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Jim Lund Latécoère 521 “Lieutenant de Vaisseau Paris” — Golden Age Flying Boat of France

8 October 2012

Latécoère 521 Lieutenant de Vaisseau Paris — Golden Age Flying Boat of France

This aircraft was the French contemporary of the Sikorsky S-42 and Martin M-130 Flying Clippers of Pan American Airlines fame. The 521 was able to cross the Atlantic Ocean using six engines (the inboard engines were a tractor and pusher pairing). Literally, it looked like a flying boat with the upper level distinctively set atop the lower level with its outer deck surrounding the upper flight deck — which must have been of great benefit during mooring or docking procedures — with the flight deck set apart and atop the upper level. I would be surprised if this outer deck were not used as a fishing platform at one time or another. The Lieutenant de Vaisseau was designed for passengers, as well as cargo, carrying a maximum of 72 passengers. The upper level had seating for 20 with a compartment for three flight engineers while the lower level had several cabins, stowage and a salon which seated 20.

Jim Lund’s scale model of the  Latécoère 521 Lieutenant de Vaisseau Paris — photo by Joseph May

The Lieutenant de Vaisseau made four trans-Atlantic flights during May through July in 1939. One of the flights traveled an enviable 3651 miles/5875km at an average speed of 127 mph/206kph — and on five of the six engines for approximately one-third of the trip!

Bows on view of the Latécoère 521 scale  model with a clear view of the  four inboard engines and two outboard engines as well as the  sponsons — photo by Joseph May

Thanks to famed scale modeller Jim Lund we can see how the Latécoère 521 named Lieutenant de Vaisseau Paris looked back in her day before WW II and her demise. More of Jim Lund’s photos or the aircraft models and dioramas in the Oceans by Air: scale models and photographs by Jim Lund exhibit can be seen here.


Latécoère 521 Lieutenant de Vaisseau Paris , on her mooring buoy  (note the distinct  flight deck, upper level deck  and lower level deck) — San Diego Air & Space Museum archive photo

2 Comments leave one →
  1. David "Mac" McLay permalink
    8 October 2012 02:53

    Most interesting! The Latecoere 521 design does, indeed, bear a striking similarity to the preceding Martin M-130 China Clipper and Sikorsky flying boat series, and – even – to the 1929 Dornier Do-X. Despite Pan American Airways’ introduction of 1939 trans-Atlantic service with the Boeing 314, and the completion of Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose,” the romantic era of giant commercial flying boats came to an end after WWII, with some few exceptions. (Jim Lund’s model is beautiful!)

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      8 October 2012 10:50

      Yes, the 521 especially resembles the Dornier Do X, I think. The contemporary Martin and Sikorsky designs were showing the way, don’t you think? Too bad about the end of the flying boat era with the conclusion of WW II even though, paradoxically, flying boats were significant in the war effort. Latecoere, Martin, Shorts, Sikorsky and Kawanishi had excellent designs by war’s end, but, as you note, to little avail 😦

      Wait til you see the next Latecoere design post, Mac, you are going to love it 😉

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