The MS 755 Fleuret Story - A Forgotten Chapter
- Category: Jets and Growth 1948-64
- Last Updated: Monday, 20 January 2020 17:28
- Written by Wg Cdr Donald Michael (Retd)
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Narrated by late WG CDR DONALD MICHAEL
Transcriber’s note: Shortly after my father, Don Michael, passed away at the end of March 2007, I found a couple of audio cassettes he had recorded earlier with anecdotes from his IAF days. One of them was his experience flying what turned out to be a ‘one-of-a-kind’: the MS 755 Fleuret prototype, that he and then-Flt Lt Pete Wilson had assessed as a potential ab initio jet trainer for the IAF.
Transcribing the Fleuret episode led me to a number of references to the MS 755 listed in the footnotes and their associated links. It would be fascinating to get additional information from any of those referred to in the narration. I also thought Don would have got a charge out at the fact that 3 aircraft he actually flew reside on 3 continents in different aeronautical museums: a Liberator in Ottawa, S55 in Palam and the Fleuret at Marignane
Here then in his own words is the story from over half a century ago of what might have become India’s first dedicated jet trainer.
The story starts from the time when late AVM Erlich Pinto was a Group Captain and was commanding the Air Force Academy in Ambala. Just before we moved the whole Air Force Academy down to Hakimpet, he was transferred and went on as Air Attaché to UK and France and Ranjan Dutt took over in Begumpet. Now when then Gp Capt Pinto was in France he became aware of all the flight training schemes in the various air forces, particularly the Commonwealth air forces, and how they were going to have to plan to handle only jet aircraft. Pistons had just about reached their top level and the focus had shifted from them. So he went around UK and France looking for what was coming up by way of jet trainer designs. Of course, each country’s air force was keen on developing their own trainer– India was trying to figure what we were going to do – and the HT2 was coming out about that time.
By then he had found out that the French aircraft manufacturer, Morane-Saulnier, had designed trainers for use in their own flying schools in France. They were considered one of the leading French aviation companies and were involved in both manufacturing aircraft and maintaining the standard of training required in France.
Jean Cliquet was the test pilot associated with the Fleuret. Cliquet has flown more than 10,000 hours. See Page on Tartan Terror Blog
They had a rather novel idea for a very basic jet trainer, called the MS 755. Its nomenclature was ‘Fleuret’. What was different was that they designed it with twin engines for flight safety. Rather than have just a single engine, they had two little Turbomecas – French engines – set at a 10? angle, pushing behind the centre of gravity, so that if any one of the two Turbomecas failed, the other one would give it the same force forward through the centre of gravity to keep the aircraft’s original general path of flight. With just a 10 degree difference there was no effect of asymmetric thrust. 1]
The prototype was built and test flown in 1953. Morane-Saulnier had designed everything to be electrical: their little electrical motors were so good and so reliable that the trimmers, the opening and closing of the hood, the raising and lowering of the seats…, everything was electrically done. Mind you, when we came around to flying the Fleuret, because everything was only marked in French we had a little bit of a problem in the early stages when we wanted to know what was on and what was off!
Gp Capt Pinto suggested to the French that if they were willing to send their prototype to the Air Force Academy for tropical trials - because a prototype had to have tropical tests - our instructors would then try it out to see how our students would respond. Specifically, this was to see if students who were brand new to flying could start directly on a jet, without going through piston aircraft training.
The Fleruret comes to Hakimpet
Once Gp Capt Pinto & Morane-Saulnier had worked out a programme, yours truly was selected as the senior member of the team of two from Hakimpet, then Flt Lt Pete Wilson being the other instructor. We were selected to run this particular programme and work with 6 junior cadets who had just about reached the first solo stage in elementary, basic training. That’s all the background experience they had: barely 10 hours of flying under their belt. 2]
The twist was that they were going to be put directly onto a jet trainer to see if they would respond positively to an aircraft designed to fly at about 450 mph [just over 700 kmph] and with a whole lot of electrical gadgets, without encountering significant training problems.
So what happened was that we were informed that Pete and I were to run these tests at Begumpet . We came down from Hakimpet at the end of March of 1954. Then the crated aircraft arrived with Morane-Saulnier’s Chief Test Pilot, Monsieur Jean Cliquet, and a team of 4 or 5 technicians to maintain the aeroplane for the short time it was going to be in India.
