Daher brought a replica Morane-Saulnier Type L Parasol World War I training airplane to its EAA AirVenture display this year, after an intensive six-year construction process by a team of volunteers consisting of retired and active Daher employees.
The project was managed by the Association Héritage Avions Morane-Saulnier, and Daher provided the workspace at its Tarbes, France headquarters, as well as tools, expertise and access to digital design software.
Daher launched the Parasol project to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the company’s roots in aerospace, which date back to Morane-Saulnier’s founding in 1911 and Daher’s purchase of the company in 2009 as part of its acquisition of Socata from Airbus. More than 1,800 pilots were trained in the Parasol during the First World War. Although more than 1,000 were built, none survived, so there were no examples to examine for the Daher project.
Morane-Saulnier sold its first airplane to a U.S. customer in 1912. “It was important to salute the U.S.,” said Nicolas Chabbert, senior v-p of Daher’s airplane business unit, explaining why the company brought the Parasol to Oshkosh. “The U.S. came to rescue us during World War I.”
The volunteers who worked on the Parasol were a combination of young Daher employees and older retirees. Engineers took the 1915 Morane-Saulnier drawings and converted them into files in Catia design software, then the team used that information to make the primarily wood parts, which are covered with fabric. The Parasol has no ailerons and, like the original Wright Flyer, uses wing warping for banking. It also has an all-flying elevator and rudder.
One problem surfaced in the design of the wing warping controls, according to Daniel Bacou, president of the Association Héritage Avions Morane-Saulnier. One of the young engineers carefully analyzed the wing-warping mechanism using modern computer techniques, but when the system was built, the maximum travel was only about half the needed 40 centimeters. One of the older engineers looked at the system and suggested lengthening one of the control cables, and that restored the 40-centimeter travel. “They learned a lot working with each other,” he said.
The team invested more than 15,000 man-hours in the Parasol project. Some modern touches were added, such as a 110-hp Rotec radial engine instead of the original 80-hp Le Rhone rotary engine. The Rotec will make the airplane much easier to control, since the original rotary engine's cylinders rotate around a fixed crankshaft along with the huge propeller, generating massive amounts of torque.
Transporting the Parasol to Oshkosh had its own challenges. The airplane couldn’t fit into standard containers, so the special projects department of Daher’s parent company designed and made a customized container. It was trucked to Le Havre, where it traveled on a ship to New York, then back on a truck to Oshkosh. The entire trip was monitored by Daher’s Connected Container real-time tracking system.
Daher chief test pilot Stéphane Jacques will be the first to fly the Parasol. As the airplane has no brakes, it must be flown from a suitable grass field, but there is no grass strip at Daher’s Tarbes, France headquarters, so a field nearby will be selected, according to Bacou. But its location will remain secret until after the first flight, to avoid crowds coming to see the historic event. The Parasol has an empty weight of 925 pounds and carries 21 gallons of fuel. Maximum speed is estimated at 68 knots, ceiling at 12,000 feet and endurance at 3 hours, 30 minutes.
“We thank Daher for the fantastic support it brought to our project,” he said. “Every level of the company—from top executives to workers on the production floor and in the shops—made a contribution to this project from the start, when it was difficult to imagine we could bring this element of aviation history to life. Having the Parasol replica at Oshkosh is simply a dream come true for our members.”