- Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Shell Companies Foundation,
Louis-Charles Breguet was a French airplane designer and builder, born in Paris, France on January 2, 1880. With his brother, Jacques and under the guidance of Professor Charles Richet, he began work on a gyroplane (the forerunner of the helicopter) with flexible wings in 1905. It achieved the first ascension of a vertical-flight aircraft with a pilot in 1907. His first airplane, which he built in 1909, set a speed record in 1911 for its 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) flight. Also that year, he founded the Société des Ateliers d'Aviation Louis Breguet. In 1912, Breguet constructed his first hydroplane.
He is especially known for his development of a reconnaissance airplane used by the French in World War I and through the 1920s. One of the pioneers in the construction of metal aircraft, the Breguet-14 day bomber, perhaps the most famous French warplane of all time, was made almost entirely of aluminum. As well as the French, sixteen squadrons of the American Expeditionary Force also used it.
In 1919, he founded the Compagnie des Messageries Aeriennes, which evolved into Air France.
Over the years, his aircraft set several records. A Breguet plane made the first nonstop crossing of the South Atlantic in 1927. Another made a 4,500-mile (7,242-kilometer) flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1933, the longest nonstop Atlantic flight up to that time.
He returned to his work on the gyroplane in 1935. Created with co-designer René Dorand, the craft, called the Gyroplane Laboratoire, flew by a combination of blade flapping and feathering. On December 22, 1935, it established a Federation Aeronautique Internationale speed record of 67 miles per hour (108 kilometers per hour). It was the first to demonstrate speed as well as good control characteristics. The next year, it set an altitude record of 517 feet (158 meters).
Breguet remained an important manufacturer of aircraft during World War II and afterwards developed commercial transports.
He died on May 4, 1955 in Paris, France.