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Ponnier M.1

Biplane Fighter Aircraft

France | 1916

"The French-originated Ponnier M.1 biplane largely failed as a fighter - it was outclassed by many other designs appearing during World War 1."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 02/06/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
While the earlier Ponnier L.1 biplane scout aircraft (detailed elsewhere on this site) failed to impress French authorities (despite it being based on the D.III monoplane racer), it served to provide a sound foundation for the company's next offering - the M.1. Design work on this aircraft was attributed to Emile Eugene Dupont with manufacture, once again, handled under the Avions Ponnier brand label. A first flight was recorded during 1915 as World War 1 raged in Europe and beyond and service introduction followed in 1916. However, the aircraft fared poorly as fighting platforms which led to an appropriately short service life - they were pulled from action as soon as November 1916. Adding insult to injury, just twenty or so of the design were manufactured in all.

With the earlier L.1, part of its failure resided in selection of a 50 horsepower engine. The fuselage was carried over from the D.III racer and biplane wing structure added to this. However the design held qualities that restricted its performance as a military product and no production contract arrived to award the work completed. Building upon this, the M.1 was given an unequal-span biplane wing arrangement featuring single bays and parallel struts with "cut outs" featured at both structures to help improve the pilot's vision out-of-the-cockpit. Power was now served through a Le Rhone 9C 9-cylinder rotary engine outputting 80 horsepower and this drove the usual two-bladed wooden propeller fitted to the nose of the aircraft. A rather oversized propeller spinner was added for aerodynamic integrity but, it was found, restricted engine cooling. On the whole, the new aircraft exhibited traditional fighter-like qualities of the period such as a slab-sided fuselage, an open-air cockpit and fixed wheel-and-skid undercarriage arrangement. Another key physical quality of note was the rather small tail planes used.

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During January 1916, with ace Charles Nungesser at the controls, the prototype M.1 crashed (Nungesser survived) but this was not enough to derail the program for a production order called for a batch of the aircraft to be constructed. By this time, Avions Ponnier (as a brand label) was succeeded by La Societe Anonyme Francaise de Constructions Aeronautiques though Louis Ponnier still held control of his company. Despite a low production figure, the type saw operational service with Belgian air service units and a few examples were flown by the French though, in the latter, the aircraft did not attain official unit status. In Belgian service, the oversized propeller spinners were usually removed to improve airflow to the engine and several other control modifications were instituted but none of these changes produced a proper fighting aircraft. A poor review given by Belgian ace Willy Coppens all but doomed the M.1 and its use was given up before the end of 1916.

The related Ponnier M.2 was an attempt at a two-seat version of the M.1 relying on increased overall dimensions and intended to interest the British Royal Flying Corps. This version was never developed.

As completed, the M.1 could reach speeds of 104 miles per hour and managed a climb rate of 700 feet per minute. Armament was a single 7.7mm (0.303 caliber) Lewis machine gun. However, the M.1 lacked interrupter gear for this weapon and thus its placement was along the upper wing unit to clear the spinning propeller blades when fired.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Ponnier M.1 Biplane Fighter Aircraft.
1 x Le Rhone 9C 9-cylinder rotary engine developing 80 horsepower and driving a two-bladed propeller at the nose.
104 mph
167 kph | 90 kts
Max Speed
700 ft/min
213 m/min
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Ponnier M.1 Biplane Fighter Aircraft.
18.9 ft
5.75 m
O/A Length
20.3 ft
(6.18 m)
O/A Width
7.5 ft
(2.30 m)
O/A Height
672 lb
(305 kg)
Empty Weight
1,025 lb
(465 kg)
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Ponnier M.1 Biplane Fighter Aircraft .
1 x 7.7mm (0.303") Lewis machine gun fitted over the upper wing assembly.
Notable series variants as part of the Ponnier M.1 family line.
M.1 - Base Series Name; single-seat biplane fighter.
M.2 - Proposed two-seat fighter intended for the Royal Flying Corps; not produced.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Ponnier M.1. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 20 Units

Contractor(s): Avions Ponnier / La Societe Anonyme Francaise de Constructions Aeronautiques - France
National flag of Belgium National flag of France

[ Belgium; France (trialed) ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 120mph
Lo: 60mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (104mph).

Graph Average of 90 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Production Comparison
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
1 / 1
Image of the Ponnier M.1
Image from the Public Domain.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Ponnier M.1 Biplane Fighter Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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