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MD 311-312-315 Flamant

Origins and context

After the second world war, Marcel Dassault wished to design a prototype with a view to winning the open competition for a liaison aircraft, which the government had announced.

Indeed, Marcel Dassault’s efforts to break back into aircraft construction ran into stiff government opposition. In 1945, the Air Ministry was run by a communist minister, Charles Tillon, who believed in only giving work to national companies.

Dassault’s talks with technical staff in the ministries showed him that commercial aviation was a dead-end street. On their advice, he talked to Air Force authorities who were keen to rapidly lay hands on a liaison aircraft. They called to tender in June 1945 and Dassault jumped at the opportunity.

MD 311 n°1 Flamant in flight
MD 311 n°1 Flamant in flight

MB 303

The project of the twin-engine BA 30 liaison aircraft designed by Bordeaux-Aéronautique during the occupation was again studied and redesigned. After examining the 3-view drawing, Marcel Dassault raised the horizontal stabilizers and asked for the fuselage nose to be extended so as to house the fore wheel. He also decided on a more powerful engine and defined the propellers. The project, now called the MB 30, was to carry two Snecma 12 S Argus engines.

The Air Ministry showed an interest, asking Marcel Dassault for a full-scale model. The aircraft and design of the aircraft had been carried out at the Corporation’s own cost and offered him three models:

  • The MB 30-1, a bombing and navigation trainer
  • MB 30-2, for medical and colonial roles
  • MB 30-3, liaison and training aircraft

 

MB 303 Flamant
MB 303 Flamant

On July 30, 1946, Marcel Dassault secured a contract to produce and provide two MD 30 type aircraft in two versions :

  • A pilot training and liaison aircraft (n°1) which became the MB 303
  • A bombing and navigation training aircraft (n° 2) which became the MB 301.

In accordance with the government’s wishes, these aircraft were to be fitted with the Lorraine Béarn engine. The two-engine MB 303 first flew at Mérignac on February 10, 1947, piloted by Georges Brian and Kostia Rozanoff, accompanied by the mechanic Jean Dillaire. By May 1947, the test program was practically complete; it was already clear that the Lorraine Béarn engines lacked power. The MB 303 was consequently abandoned in favor of the MD 315 simultaneously developed by Marcel Dassault at his own cost and equipped with Snecma 12 S Argus engine.

Flamant MD 311-312-315

He secured a contract in 1946 for his MB 30 project. In accordance with the government’s wishes, these aircraft were to be fitted with the Lorraine Béarn engine.

But the Béarn did not develop the engine power expected of it. Conscious as he was that the aircraft might be underpowered, he simultaneously worked on a almost identical aircraft, the private venture MD 315, powered with Snecma 12 S Argus engines.

As it was expected the Lorraine Béarn engines lacked power and the MB 303 was consequently abandoned in favor of the MD 315, equipped with Dassault 304 propellers.

On July 6, 1947, Georges Brian, Jean Dillaire et Kostia Rozanoff took the MD 315 up for a ten-minute maiden-flight, with the undercarriage down. Constantin Rozanoff later figuratively recalled: “The plane holds better at the feet and brakes than the 303. You pull [the stick] and you’re off, then you find you’re in the air like an a.. at the end of the runway in no time at all.” Lighter than its competitors SO 94 and NC 701 Siebel thus more maneuverable and with a better climb speed, the MD 315 won.

MD 315 Flamant in flight
MD 315 Flamant in flight

A initial contract was signed on December 3, 1947, for 65 aircraft, followed one year later (on November 1948), by another for 230 and at the end of 1950, a further 25 for the Navy ; a total – prototypes included – of 325 aircraft.
The Flamant range encompassed three models:

  • the glazed-nose MD 311 used for bombing and navigation training
  • the MD 312 used for liaison flights and flying schools – which included a bespoke MD 312 M used by the Navy –
  • MD 315, used for overseas work and air-ambulance missions.

The State, however, insisted on farming different portions of the production process to state-run and private firms. That set-up, indeed the first such arrangement in France, involved signing distinct contracts with each provider, instead of entrusting a single organization with supervising the work and selecting the subcontractors it deems fit. This awkward arrangement raised considerable coordination issues, which the French aeronautical industry nevertheless managed to overcome. Dassault’s engineering department developed highly complex tools to stitch the components emerging off the myriad production lines together. And that triggered the boom that the company and its plants in the Bordeaux area subsequently enjoyed.

The Flamants’ robust build and multi-purpose versatility earned them increasing popularity. In mainland France, they were progressively used by GLAM (for ministerial liaisons by air), ETPBM (a school for retraining pilots to fly twin-engine aircraft in Avord), CIET (a transport crew training center in Toulouse), Salon-de-Provence Air Force Academy, and GAEL (an air liaison and flying training center in Villacoublay). Between 1949 and 1954, they were assigned to Air Force and Navy flight test centers. The first Flamants serving in Algeria were assigned to Blida air base in 1952

Outside France, four countries – Cambodia, Cameroon, Madagascar and Tunisia – use Flamants as part of French military support programs.

This aircraft served actively in the French Air Force until 1982.

MD 312 Flamant, on the ground
MD 312 Flamant

MB 303 Datasheet

Engine

Type 2 Bearn 6D
Thrust 2 X 375 ch

Flamant MD 311-312-315 Datasheet

Dimensions

Span MB 315 20,21 m
Length 12,60 m
Height 4,60 m

Weight

Unladen weight 4500 kg
Max. Takeoff Weight 6400 kg

Performances

Max. Speed 390 km/h
Max. height 7000 m

Engine

Type 2 X Renault 12 S 02 de 580 CV puis 2 X Snecma 12 T de 605 CV