A Morane Saulnier Type N in France in World War I (Author’s collection)
Country of origin:
Single-seat fighting scout
One 60 kw (80 hp) Le Rhone 9C nine-cylinder air-cooled rotary engine
Length: 5.83 m (19 ft 1½ in)
Height: 2.25 m (7 ft 4½ in)
Wing area: 11 m² (118.4 sq ft)
Max speed at sea level: 144 km/h (90 mph)
Time to climb to 1,000 m (3,280 ft): 4 mins
Time to climb to 2,000 m (6,500 ft): 10 mins
Endurance: 1½ hours empty weight 188 kg ((633 lb)
Loaded weight: 444 kg (976 lb)
One fixed Hotchkiss or Vickers 7.7 mm (0.303 in) machine-gun
The Morane Saulnier Type N was designed and built by Aeroplanes Morane-Saulnier, Societe anonyme de Constructions Aeronautiques in Paris, the prototype being taken to a flying meeting held at Aspera in Vienna in late June 1914, the pilot being Roland Garros. It was a monoplane and one feature was the large propeller spinner which covered the Gnome rotary engine installed at that time. The Type N entered production and, in April 1915, it was first seen at the front when flown by Eugene Gilbert of Escadrille MS23 with the markings Le Vengeur ‘The Avenger’. It was fitted with a fixed Hotchkiss machine-gun and had an armoured propeller. Production aircraft were usually fitted with the Le Rhone 9C air-cooled rotary engine.
Little is known about the operational use of the type and it is believed it was only produced in small numbers as its contemporary, the Nieuport, had received large orders. Another contemporary aircraft in 1915 was the Bristol Scout which was considered to be a better all-round aircraft. Maurice Baring wrote ‘the Morane Bullet (as it became to be known) was a beautiful machine to fly, a monoplane and very fast.’
The Type N was supplied to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) from 18 March 1916, 24 being initially delivered with serials MS639 to MS651, and MS658 to MS658, the last of this batch being received on 24 June 1916. The Type N by this time had been in service with French units on the Front for about a year. However, the first RFC aircraft (serial 5067) was actually delivered in 1915 to No 3 Squadron, and serials 5068 and 5069 were delivered to No 1 Squadron for initial testing.
In RFC service the Type N became known as the Morane Bullet. Main RFC unit operating the type was No 60 Squadron, the unit service in France from May 1916 and initially had three flights, one with Morane Bullets, one with Morane Biplanes and one with Morane Parasols. At one stage the Squadron had 18 Type Ns. But there were difficulties with supply of the aircraft and spare parts and by August 1916 the Squadron had been re-equipped with Nieuports.
The Type N was also used in small numbers by the Russian Imperial Air Service from 1916, with about 18 being supplied and they were located on the South-Western and Romanian Fronts. They were attached to the XIX Fighter Detachment at Lutsk, the commander of the unit being Staff Captain Alexander Alexandrovitch Kasakov, the highest scoring Russian pilot of World War I with 17 victories.
The Type N was introduced to service before an interrupter gear was designed and introduced to prevent damage to the propeller from bullets fired from the Hotchkiss machine-gun firing through the propeller arc and they were fitted with deflector wedges on the propeller.
The Vintage Aviator Limited (TVAL) of Wellington and Masterton, NZ has been involved for some years in the reproduction of World War I aircraft and engines and late in 2019 was building three examples of the Morane Saulnier Type N for completion late in 2020.