Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Gustave Eiffel and the Great War

Eiffel Mounting a Monoplane Model in His Wind Tunnel

Arguably the most famous engineer of all time, Gustave Eiffel (1832–1923) became fascinated with aerodynamics during his career, especially while building his famous tower. Around the turn of the century he started applying his boundless curiosity to flight. In his early studies of airfoils he discovered that single wings (monoplanes) would be more efficient than dual wings (biplanes). To pursue his research he established a laboratory with an innovative wind tunnel at the base of the Eiffel Tower that was later banished to Auteuil in the suburbs because of the noise it produced. Eiffel was the first to test models of complete airplanes in his wind tunnels, and to show a correlation between test data and the actual performance of a full-size airplane Eiffel wrote several books on aerodynamics, most notably Resistance of the Air and Aviation, first published in 1907.

The Wind Tunnel at Auteuil

When war broke out he placed his facility at the service of his nation. Eiffel and his staff continued research on airfoils, propellers, and projectiles, (shells and bombs). Although two prototypes of a monoplane designed by Gustave Eiffel were produced during World War I, he is not primarily known for building airplanes, but his work in applied aerodynamics formed the basis for all subsequent developments in the field. This drop-test machine and wind tunnel laboratory form a fitting memorial to one of the world’s true pioneers of aviation.

Late addition: Posted on 30 June 2019

My beloved Donna, who is also an ace researcher, has discovered the photo below of the prototype fighter designed by Eiffel. It was known as the Breguet LE (Laboratory Eiffel). It was tested in March 1918. The first aircraft had landing gear problems but showed the level of performance predicted by Eiffel's designers. The second crashed and killed the pilot. The program was suspended afterwards.

Sources: Gustave Eiffel and the Wind: A Pioneer in Experimental Aerodynamics," by Dijana Damljanović, Scientific Technical Review, 2012, Vol.62, No. 3–4, pp.3–13; the Website:

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