Charles Fauvel biography

Fauvel gliders and airplanes

Why a flying wing ?

Some technical materials...

In flight


Precursors and successors



Pénaud Amphibian
1st drawing of the
Pénaud-Gauchot project
Last project
(top view)
Last project
(side view)
Alphonse Pénaud
(click on the pictures to enlarge them in a new window)

Born in Paris in 1850, Alphonse Pénaud was the first precursor to design a stable aircraft, a small scale model named "Planaphore". This small plane was shown to the members of the "Société Française de Navigation Aérienne" in Paris (French Aerial Navigation Society, one of the first aviation organization). The aircraft could fly over 60 meters, it was fitted with a horizontal stabilizer and powered by a rubber band engine, driving a two-blade propeller.
Penaud had solved the stability and center of gravity location issues, and the characteristics of his airplane, truly advanced for the era, would remain for a long time those of future airplanes.

Another project, developed in cooperation with Paul Gauchot and patented in 1876, was a flying wing : it was a two-seater amphibian monoplane, propelled by two variable pitch tractor type propellers ; the wing structure was planned to be built out of wood or metal, and the fuselage was waterproof. The machine was to be equipped with a retractable landing gear. The rudder and the were actuated by centralized controls. The controls gouvernes de direction et de profondeur (compensées) était centralisée. The list provided on the 1876 patent registration shows many inovative details : windshield, relative wind indicator, bank indicator, anemometer, electric control of the elevators, indicator of air pressure on the wings...

But Alphonse Pénaud never founds the capitals to build his aircraft. On the contrary, he was criticised, decried, misrepresented, and all sorts of obstacles arose to prevent the testing of his project. Depression soon began to ruin his health. He cut all ties with the Aeronautical Society, and when he was refused further help from anyone he returned home and committed suicide in October 1880, before he had reached 30 years of age.

The AV-221 prototype was christened "Alphonse Pénaud" by Charles Fauvel.