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Breguet XIX A²B²


Single engine, two seat observation aircraft and bomber


   Already in November 1921 the Breguet company, presented a (yet to be flown) prototype of the Breguet XIX (also Breguet 19) at the 7th Salon de l’Aéronautique at Paris. This machine was to replace the firm’s very successful wartime Breguet 14. Based on new design techniques, the Breguet 19 was of all metal construction and powered by a capricious 8 cylinder Breguet-Bugatti engine. First flight took place in May 1922 in the hands of company test-pilot Robert Thierry. Further development of the aircraft did away with the initial engine in favor of a Lorraine-Dietrich, a Hispano or a Renault engine all being 12 cylinder power plants with a power range between 400 and 500 hp. Thanks to its superior performance the Breguet XIX was a large commercial success with an estimates global production of between 1700 and 1900 units.

   Belgian interest in the Breguet XIX can be traced back to November 1922 when the prototype of the aircraft was presented at Evere. The Belgian aeronautics company SABCA, founded on December 6th, 1920, immediately saw an opportunity to develop its emerging capabilities and started negotiations for the license production of the “19”. This resulted in the order of 6 Breguets, two of which powered by the Lorraine-Dietrich 450hp, two equipped with the Renault 480hp engine and finally two machines with the Hispano-Suiza of 450hp. Clearly the Belgian authorities had a difficult time deciding on the standard power plant to be used. Before Sabca started delivery of a first batch of 25 aircraft ordered by the Belgian government in 1927, a 7th aircraft was delivered directly from the Breguet plant. More than probably this aircraft was the Breguet XIXGR (Grand Raid) which was used for an ill-fated “raid” to Belgian Congo on 11 November 1927. Some sources mention this aircraft as having received the AéM serial B-7. The first ten Breguet XIX aircraft (B-8 to B-17) delivered from the SABCA production line arrived on February 10th, 1928. From then onward SABCA delivered an average of two aircraft weekly.  Two versions of the Breguet 19 were ordered; the A² optimized for observation and the B² which was the bomber version of this Breguet. Very soon the differences between the two types faded away and as such the aircraft were designated by the Aéronautique Militaire Belge as BreXIX A²B². By May 1930 SABCA delivered the last of the 146 Breguet XIX’s for the Belgian armed forces. No less than 13 Belgian units operated the Breguet XIX: 1/I/1Aé (Mouette), 3/I/1Aé (Feuille de Houx), 5/III/1Aé (Hirondelle), 7/III/1Aé (Mephisto), 5/I/3Aé (Chauffe-Souris), 9/IV/1 AéM (Dragon), 11/IV/1Aé (Marabout, 6/III/1Aé (Abeille), 9/V/1Aé (Elephant circle rouge), 11/V/1Aé (Elephant circle vert), 5/III/3Aé (Faucon Egyptien), l(Ecole de Perfectionnement (Pinguin) and the Ecole d’aéronautique (Cactoé). The last Breguet's were used at Oostende until 1939 as target tugs for the Ecole de Tir, while some weary examples soldiered on until the outbreak of World War II as communication aircraft. Unfortunately none of the Belgian Breguet XIXs was preserved for posterity.

     In its day, the Breguet was a fabulous machine which was also used to set some records and execute some daring raids. As previously mentioned two aircraft called “Reine Elisabeth” were used to set or to attempt liaison records between Belgium and its colony Congo. The first “Reine Elisabeth” (registered B-5 c/n 302) crewed by Georges Medaets (pilot) Jean Verhaeghen (navigator) and Joseph Coppens (mechanic) made a return trip to Congo between March 9th and April 12th 1926, taking some 100 hrs. of flying time for a flight of 18.430 km, including some 14 stopovers. A second attempt with a new “Reine Elisabeth” (possibly registered B-7) ended in a crash landing at La Ferté sur Aube (F.) on November 11th, 1927. Another raid to Congo was carried out by the crew Fabry and Verlinden with the non-modified B-5 but this time civilian registered as OO-AKP. The main objective of this raid was to establish the most practical route between Belgium and the Congo. On September 5th, 1929 the crew Robert “Pitchou” Lang and Louis Crooij established a new Belgian altitude record in reaching 8980 meters with their Hispano powered Breguet XIX B-22. (D. Brackx)

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