Record Breaker: Nord Gerfaut - X-Plane
December 8th, 2007
PO Box 29754
Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico 00929
France’s aviation industry took
off in the 1950s with the development of new and exotic aircraft designs.
One of the most significant French designs of the era was the remarkable
Gerfaut. This simple aircraft was destined to become Europe’s first
aircraft to break the sound barrier without the assistance of
afterburning. It was also the first of a long and distinguished line of
delta-winged aircraft to come out of French factories. The Nord Gerfaut
followed a distinguished line of experimental French designs used to test
aerodynamic characteristics of airframes and wing configurations.
The aircraft was the
brainchild of a brilliant engineer named Jean Galtier. Galtier’s design
began the trend in French aviation for developing delta-wing aircraft
platforms, a methodical progression that had culminated with the
introduction of the Mirage 2000 and the Rafale. Work commenced on the
Gerfaut or Northern Falcon, in the early part of 1951. By the late 1953,
Galtier had settled on an airframe design that resembled a wedge or an
arrowhead. The idea behind this unique configuration was to provide the
aircraft with the ability to use its main body to achieve higher speeds.
With a wedge configuration, the proposed airplane would have, Galtier
thought, a more stable air-based platform while flying at speeds above
Mach 1.0. When the aircraft was finally unveiled to French military
leaders in the autumn of 1953 it did not resemble anything previously
airframe was constructed of an all metal alloys. The airbrakes, designed
to slow the aircraft, were installed on each side of the rear side of the
fuselage. A cantilever tail section had a high mounted, variable tail
plane of delta platform. Two blisters, sited at the base of the fin housed
a pair of parachutes, one for braking the aircraft and one to prevent
spinning. The main part of the aircraft, the delta wing section, as with
the main fuselage; was constructed out of metal alloys that provided extra
strength to the extremely thin wing. The ailerons and elevator controls
were placed inset on the trailing edges of the wing. The aircraft was
fitted with a retractable landing gear. The nose wheel rotated 90 degrees
to lie flush in the front fuselage directly beneath the air inlet duct.
The wing’s wheels folded inward into the main wing structure. The cabin
was built above the airframe as a completely separate structure. It was
pressurized for one crewman. An ejection seat was installed for
The Gerfaut was powered
by one SNECMA Atar 101c turbojet engine capable of producing 6,177lb of
thrust. Later versions of the aircraft were fitted with Atar 101d,
generating 8,825lb of thrust. The last Gerfaut version, the II, utilized
the Atar 101g21 turbojet with afterburning.
Maximum Speed 989mph
Operational Range 125 nautical miles
Service Ceiling 56,600’
Maximum Take off Weight 9,979lb
Wing Span 21’-7”
Total Wing Area 282sq ft
This amazing plane flew for the first time on January 15th, 1954. It
achieved supersonic level flight status on August 3rd, 1954 without the
assistance of an afterburner. During its test phase, from the summer of
1954 through the winter of 1955; the aircraft was extensively tested.
Aerodynamic characteristics and wing behaviors were measured.
The aircraft was pushed
to the limit of its ability and sometimes, beyond it. The ultimate version
of this French experimental aircraft was the Gerfaut II, number N.1402B,
which first took to the air in the morning of April 17th,1956. In the
capable hands of Andre Turcat, a marvelous French test pilot who would
later in his life become the main project pilot for the Concorde
programme, the Gerfaut II broke five time-to-altitude records during 1957.
When the testing of the
Gerfaut series was over, Nord used the experience gained on the programme
to develop a more advanced experimental aircraft, the N.1500 Griffon.
Overall, five Gerfaut were built from 1953 to 1957. None of these
airframes exist today. The Gerfaut had been relegated to just a footnote
in the history of innovated, test-based aircraft.
Military Aircraft of the Cold War, Edt
Jim Winchester, ThunderBay Press 2006
The Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft, Robert Jackson, Parragon Publishing