.
After the war in 1922, Emile Paumier became technical director and later developed the FBA Type 10 to 13, all prototypes never accepted for service. The Type 14 was a training model based on the Type H (20), the Type 16 was another prototype that prefigurated the successful Type 17, of which 348 were built, also used by the US Navy, Brazil and Poland from 1923. From the Type 19 (1924, 9 built), the company abandoned the standard pusher configuration for a tractor engine. From there, however production was small, single models for the civilan markets. The lack of orders precipitated the end of the company in 1931. In 1934, FBA was acquired the Bernard which in turn went bankrupt in July 1935.
FBA Type S onboard a French Cruiser in the early 1920s
As usual, production models are in bold, with production figures and date.
FBA Type B of the RNAS, close view of the cockpit
- FBA Type A 1914 (?500)
- FBA Type B 1915 (150)
- FBA Type C 1916 (300/c78?)
- FBA Type H 1916 (1400?)
- FBA Type S 1917 (500)