Mortane, Charles Godefroy flies through Arc de Triomphe, 1919
On 7 August 1919, three weeks after the victory parade, under cover of secrecy and dressed in his warrant officer uniform, Charles Godefroy took off at 7.20 a.m. from the airfield of Villacoublay in a biplane “Nieuport 11 Bébé” (Bébé = baby - because of its low wing span of 24.67 ft / 24’8’’ or 7.52 m). He reached the Porte Maillot shortly thereafter. Coming from the west, he circled the Arc de Triomphe twice and began the approach along the Avenue de la Grande-Armée. He gathered speed and forced the plane down and through the Arc. He did not have much clearance – the width of the Arc is 47.57 ft / 47’6’’ (14.50 m). He passed at a low level over a tram in which passengers threw themselves to the ground, and many passers-by ran away frightened. Godefroy flew over the Place de la Concorde before returning to the airfield, where his mechanic checked over the engine. No one at the airfield had taken any notice of the flight, which had lasted half an hour.
Thank you, Mme. Scherzo.