World War 1 (1914-1918) proved the perfect avenue for which aviation concerns could showcase their wares - and hopefully secure potentially lucrative wartime contracts. The Ponnier L.1 of French origin was one product introduced during the period, arriving just prior to the start of hostilities in July of 1914 (the war began before the end of that month). The type was evolved along the lines of a biplane "scout" but, before the end, it did little to interest French authorities in its purchase - as such no production contract followed. Design of the L.1 was attributed to Alfred Pagny and manufacture stemmed from Avions Ponnier. A first flight occurred in July of 1914.
The L.1 design held roots in the earlier Ponnier D.III monoplane of 1913 which was born as a racing aircraft - fitted with a then-powerful Gnome engine of 160 horsepower. Only one was completed by Ponnier, its design again coming from the mind of Alfred Pagny. Spurred by the British Schneider Trophy win of 1913 - they using a biplane racer to claim the gold - thought fell to converting the racing-minded D.III from its original monoplane form to that of a biplane for possible military service.
The L.1 carried over the fuselage of the D.III with a single-bay biplane wing arrangement added (parallel interplane struts being used). The undercarriage was wheeled under center mass and the tail supported through a simple skid. The engine of choice became the Gnome 7-cylinder rotary engine though this unit outputted only 50 horsepower. It was installed at the nose in the usual way and drove a two-bladed wooden propeller. The pilot sat in an open-air cockpit under and aft of the upper wing mainplane which had a section above the pilot cutout for improved upward vision. The tail unit consisted of a sole vertical fin coupled with a pair of low-set horizontal planes held close to the fuselage. The fuselage itself was given slab-sides which was a typical design feature of aircraft of the period.
Despite the work done, the L.1 failed to net any military interest. It was underpowered by its 50 horsepower engine and there appeared better competing types for purchase by the French air service. The L.1 therefore fell into French aviation history as nothing more than a footnote but the work completed on the design proved helpful in the development of another Ponnier product to come - the M.1 fighter which appeared in November of 1916 and netted twenty production examples.
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