Coanda 1911 Monoplane prop

Coandă 1911 Monoplane

By William Pearce

Romanian Henri Marie Coandă is perhaps best known for observing the way a stream of fluid (such as air) is attracted to and will flow over a nearby surface. This component of fluid dynamics became known as the Coandă Effect. Coandă recognized this phenomenon while testing his first aircraft, built in 1910. This aircraft had a unique propulsion system that Coandă called a turbo-propulseur, and it is recognized as the first “jet” aircraft. A four-cylinder, 50 hp Clerget engine was used to power a rotary compressor that provided thrust. While there is some debate about the validity of the aircraft’s first and only flight and its subsequent destruction, the aircraft was certainly built to be propelled by a jet of fast-flowing air.

Coanda 1911 Monoplane front

Henri Coandă’s 1911 monoplane at the Concours Militaire in Reims, France in October 1911. Note the tandem main gear wheels.

Coandă’s second aircraft was built in France and completed in 1911. It utilized some salvaged and spare parts from the 1910 aircraft. The 1911 aircraft was originally designed to use a turbo-propulseur, but it was finished with a conventional propeller. The aircraft’s engine arrangement, however, was not conventional.

The 1911 aircraft was a rather large monoplane with a parasol wing mounted above the cockpit. A small lifting surface with a nickel steel spar joined the two main landing gear which were each comprised of two tandem wheels. Each main gear wheel set was encased in a large fairing. A single vertical strut made of nickel steel extended above each gear fairing and supported the wing. The wings had a nickel steel spar and were covered by fabric. The aircraft’s roll control was achieved by wing warping. Coandă’s 1911 aircraft had a cruciform tail similar to that used on the 1910 aircraft. The fins of the tail formed an X, and each fin had a trailing control surface that acted as both a rudder and an elevator.

Coanda 1911 Monoplane Getty

This photo shows a detailed view of the Gnome installation on Coandă’s 1911 aircraft. Note the various struts and braces used on the aircraft. The aluminum-covered front fuselage is easy distinguished from the plywood-covered cockpit section. The aircraft’s control wheel can just be seen at right. (Huton Archives image via Getty Images)

A rectangular support structure was formed by the upper and lower spar and the vertical struts above the wheels. The fuselage was suspended in this support structure by a series of brace wires and small struts. Additional wire bracing and struts supported the rest of the aircraft’s structure. Except for where the engines were mounted, the fuselage had a circular cross section that narrowed to a point at the tail. The front of the fuselage was covered by aluminum sheeting, the cockpit section was covered by plywood sheeting, and the rear of the aircraft was fabric-covered.

Perhaps the most unique feature of Coandă’s 1911 monoplane was its engine installation and propeller drive. At the front of the aircraft were two Gnome 7 Gamma rotary engines. The seven-cylinder engines had a 5.1 in (130 mm) bore, a 4.7 in (120 mm) stroke, and a total displacement of 680 cu in (11.1 L). The 7 Gamma produced 70 hp (52 kW) at 1,200 rpm and weighed 194 lb (88 kg).

Coanda 1911 Monoplane engines

This photo shows an engine and gearbox arrangement similar to that used on Coandă’s 1911 monoplane. It is not clear when this photo was taken, but it may have been at the Salon de l’Aeronautique in Paris, France held mid-December 1911 through early January 1912. (Harry Stine image via New Fluid Technology)

The engines were installed front-to-front with their crankshafts perpendicular to the aircraft’s fuselage. While the engines’ cylinders were exposed to the slipstream for cooling, the front of the engines were enclosed within the fuselage. Mounted between the engines was a gearbox that drove a propeller shaft. The propeller shaft extended to the front of the aircraft where it drove a four-blade propeller. The engines and gearbox were mounted to a steel frame. Coandă claimed that the aircraft could fly with just one engine operating.

Most likely, the engines turned in opposite directions relative to each other. While this arrangement would cancel out the gyroscopic effects of the rotary engines along the pitch axis, it would induce some tendency to roll, even if just slightly. Some sources indicate the engines were “handed” —they rotated the same direction relative to each other. In addition to the complications in making a rotary engine run “backward,” the “handed” engine configuration would create a noticeable pitch moment on the aircraft as the engines were throttled (blipped), but it would also alleviate any tendency for the aircraft to roll. However, an early sketch of the engine arrangement indicates “handed” engines were not installed, and that a simple beveled gear arrangement was used to transfer power from the engines to the propeller shaft. Additionally, the transfer gearbox did not appear to be of sufficient size to accommodate the differential gearing needed for a “handed” engine arrangement.

Coanda 1911 Monoplane side

Note the cruciform tail and its control surfaces in this photo of the Coandă 1911 monoplane. Also, the plywood-covered cockpit section can be easily distinguished from the fabric-covered rear fuselage.

The 1911 Coandă monoplane had a wingspan of 53 ft 6 in (16.3 m) and a length of 41 ft (12.5 m). The aircraft had an empty weight of 1,036 lb (470 kg) and a maximum weight of 2,756 lb (1,250 kg). Two fuel tanks of around 30 gallons (115 L) each were housed in the center section of the wing. Reportedly, the aircraft could accommodate a pilot and two passengers. The estimated speed of the 1911 monoplane was 81 mph (130 km/h).

Coandă’s 1911 monoplane was tested in the Concours Militaire (Military Competition), held in Reims, France in late October 1911. Georges de Boutiny flew the aircraft, but it reportedly did not meet performance expectations. Later, wing extensions were added to the wheel fairings, turning the aircraft into a sesquiplane. Along with additional wire bracing, a vertical strut connected the end of the wing extension to the upper wing.

Coanda 1911 Monoplane prop

Mechanic George Bonneuil checks a Gnome engine as pilot George de Boutiny looks on from the cockpit. (Harry Stine image via New Fluid Technology)

A Coandă aircraft catalog from 1911 offered both the monoplane and sesquiplane versions of the aircraft with either 50 hp (37 kW) Omega or 70 hp (52 kW) Gamma Gnome rotary engines. It appears that only the single prototype of the Coandă 1911 aircraft was built, and exactly what happened to it is not known. The 1911 aircraft faded into history, and Henri Coandă went on to build other aircraft and further explore fluid dynamics.

Note: Some claim that Coandă’s 1911 aircraft was the first twin-engine aircraft. However, at least four other twin-engine aircraft preceded it in flight: the Daimler Lutskoy No. 1 (flew 10 March 1910, or possibly earlier), Edward Andrew’s twin (flew early 1910), Roger Sommer’s twin (flew 27 September 1910), and the Queen Speed Monoplane (flew 10 July 1911).

Coanda 1911 Monoplane extensions

This photo shows Coandă’s 1911 aircraft with its wing extensions. The extensions effectively made the aircraft a sesquiplane. Additional struts and braces for the extensions can be seen. Note the three people in the cockpit and also the warp of the wing tip.

Henri Coandă and His Technical Work During 1906-1918 by Dan Antoniu, et al (2010)
French Aeroplanes before the Great War by Leonard E. Opdycke (1999)
Romanian Aeronautical Constructors 1905-1974 by Gudju, Iacibescu, and Ionescu (1974)
Henri Coanda: The Facts by New Fluid Technology (4.3 MB pdf),18780.15.html

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