WW1 Planes
An encyclopediae of 1914-18 aircraft types


The Voisin brothers, European pioneers

The company founded by brother Charles and Gabriel Voisin was one of the most prolific manufacturer worldwide in 1914. Their expertise was not usurpated: It started in the early days of aviation, with the 1908 craze following the Wright Brother homologated flight. The compay was indeed created in 1906 by Gabriel Voisin, after acquiring the assets of Bleriot, and created Europe's first manned, heavier-than-air powered aircraft, capable of one kilometer of circular controlled flight. Planes became success and took a durable foothold in UK as well. The company turned to observation, training planes, then bombers for the duration of the war. The most famous was the Voisin III, but the lineage went up to the Voisin XII, a four-engine night bomber of 1918. After the war, Gabriel converted to sport and luxury cars which original style made quite an impression in the 1920s.

Henri Farman winning the Archdeacon Prize for the first closed-circuit kilometer flight in Europe

Development of Voisin models

The 1907 Voisin biplane, a cabane-type model pusher with front model with rear tails, largely influenced by Wright designs (about 70 produced), succeeded the 1909 Voisin Tractor, a prototype. Meanwhile production of the 1907 model went on, under names such as Delagrange I, or Farman I in the early days. Many modifications were made thanks to regular feedback by the buyers and numerous competitions and exhibitions. Farman had ended his collaboration with the Voisins in 1909. These planes were exported far and wide, in Europe and beyond. Captain Ferber, which had considerable influence on the development of aviation died in a Voisin and Louis Paulhan was the first to fly propelled by a Gnome Omega rotary engine. Harry Houdini also purchased one to fly over Australia. The 1910 Voisin Type de Course was designed by Gabriel Voisin as a racing aircraft, a two-seater, two-bay pusher biplane identified by its elevator mounted on the upcurved front of the nacelle, plus rear-mounted empennage. It was smaller and had shorter wing area, and was very stiff, thanks to making extensive use of metal. Two were built and extensively tested. The 1910 Voisin Type Militaire was the first army model, was an adaptation of the 1909 model with a machine-gun or light cannon in the front gondola. It was biplane with a pusher configuration but few photos exists of it. Another interesting model was the one-off competition biplane called Voisin Type Bordeaux. It was indeed purchased by Juan Bielovucic to attempt a flight from Paris to Bordeaux. It was the first model without a forward-mounted elevator. But it was still a two-bay pusher with a Gnome Omega 7 cylinder rotary engine, and made the flight, in four stages, about 540 km (340 mi) breaking numbers of records and making him a celebrity.

Voisin 1910 Type Militaire, with an alleged machine-gun but this more resembles a 37mm quick-firing gun.

The 1911 Voisin Canard was an evolution of the design, with a single enclosed fuselage and tail, reminiscent of Alberto Santos-Dumont's 14-bis. It was initially flown as a landplane but later fitted with floats. It has characteristic side-curtains placed on the outermost pair of interplane struts, and trailing-edge ailerons on both wings. Two examples were sold to the French Navy and to Russia. The French seaplanes were used for reconnaissance tests from the converted cruiser La Foudre and was redesigned and adapted by Henri Fabre, a seaplane pioneer. The second prototype was propelled by a 97 kW (130 hp) Gnome engine. It was delivered in December 1912 to the French Navy.

The 1911 Voisin canard served with the French Navy, from the first seaplane carrier, taking part in exercizes in 1912.

The 1911 Type Tourism is quite a foggy model with few informations available. However the next 1912 Type Monaco is better known. It was a smaller version of the Canard floatplane, of which two built to take part in the 1912 Monaco Aero Meeting. The 1912 Voisin Icare Aero-Yacht was a strange flying boat made for Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe. The wings and booms were mounted on a frame that rested on a Ricochet motorboat hull, itself was resting on three axles for large landing wheels in land configuration and propelled by a 200 hp (150 kW) Clerget engine in pusher configuration. It looked like a brick, but actually flew, on 23 November 1912 at Issy-les-Moulineaux, what's more, with six passengers. It could be fitted with machine-guns in military configuration. At last the 1912 Voisin Type L, also Voisin Type I was a production model made for the army. About 70 were made, and some were also sold to Russia. This pusher biplane launched a configuration that was to last until 1916 at least. Voisin philosophy was relatively conservative indeed, only pushing for small incremental design changes in the airframes in particular. The Type L was still used for training in 1914 but was quickly obsolete. It passed many tests with success and established the standard Voisin format, with larger wings spans and more powerful engines as the models were gradually converted as bombers.

The 1911 Voisin Type L Militaire or Voisin Type I served with the French Army until 1914 as a trainer/observation plane.

Wartime Voisin types

Here are following the mass-produced models seen more in detail below. The next 1914 Type LA or Voisin Type III (There are no mentions of a Type II, which probably remained on paper only), became the main Voisin type in production for the Army, and served in large quantities until 1916. Production of this Type increased slowly after the outbreak of the First World War. Indeed Voisin was slow to organize its production for more deliveries, preferring quality over quantity. The Voisin III was followed by the Type LB/Type LBS respectively designated Voisin IV and Voisin V aircraft for the Army. The Voisin VII appeared in 1916, and a hundred were built, as it was seen as largely obsolete in its configuration. Success returned with the Type LBP, or Voisin VIII, a very successful night bomber. It became the main type in use for this task for the French until 1917, with more than a thousand built.

Voisin Type III
Voisin Type LA bomber or Type III

Voisin tried the multipurpose light bomber/reconnaissance type with the Type LC or Voisin IX, but it lost the competition when facing the more modern Salmson 2 and Breguet 14. The next Voisin X was a reboot of the VIII with more reliable and cheaper production engines from Renault instead of the Peugeot models used until then. However production was delayed to the point production reached 900 planes at the end of the war. At last, the massive Voisin XII, which made successful in trials in 1918, was a pusher/tractor four-engine night bomber which looked both modern and elegant, but arrived too late to be ordered in numbers. Voisin also created an interesting derivative of its model X: It was the first flying ambulance made for any army. The single Voisin 'Aerochir' was capable of carrying a surgeon, an operating table and support equipment like an x-ray machine and autoclave right to battlefield areas and 360 kg of medical equipments under its wings. Although conservative, Voisin also tried once a triplane configuration for a bomber (see below).

The unique triplane bomber was an experiment of 1915. The first trials failed, and was modified with more powerful Hispano-Suiza engines, fying again in 1916. But results were still unconvincing and it was not ordered in production.

Below are following the production models with the estimated production figures in brackets.
  • Voisin Canard 1911 (c10)
  • Voisin Type I 1912 (c70)
  • Voisin Type III 1914 (c1350+)
  • Voisin Type IV 1914 (?)
  • Voisin Type VII 1915 (c100)
  • Voisin Type VIII 1916 (1000+)
  • Voisin Type IX 1916 (Prototypes)
  • Voisin Type X 1917 (c900)
  • Voisin Type XII 1918 (Prototypes)
Voisin X
Voisin X blueprint, showing a rather conservative design by 1916 standards

Voisin X nacelle
Nacelle of a Voisin X showing its powerful armament, a 37 mm Puteaux QF gun and a Hotchkiss 6.5mm machine-gun on a rear scarf.

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