Cliquet used to be a French fighter pilot with the Free French Air Force during the War who then got across to Britain and joined the RAF Free French squadron. After the war he went back to his company in France and became the Chief Test Pilot for Morane-Saulnier. 3]
A funny story that we learnt about later was that before the team came to India they were warned by everybody in France, ‘Watch out when you go to India: there could be scorpions and snakes in the tents in which you live. You never know, there could even be lions and tigers around!’ Imagine their surprise on landing in Begumpet when we brought them to one of the hotels in Banjara Hills, with a swimming pool and they got impeccable service from turbanned bearers with white gloves and nary a snake, scorpion, tiger or lion in sight!
And, of course, they knew no English and we knew no French! So when they arrived, they got a translator from Pondicherry, who used to deal with France to act as interpreter between the French team and us. What made it a bit tricky was that this particular interpreter didn’t have any idea of aeronautical terms. As you’d expect that was a bit of a challenge… not to the Fleuret Team or ourselves but for the interpreter. Anyway, we got over that hurdle – not surprising when you consider how many aviation terms are French in origin. What was amazing was the way they assembled the aircraft: they got some tables into the hanger, unpacked the crates which were flown down and rested the various parts – the fuselage, wings, tail section - on these tables, clamped the whole thing together and, I think, in barely a day and a half had Zulu Whiskey Romeo Sierra set up! Talk about snap-together assembly….
Once the Fleuret was put together, Monsieur Clique put his ‘baby’ through a beautiful flight demonstration. Every type of low aerobatics. You should’ve seen him put that little jet through its paces: just off the runway - you name it, he did it. We were all pretty impressed. Of course most of us were already fighter pilots on jets, but it was good to see a little training aircraft demonstrate such tremendous maneuvers. That was May 11, 1954.
The following day, May 12, is when we did our first flying with Monsieur Cliquet. The funny thing was that Cliquet and his team had no idea who the pilots were going to be who were going to test fly this aircraft India and train the students. They had no idea that the Indian Air Force was already a jet air force and that most of us were teaching people advanced flying on jets - on Vampires. So when he flew us – he flew first with me as I was the senior member and then with Pete Wilson - he did a whole demo in the air and then wanted us to handle the aeroplane. The next flight was a couple of circuits and landings.
Lo and behold, after one or two landings, he just jumped out of the aircraft, sent for the interpreter and tucked into him in French. Eventually, the interpreter tried to tell us that Monsieur Cliquet was trying to apologize because he thought he was going to try and teach us how to fly a jet: he didn’t realize that we were experienced jet instructors so he was not going to waste any more time flying with us on the jet! He just wanted us to take it up and handle it ourselves. So after that, Pete and I, took charge of the little Fleuret.
We had a whole series of maneuvers to carry out: aerobatics and forced approaches and the usual flight training that we were going to try out on the students. After a couple of hours of familiarization, he told us, ‘OK go ahead’. Meantime, there were a few courtesy flights including Gp Capt Ranjan Dutt who was Station Commander. I took him up and demonstrated the aircraft to him. There were a few others too: Wg Cdr Krishna Rao, who was Chief Instructor at that time, and Sqn Ldr Agte, who was in charge of Hakimpet, also wanted to have a feel of the aeroplane. So we took them up for demonstration flights.
And then we started with these brand new cadets who’d come down. They’d only just done their first solos on whatever the elementary aircraft were. I had 3 of them and Pete had the other 3. I know my cadets: one of them was Flt Cdt Tussar, then there was Flt Cdt Mehra & the third was Flt Cdt Jayal. Those were the names in my logbook. Pete must have the names of the others…
We carried on with their basic training and amazingly enough, within 10 hours, in about the same time they would have gone solo on any other aeroplane, they were ready to go solo on the Fleuret. And they had completed everything: spins, stalls, aerobatics, forced approaches, glides, even some night flying…all that was needed to be done. So as a result it proved the point that a jet trainer could be introduced at a very early stage in their training.
10- G Dives
Another incident that stands out, happened about a week later, when Pete and I were evaluating the aircraft we were told by Monsieur Cliquet that the aircraft was stressed for 10 positive G and 6 negative G. In his words, ‘Actually the aircraft is so strongly designed, the pilot’ll break – the aircraft won’t!’ So Pete and I said, ‘Well let’s see how many G we can pull on this aeroplane – since there’s no limit to it.’
We pulled on partial G-suits, climbed up to 25000’, and nosed over to get to the maximum permitted speed of 450 knots. We dived vertically and Pete pulled it out the first time, on full power…yanked back as hard as he could. He’s a tall guy, so I think he would tend to black out a little quicker than me, but we both pulled about 8 and a half G. That’s as much as we could manage by the time we came back to climbing attitude with maximum power and maximum speed.
