René Couzinet, an aircraft engineer and manufacturer, designed a great number of flying machines. Yet the most notorious and remembered one must be the Arc-en-Ciel piloted by Mermoz from Saint-Louis-du-Senegal to Natal, South America, in 14 hours and 32 minutes on January 16, 1933. Mermoz’ new record and the distinctive shape of the aircraft live in our memories.
However the Arc-en-Ciel is not a creatio ex nihilio. Prior to the Couzinet 70, the type 10 (1927) heralded the general shape of the aircraft. Then came the type 27 (1928) and lastly, the type 33 (1931) a sporting four seater. This much smaller model already bore the forms of the Arc-en-Ciel. We offer here the factory model.
The Couzinet 33, the eldest of the line, also known as the Couzinet “Biarritz” led the way to the records. This was remarkably accomplished on April 5, 1932, when the aircraft completed the first air link from Le Bourget to Noumea, New Caledonia.
This remarkable adventure was made possible thanks to the subscription of the city of Biarritz. With the raised funds, the aircraft that had been badly damaged was rebuilt and handed over to the crew composed of the pilot, Charles de Verneilh who initiated the project, Max Dévé, the navigator, and Emile Munch, the mechanic. Quite naturally, the aircraft was named after the city of Biarritz as a token of acknowledgement.
This exceptional piece dates back to the ’30s. The model is quite fragile by nature, no so much because of its coating than the way it was designed. It was made in wood, then smoothed over in cloth, later covered with an unidentified coating (maybe a type of resin) and then painted.
No detail was necessary to bring out the uniqueness of this aircraft. The model simply shows its original lines. Its only brush-painted decorations are, the manufacturer’s name, “Biarritz”, and the type of machine, the tricolour stripes on the wings and on the rear of the fuselage, and last but not least, the list of all the stopovers made during the Le Bourget-Noumea flight.
This impressive piece, (wingspan: 101 cm – 40 in, length: 73 cm – 29 in), went through a few accidents and repairs, more or less noticeable. This is to be expected for this kind of piece and considering its age. The exceptional nature of the model must be noted. Arc-en-Ciel factory models of this type, even in poor condition, are seldom found (there are some). But “Biarritz” models are extremely rare. As for me, it is the first one I ever encountered. This is for sure a museum piece!
- Arc-en-ciel type 70, Mermoz & Couzinet : Le Comptoir de l'Aviation's private collection
- Arc-en-ciel Type 33 : Le Chardenois, bulletin n° 17.
On the Paris-Noumea flight, see Bertrand Dévé’s account (Max Dévé’s son):
- See mid page on this personal website (in French): Le Chardenois, bulletin n° 17
- Filmed conference (in French) at the French National Air and space Museum of Le Bourget: Conference at the MAE