Breguet XIV: the victory plane is 100 years old
Today, everyone knows that Michelin plays an important role in aeronautics... Half the planes in service all over the world are fitted with our tires and its thanks to our NZG technology that Concorde was able to take to the skies again after the terrible accident in 2000. But who knows that 100 years ago, Michelin was already at the cutting-edge of aircraft technology? It was the Manufacture in Clermont-Ferrand that designed the most emblematic aircraft of the time, collaborating with engineer Louis Breguet and his teams. It was nicknamed the Victory plane.
A passion for aviation right from the start
Michelin’s first steps in aviation were early on. After an initial balloon flight in 1896, André Michelin understood aviation's potential and became heavily involved in the industry’s development. He was a founding member of the Aéro-Club de France in 1903. Contributing to the rise of this burgeoning technology, he focused on two values that we are still using today: competition and promoting our expertise.
In 1908, a Special Michelin Cup and Trophy were set up. Over the years, they would encourage aviators to fly even further, even faster and even longer. The first cup winner was Henri Farman who traveled 1km. But already in 1911, pilots were capable of flying from Paris to Puy-de-Dôme in less than 6 hours. In parallel, the company launched the production of specific aeronautical products, in particular rubber-coated fabrics and canvases and, of course, tires!
The war effort: from the Breguet-Michelin I to the Victory plane
The outbreak of the war in 1914 changed everything. André Michelin, who had always defended the strategic importance of aviation, offered to make low-cost planes for the French government in the Clermont-Ferrand factory. The model designed by Louis Breguet was selected as it was capable of carrying several bombs. The first Breguet-Michelin type I was approved in 1915. Two other models were to follow: the Breguet II and the Breguet IV.
In 1916, the General Staff established a bombing school close to the capital of Auvergne, in Aulnat, on land prepared by Michelin to facilitate take-offs. This was the first hard runway in history.
At the same time, the Breguet and Michelin teams were developing a new, absolutely revolutionary plane. For its fuselage, they used a brand new alloy which was lighter and more resistant than any material previously used: duralumin. The engine was moved to the front and, by a technological miracle, the machine gun was synchronized so it could shoot through the rotor! The Breguet XIV was born. Its exceptional performances gave the allies the edge in the air and earned it its glorious nickname: the Victory plane.
When the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, 1,884 planes had left Michelin’s production lines for the skies of Europe. In line with the commitments made in 1914, the founding brothers gave up their aeronautic activities to avoid unfairly benefiting from infrastructures acquired during the war (and partly financed by the Army). They allowed this new industry to find its own feet, an industry which would become a global client.
Michelin continued to follow developments in aeronautics very closely, and with the design of more adapted tires and wheel rims, would help civil aviation take off. Today, this unfailing support is demonstrated through innovations like PresSense, a pressure sensor installed directly on the tire which simplifies maintenance operations.