So when we landed we went back and told Monsieur Cliquet, ’You know you’ve got a good little aeroplane! We pulled 8.5 G and no problems’. His eyes popped and he yelled, ‘Merde! ‘ We said, ‘Yeah, because you said there was no limit to which we could test the aeroplane.’ So he ran back to the aircraft, and looked at the accelerometer, - the accelerometer always shows you the maximum G both positive and negative. Sure enough, it showed just a little over 8.5 positive G. He says , in French through the interpreter, ‘Do you know we’ve not even pulled this in the factory although we know technically it’s OK.’
He goes on, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll take out these two jet engines – we’ve got to send them for a test to the factory and we’ll put back two other engines in.’ Changing engines was so quick on the Fleuret: within an hour they had the two engines off and the other two engines on.
‘Why would they have to go back to the factory?’ we asked. He explained, ‘Well when you have a Turbomeca engine at 22600 rpm, and you pull all these G forces, the processing force due to the gyroscopic effect could tend to distort the fore and aft axes of the turbine. So they’re going to run the turbines through tests to make sure they’re not distorted because of the force of precession …the high G force acting on the turbine.’
All to say we promised we wouldn’t pull any high Gs till we got the results. When the results came in a few weeks later they said, ‘Everything’s perfect, no problems at all. You just proved the aircraft can take 8 and a half Gs plus!’
With that, we carried on with the scheduled programme, flying till the middle of June ‘54…as you can see from the logbook, this included the full range of aerobatics, height climbs, steep dives with air brakes, gliding trials, forced landings, single engine flying as well as checking out the night flying qualities of the aeroplane. The students were put through air experience, circuits & landings, and what were referred to in the IAF Sequence of Instruction as 4,5,6,7,8,9 and 10. Each of us as instructors flew about thirty two and a half hours on the Fleuret. 3]
An interesting little personal sidelight: back then I used to fly with a miniature pipe in the pocket of my flying suit. Monsieur Cliquet and the others were most intrigued that I used to fly with this tiny little pipe and puff on it when sending students solo. At the end of the whole program when they were getting to leave, having re-crated the aircraft, they got little souvenirs for us from France. And guess what they gave me… a porcelain, leather-bound, pipe-shaped, tobacco bowl which I still use to keep stuff since I gave up smoking quite a while back!
All that remained was the special send-off dinner: I can still remember a group picture that was taken with Monsieur Cliquet and a Monsieur Saulnier – from the family who owned the company in France – as well us in our summer DJs – Gp Capt Ranjan Datt [our Station Commander], Pete Wilson and myself. And just before he left, Monsieur Cliquet came over to dinner at our place as he wanted to have a home-cooked Indian meal. We had a little French translation book that we used to good effect…it made for a very pleasant evening.
So what was the result? When the Fleuret went back, Gp Capt Pinto’s understanding was that France was going to send the aircraft on to the States and give demonstrations there and anywhere where jet trainers were being looked at for future development by various air forces. However, although it was a beautiful aeroplane, evidently other countries didn’t want to subsidize the French aircraft industry. The Americans and British were each developing their own all-jet trainers for basic training and the French opted for the Fouga Magister as their basic trainer. So the Morane-Saulnier 755 stayed just a prototype and as long as it remained a prototype, no country could afford to buy it – it was just too expensive. The more aircraft produced, the more feasible it would have been to accept as a trainer. A slightly larger 4-seater version called the Morane-Saulnier, MS 760, ‘Paris’ did indeed go into production and, from all accounts was also an excellent aeroplane but didn’t quite fit the pattern as a trainer. So that is why such a great, little plane remained the only one of its type developed. 4]
Trials on the Vampire T55
As far as the IAF was concerned that was the end of the MS Fleuret episode. But the experiment we’d successfully run in May-June of ’54 - putting new cadets directly onto jets - was one that Pete and I were called on by AHQ to repeat in late 1954 – this time on Vampires. So from November to December 54, we carried out a similar programme with 6 other students with no flying experience whatever. The aircraft was the Vampire T11- 2-seater version. Once again within 10 hours, the trainees, in my case Flt Cadets Sapre, Sengupta, R Singh and Jayagopal, were able to reach the expected level. So it was clear that we could start students directly on jet trainers from an instructional perspective but the Vampires proved too expensive to use for initial training for a large number of students. As a result that approach wasn’t adopted.
