Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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May 1906. Antoinette engine.
May 1906. Antoinette IV boat.
1906 Q4. 24 cylinder motor.
1909. Antoinette VI.
1909. 100hp motor.
Aintoinette aero engine at Milan Museum of Science and Technology

Antoinette was a short-lived (1903-1912) French manufacturer of light petrol engines. Antoinette also became a builder of distinctively graceful, record-breaking monoplane aircraft flown by Hubert Latham (1883-1911) and Rene Labouchere.

The company, La Société Antoinette, led by Léon Levavasseur (1863-1922) and financed by Jules Gastambide, was incorporated in 1906 and based in Puteaux. Gastambide was president, Levavasseur was technical director, and Louis Blériot was, for a time, the vice-president. Antoinette was the name of Gastambide's daughter.

The company, also displayed a car at the 1906 Paris Salon de l'Automobile, having a 32hp V-8 engine and hydraulic clutches, instead of a gearbox and differential.

The following year, a 4 cylinder 16hp engine and then a 30hp V-8 engine were also made available to sportsmen by "Antoinette". The last and most powerful "Antoinette" engine was a V-16 developing 100 horsepower. It was mounted on an Antoinette VII monoplane in 1910 in order to compete in the Gordon-Bennett Cup. Antoinette engines were also installed in fast boats built for racing purposes.

In October 1906, an Antoinette engine powered Europe's first heavier-than-air flying machine to fly, the Santos-Dumont 14-bis.

In January 1908, a Voisin pusher biplane modified and piloted by Henri Farman successfully completed Europe's first 1 kilometre circular flight, landing where it had taken off. This Farman-Voisin biplane was powered by a water cooled Antoinette V-8 engine which developed 50 horsepower at 1,400 RPM. It used an early form of direct petrol injection and weighed only 190 pounds in working order, including the water-filled cooling system. Its power-to-weight ratio was not surpassed for another 25 years.

In 1906, Antoinette's 25- and 50-horsepower engines gave European aviation its start. Excellent as they were, these lightweight aero engines were subject to stopping if the tiniest bit of dirt or debris found its way into the fuel to clog their early fuel injection systems. A routine practice at the time was to pour in the petrol through a funnel lined with chamois leather that served as a microfilter. That the Antoinette engine could quit during flights is illustrated by Hubert Latham's aborted English Channel crossing on July 19th 1909, when the renowned pilot had to ditch his monoplane on the water halfway to the English coast.

Bleriot's monoplane succeeded a few days later, on July 25th 1909, largely thanks to a much simpler and more reliable 25hp air-cooled Anzani 3W radial engine. It was only in 1909, with the advent of the 50hp Gnome Omega rotary engine, that early aviators like Henri Farman gained a superb and distinctly more reliable French aero engine as an option.

In 1907, an "Antoinette" engine powered the first true helicopter, designed by Paul Cornu.

An 'Antoinette' engine powered the first Cody plane in 1908

V-8 Aero Engine

This was a remarkably advanced engine, first produced in 1904. Aluminium crankcase and cylinder heads. Separate cast iron cylinders with electrolytically-deposited copper cooling jackets. Evaporative cooling system. By 1909 cylinders and heads were machined from steel forgings. Opposite pairs of cylinders were offset so that pairs of connecting rods could share a crankpin. A variable stroke pump injected fuel into a pocket in the head of each cylinder, from where it was drawn into its cylinder as a fine spray when the automatic inlet valve opened.[1] [2]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 'The Development of Piston Aero Engines' by Bill Gunston, second edition, 1999, Patrick Stephens Ltd
  2. 'World Encyclopaedia of Aero Engines' by Bill Gunston, Patrick Stephens Ltd, 1986