An official Belgian Air Service picture of the modified Ponnier sporting registration PO-18
Single-engine fighter aircraft
When designer Emile Dupont (of later Hanriot-Dupont HD.1 fame) joined the French Ponnier company in 1915, his first design was the Ponnier M.1. This was a small biplane fighter with unequal-span wings, an undersized rudder and an oversized spinner covering the 80 HP Le Rhone 9C rotary engine driving a wooden two-blade propellor. After famous French pilots such as Charles Nungesser or Jean Navarre found the fighter to be very demanding and unstable and therefore dangerous to fly, the few available machines were surprisingly relegated to training duties where they turned out to be highly unpopular.
Because of the inability to obtain enough Nieuport 11 fighters from France, an initial 30 Ponniers was ordered by the Belgian Aviation Militaire. Not surprisingly the Belgian discovered almost instantly what the French already knew and future Belgian aces such as André de Meulemeester (Mystère) and Willy Coppens gave the Ponnier an extremely poor review. Although modifications such as a more pointed spinner, larger tailplane and elevators were supposed to improve the flying qualities, de Meulemeester added that the pilot has to avoid a dive at all cost because the aircraft very easily went into an irrecoverable spin.
Following these negative evaluations, the order was cut short to 10 aircraft which soon were withdrawn from use, although at least one example made it to the pilot school at Etampes. The serial designation “PO-“ was given to the Ponnier but only one serial number is known, this being PO-18. (Daniel Brackx)
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