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

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

What Was a Roleur?

ROULEUR Pilot training philosophy in France differed from that in other countries. In France, it was presumed that student pilots learned better by doing rather than by watching. Therefore, the instructor rarely, if ever, went aloft with the student. From the very beginning, the student would be told, on the ground, what the instructor wanted him to do. He would then get into the airplane and learn by doing. Initial instruction was given in a variety of aircraft that had been deliberately modified to prevent them from flying (usually by clipping several feet off of the wings). This enabled the plane to roll along the ground; hence the generic name of "Rouleur" for such aircraft. Other, unofficial, nicknames assigned to such craft were "Grasshopper" and "Penguin."

A French Trainee in a Clipped Wing Rouleur

The purpose of such aircraft was both to allow the student pilot to learn how to manipulate the manets controlling the gas and air mixture to the rotary engine and to teach the student aviator how to control the direction of movement of the aircraft over the ground by the use of the rudder. Up to the entry of the United States in the war, all American citizens traveling to France and enlisting in the Aviation Militaire underwent initial training on such aircraft; including those who became members of the Lafayette Escadrille.  Training on rouleurs is authentically depicted in the 1958 film, The Lafayette Escadrille.

While numerous combat obsolete aircraft were used in this mode one of the more frequently used was the Morane-Saulnier Type G. The Société Anonyme des Aéroplane Morane-Saulnier brought out the Type G in 1913. It was a single-engine monoplane with shoulder-mounted wings. It came in both a single-seat and a two-seat configuration. Following its combat history, the aircraft was relegated to training duties. For training, only the single-seat version was used. 

Source: The Doughboy Center

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