From Henri Mignet’s tiny ‘Pou-de-Ciel’ to the latest composite designs, France has a long history of innovative light aircraft. One chapter of that story is being celebrated here at the Paris Air Show with the display of the Moynet Jupiter 360, a tandem-engine light twin that first appeared at the Paris show in 1965. The airplane is undergoing restoration with the aim of having it back in the air in 2015 to mark the 50th anniversary of its first flight and its debut appearance at Le Bourget.
Designed by André Moynet, a veteran pilot from the Normandie-Niemen fighter regiment that fought with the Russian air force during World War II, the Jupiter began life in 1957 as a single-engine airplane, but evolved into its unusual “push-pull” arrangement during the design process. Moynet adopted the configuration to provide the power and safety of a twin, but without asymmetric handling characteristics.
Moynet had the support of Marcel Chassigny, then the head of the Matra company, and between them they hoped that the Jupiter 360 could provide real competition to U.S.-designed light aircraft. Matra’s Lucien Tieles partnered with Moynet on the final design. Despite the proposal of a pressurized version, the Jupiter project was later abandoned.
Two examples of the Jupiter were built and flown (plus a single static test airframe), the first constructed by Matra and the second by Sud-Aviation. First flying at Villacoublay on Dec. 17, 1963, on the power of two 200-hp Lycoming IO-360s, the four-seat Jupiter 360-4, F-BLKE, is held in storage by the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace. Parts of its fuselage were to be used as the gondola of an abortive airship project, before it was recovered by Ailes Anciennes Le Bourget and presented to the museum.
Meanwhile, Moynet himself retained the second aircraft, the six-seater 360-6 F-BLKY, which first flew on May 23, 1965 with 290-hp IO-540 engines. It passed into the hands of the Musée Régional de l’Air Angers after Moynet’s death in 1993. Limited restoration work was carried out in 1994 and from 1998, before the major current restore-to-flight effort began in 2009, undertaken by six volunteers. In March 2012 the museum signed a partnership agreement with the Association Aérospatiale Matra to aid with the restoration.