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MB 120

The prototype of the MB 120, the modified MB 71, made its first flight at Villacoublay on 24 or 30 October 1932, with Zacharie Heu at the controls.

Origins and prototypes : three engines for the colonies

The prototype of the MB 120, the modified MB 71, made its first flight at Villacoublay on 24 or 30 October 1932, with Zacharie Heu at the controls. It was a high wing, fixed undercarriage design, powered by three 300hp Lorraine 9 Na “Algol” engines, intended for service in French overseas territories. It was designed for exploration, air links, medical evacuation and transportation, particularly for the military. Programme planners also envisaged bombing missions.

After satisfactory testing and approval by a commission, MB 120-01, registered F-AMSZ and baptized “Scorpion”, was used for some important transport missions. It was used to transport the president of the French Council, Édouard Daladier, at the end of 1933 and carried Air Minister Pierre Cot to the Soviet Union in early 1934. It was then assigned to the ministerial transport fleet.

In May, when the French government created Air Afrique, it was fitted with new engines and extra fuel tanks. Between 16 and 22 June, it was presented to the Belgian civil authorities in Brussels, in the hope of attracting interest from Sabena, which also had a major air service to the Belgian Congo. Finally, at the end of June 1934, it was flown to Algiers and handed over to Air Afrique.

 

MB 120 in flight
MB 120

Production and operational experience

Air Afrique used four MB 120s: the prototype and four series production aircraft (F-ANJX, F-ANNX, F-APDB et F-APVZ). They were used for scheduled flights between Algiers, Niamey, Fort-Lamy and the Congo. The first flight took place on 7 September 1934 and the line was opened for passenger service on 27 April 1935.

Also in the colonies, at the initiative of a pilot, René Lefèvre, a postal service was opened between Tananarive and Broken Hill (in modern-day Zambia) on 24 July 1934. In May and August 1935, the Air Minister handed over two MB 120s to the Madagascar Air Navigation Service (SNAM). The first, F-ANTK “Ville de Paris”, was officially received in June 1935.

MB 120 on the ground
MB 120

The second, F-ANVP “Ville de Tananarive”, was delivered before the end of July 1935, flown by René Lefèvre, Jean Assolant and Armand Lotti, with General Philippe Féquant, aviation inspector for the French overseas territories, on board. The Paris-Madagascar route was opened for passenger service in 1936. On 1 January 1937, the Malgache company was absorbed into Air Afrique, which took possession of the two MB-120s.

The MB 120 could carry three crew and 10 passengers. However, most missions were performed with four passengers and a large mail load. Operating in a distant country, with all the ensuing maintenance problems, and with rudimentary infrastructure and very limited personnel, the aircraft earned its nickname “tireless”.

From the outset, the MB 120 was designed for military operations. It was originally planned for the French Air Force to have 6-9 of these aircraft by early 1936. The three military MB 120s of the French West Africa (AOF) federation were assigned to Dakar, where they arrived in April and December 1935, while the aircraft assigned to the governor of the French East Africa (AEF) federation arrived at its base in Bangui on 8 February 1935.

In September 1939, following the dissolution of Air Afrique, the company’s MB 120s were requisitioned by the armed forces. MB 120-01, based in Ivato, Madagascar, was taken over by Air France in 1941. The permanent detachment of French Air Forces in Chad, a colony placed under the authority of governor Félix Eboué, pledged allegiance to General de Gaulle. Three MB 120s were probably recovered by the Free French Air Forces (FAFL) and operated on the military air services (Lignes Aériennes Militaires, LAM) of unoccupied France. None of the MB 120s survived the conflict.

Registration of the seven civil MB 120s

– MB 120 n°1, F-AMSZ n° 01, Scorpion
– MB 120 n°2, F-ANJX n° 1
– MB 120 n°3, F-ANNX n° 5, Sirius
– MB 120 n°4, F-ANTX n° 6, Ville de Paris
– MB 120 n°5, F-ANVP n° 9, Ville de Tananarive
– MB 120 n°6, F-APDB n° 10
– MB 120 n°7, F-APZV n° 4

Datasheet

Dimensions

Wing span 20.516 m
Length 15.60m
Height 5.10 m
Wing area 60m²

Weight

Empty weight 3,436 kg

Performances

Engine 3 x 300hp Lorraine Algol 9 Na engines
Maximum speed at 1,000 m 239 km/h
Absolute ceiling 6,300 m
Landing speed 115 km/h
Range 1,340 km
Time to climb to 1,000 m 4 min. 31 sec
Weapons 2 x 7.7mm Lewis machine-guns with 12 ammunition drums and 24 x 10kg bombs or 50 x 1kg grenades

Specificities

Reconnaissance

Equipements 258 kg
Crew 1 000 kg
Passengers 276 kg
Food, water 25 kg
Total weight 4 996 kg

Bombing

Equipements 200kg
Munitions Bombes 58 kg
Combustible 280 kg
Crew 1 000 kg
Passengers 184 kg
Food, water 20 kg
Total weight 5 198 kg

Medical

Equipements 150 kg
Crew 1 000 kg
Passengers 184 kg
Food, water 254 kg
Total weight 5025 kg

Inspection

Equipements 152 kg
Crew 1 000 kg
Passengers 92 kg
Food, water 103 kg
Total weight 5 083 kg