Airborne Awesomosity, Go-Fast Technology

Leduc 0.10

Leduc 0.10 in flight

Atomic Toasters’ editorial staff are big fans of early American and British Jet-Age aircraft; and rightly so, given the extraordinary machines they produced. However, we tend to overlook another innovative power of that era: France.

During the post-war period and right into the sixties, France’s aviation industry produced some unique and daring designs – the legacy of which we can still see today in aircraft such as the Mirage series of fighters and various Falcon business jets. But rather than get into the story of how France went from devastating occupation to supersonic bombers in less than two decades, let’s get right to the cool stuff.

In the early ‘30s a French engineer named Rene Leduc was working for the aircraft maker Avions Voisin. Slightly bored with his job, he drew up plans for an athodyd* power plant, recognizing the immense potential for a streamlined engine that contained no moving parts. As far back as 1935 he built a tiny example of his design, which developed 8.8lbs of thrust at 671mph. But it wasn’t until 1947 that he was able to get his ramjet design aloft in an airframe.

Leduc 0.10 and Sud-Est 161 Languedoc

That airframe was the Leduc 0.10, an advanced design with a bizarre placement of the pilot right inside the jet intake. The airframe featured a double skin which contained the cockpit, with a space to feed air through, then the outer skin. The pilot peered through tiny Plexiglas windows set into the fuselage and shock cone. The wings were slightly swept and the control surfaces were radically small.

Since a ramjet engine produces zero thrust without airspeed, the 0.10 needed a boost into the air. The Sud-Est 161 Languedoc airliner was chosen as the lifting vehicle and the whole mess first flew in October, 1947. The first series of tests were unpowered, with the 0.10 being launched at 13,000ft and returning to earth as a glider. In April, 1949, the first powered test took place, and it was the first time ever that a ramjet aircraft was to fly on ramjet power alone. The test pilot, Jean Gonord, was stunned at the rate of climb (he was able to reach 36,000ft in mere minutes), and in later tests the 0.10 likely became the first French aircraft to experience the compressibility issues near Mach I that had torn apart fast-diving WWII fighters like the Lockeheed P-38 and Hawker Typhoon.

Further iterations saw the addition of turbojets on the wingtips and a more functional cockpit design. However the program was cancelled in 1958, as the French government was busy wasting its limited resources on futile efforts to pacify the natives in its colonies in French Indochina and Algeria. Rene Leduc passed away in 1968 but his company lives on as a manufacturer of hydraulic equipment.

* Basically a tube into which is shot fuel and air, with an ignition source setting the thing on fire

Sources: Janes Pocket Book of Experimental aircraft;

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  • gearz1

    The experimental pilots of the past literally defined the term "brass balls". I am reading Chuck Yeagers biography,these guys were out on the edge.

    • Number_Six

      No kidding. I'd like to know what the percentage of crashes to successful flights was in this era. It can't have been good. Leduc's designs generally worked well, but there were several serious accidents over the course of the program.

      • gearz1

        We had little of the analytical software we have today, from what I read it was firewall the SOB and ride it out.

      • CaptianNemo2001

        Just look at the ME 163a and ME 163b program and you learn quite a lot.

  • skitter

    Did that awkward, beautiful pod of awesomeness have landing gear, or was every landing a crash landing anyway?

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      I should not have GISed that. For it ruined my notion that the pilot entered and exited through the business end at the rear.

      EDIT: Whoohoo you made the century, congrats!

      • skitter

        Everything's gone plaid. And what's with the spot in the middle of the…Oh.

        • texlenin

          Is that second bit a Niven "Blind Spot" reference?? Cool

    • Welcome to the 100 Club. It's like the 700 Club, but with much looser morals. In other words, it's nothing like the 700 Club. Here's some scotch and don't ask about that red puddle in the middle of the room.

      • I was told Dexron, but I'm pretty sure it's Type F.

    • Number_Six

      Skitter, pics of the 0.10 are hard to come by on the nets of Inter, but anyway I don't think you'd expect the gear to look like this:

      <img src="; />

      • CaptianNemo2001

        I got a bunch of pics somewhere… Though I don't recall where they are… BUT I do have some nice Boeing Model 307 Stratoliner engine shots from the early 1950's that I know I could get scanned in later tonight and then tossed up on the interwebs. And no they are not up on the interwebs, yet, as far as I can see.

  • Is it just me, or does that Sud-Est 161 Languedoc look a whole lot like a DC-4? In particular, the prototype with the triple tail?

    <img src=""&gt;

  • Number_Six

    Featured posts are fun!

    • Deartháir

      Arent they, though? I love them. I've lost HOURS to the Featured Posts box so far.

      • FЯeeMan


  • CruisinTime

    Looks delightfully dangerous,old Rene was out there on this one.