Monday, February 13, 2017

Adolphe Célestin Pégoud

Eighteen year old Pégoud joined the French Army in 1907. Discharged on 13 February 1913, he immediately began flight schooling. He was a natural and earned his pilot's certificate within a month.

Using a sacrificed aircraft, Pégoud was the first pilot to make a parachute jump from an airplane. During the jump, he observed the unexpected a loop-like trajectory of the aircraft and was convinced he could reproduce and control the same in flight. After landing, Pégoud addressed reporters: "I've seen him (the unmanned craft), alone, looping the loop. So you see that this is possible. Also, I will try!"

As a test pilot for Louis Blériot, he devoted himself to this goal with a Blériot model XI monoplane in a series of test flights exploring the limits of airplane maneuvers. He would also be the first accomplish an inverted flight on the first of September, 1913.

Pégoud became a popular instructor of fledgling French and European pilots.

At the start of World War I, Pégoud volunteered for flying duty and was immediately accepted as an observation pilot. February 1915, he and his gunner were credited with shooting down two German aircraft and forcing another to land.

Soon after he was flying single-seat aircraft and in April claimed two further victories. His sixth success came in July. 

Pégoud was the first pilot to achieve ace status of any sort, for which he was awarded with Croix de Guerre.

On 31 August 1915, while intercepting a German reconnaissance aircraft, Pégoud was shot down and killed by one of his pre-war German students, Unteroffizier Walter Kandulski. Pégoud was 26 years old.

The same German crew later dropped a funeral wreath behind the French lines.

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