And there you have it: the story of a delightful aeroplane, the Fleuret, that Pete Wilson and I had the privilege of flying. The fact that it remained the only one of its type developed made the experience even more special. I wonder where it is now… 4]
[1 Technical details
The Morane-Saulnier MS 755 Fleuret was a French two-seater side-by-side jet fighter trainer aircraft of the 1950's. The Morane-Saulnier MS 755 Fleuret was a low mid-wing cantilever monoplane of metal construction powered by two Turbomeca Marbore II turbojet engines providing a top speed of 720 kmh. The Morane-Saulnier MS 755 Fleuret was armed with two 7.5 mm machine-guns located in the nose of the fuselage, a cine gun, and racks for two 50 kg bombs or four 3.5 inch rockets beneath the wings.
|First flight||29 January 1953|
|Crew||1 student, 1 instructor|
|Engine||Turboméca Marboré II Number 2|
|Wing loading||18,00 m²|
|Weight||1 940 kg|
|Max speed||710 km/h|
|Ceiling||11 000 m|
|Climb rate||1 020 m/min|
[2 THE FLEURET IN INDIA - The practical aspects of conversion from light piston-engined- trainer to light jet trainer were recently demonstrated in a
series of tests by the Indian Air Force, using the Morane-Saulnier MS.755 Fleuret. This experiment, under Service conditions, followed the I.A.F. decision in May, 1954, to adopt the French "light jet trainer" formula, and was carried out at the Air Force Academy No. 1 at Begumpet airfield, Hyderabad. The experiment was conducted with four (sic) pupils, and showed that the average pupil-pilot with 60 hr piston-engined experience (in this case on the Percival Prentice) could easily convert onto a jet machine and safely solo after a period of between 7 and 12 hours' dual. Side-by-side seating was found to be preferable for a jet trainer used in this manner, i.e., relatively early in the flying training programme. In addition, a pupil with only 10 hr dual and 1^ hr solo on a Tiger Moth received 4 hr dual on the Fleuret, and was checked and found safe for solo by the maker's pilot. A total of 105 flying hours was achieved, an average of 3J hr per working day, made up of 128 flights and 282 landings. Of this total, 58| hr were flown by the pupils, on dual, solo and check flights, and the remainder by the Morane-Saulnier pilot and the I.A.F. instructors on demonstration and evaluation flying (including night flying). Total maintenance time required was 287 hours, an average of 2.45 hr per flying hour.
[3 Jean Cliquet was born in 1911 and had a rich career in aviation ever since. He joined the French Navy in 1928. In July 1930 he flew various aircraft types, Hanriot, Caudron, Nieuport, Dewoitine, Farman and seaplanes of Farman, Cams, Latham, Gourdoux. From 1935 to 1937 he was supervisor to the Royan Flights School before joining Morane-Saulnier in 1937, where he remained for the next 25 years as Chief Test Pilot, with only an interruption of two years during the war, as a pilot for Air France.
He made the first flight of the first French prototype after the war, the Mr.s. 470, the first of 26 prototypes that he flew between 1945 and 1960! Among these the twin-engined MS.702 with which he flew 28,000 km in Africa in 1950. He also flew the "Fleuret", the competitor of the twin-engined "Magister" which was the origin of the MS.760 "Paris", the first twin-engined private jet in 1954. Cliquet has flown more than 10,000 hours.
[4 MS 760 ‘Paris’ - a light communications four-seater powered by two Turbomeca Marbore turbojets. This at the time was completely dismantled and undergoing the usual inspection and minor modification which take up a considerable part of a new prototype's life. The Paris was directly developed from the M.S. 755 Fleuret side-by-side two-seat trainer. It may be remembered that the Fleuret went to India last year for service trials with the Indian Air Force. Contrary to expectations, no order resulted; nor did N.A.T.O. come to the rescue, for the Fouga Magister was standardized as the basic and intermediate trainer. The only Fleuret so far built has been acquired by the French Air Force and is based at Marignane. Translation from Fleuret to Paris was achieved mainly by removing the former's armament, redesigning the cabin floor to eliminate the downward ejection hatch, and moving the rear cabin bulkhead slightly aft at the expense of a little fuel-tank capacity. This lost capacity was made up by re-shaping other portions of the tank. By all reports the Paris has lost none of the Fleuret's delightful flying characteristics, nor have its possibilities as a trainer been in any way prejudiced.
Copyright © DARRYL MICHAEL. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of DARRYL MICHAEL is prohibited.
Photos provided by courtesy of Mohit Dhar Jayal, Ranjan Banerji