The A-I was the
product of a long line of successful Morane aircraft.
It entered service in the spring of 1918 in time
to see combat during the last few months of World War
I. The parasol-type
design was a big advantage over the biplanes because of
The aircraft was a complete success but by late
1917, the French had adopted the SPAD, with its Hispano
Suiza V-8 engine, to equip all of its squadrons. The 160 hp Gnome engine was noisy and not as nice to operate
as the liquid-cooled Hispanos.
When the Americans entered the war, they received
160 hp Gnome powered aircraft from the French like the
Morane A-I and the Nieuport 28. Most A-I’s were sold to the new U.S. Army Air Service and flew
with 2 squadrons of the Lafayette Flying Corps. The Army used the majority as advanced trainers while several
went to the Navy for 'Carrier' experimentation.
Many pilots were initially leery of
the monoplane design as they felt that they were not as
strong as the biplanes they were used to flying.
In an earlier 1916 Morane monoplane, but of mid-wing
design, French pilot Roland Garros came up with a crude
but ingenious idea to fire a machine gun through his propeller.
In an attempt to use a forward firing machine gun
that he mounted on top the Morane’s fuselage he bolted
angled 'deflector plates' to the propeller to deflect
any occasional bullets that might hit the propeller.
With a few drawbacks, his idea worked and he became
the first ever ace by shooting down five enemy aircraft.
Garros unfortunately forced landed behind German
lines and his airplane was captured.
Tony Fokker was sent to the front and shown the
aircraft and its crude system.
He came up with a better design and developed the
first synchronized machine gun to fire through a propeller.
Eventually, the allies captured a German airplane
and copied Fokker’s
aircraft was sold to the United States Army Air Service
in 1918. This
aircraft, along with several others, was shipped to McCook
Field in Ohio for testing.
Surviving the test programs of the early 1920’s
they eventually were sold to private pilots.
This particular aircraft ended up in
the Tallmantz Collection and was acquired by Kermit when
he purchased the collection in 1985.
It was sent to England and restored by Personal
Plane Services in the late 1980’s.
It has the original style 'aluminum powder in the
paint' finish and newly manufactured Michelin tires.
The aircraft was painted in the colors
of a pilot by the name of Lt. Demeraux.
Flying with an Escadrille who called themselves
the “Knights of the Air” their motif was a silver Knights
adopted his own version of the helmet, mantling in red,
and as a personal marking adopted the blue and white chevron
from one of his earlier units.
While there seems to be no mention of Demeraux
having any 'kills' or surviving the war, he had one of
the more flamboyant and interesting paint schemes of the
is why it was chosen.
The 160 hp Gnome
Rotary in this aircraft is called a 'Monosoupape', which
means single-valve in French, and is the most interesting
of all rotaries to run and operate.
It has only 1 valve in the top of each cylinder,
which is utilized for both inlet and exhaust.
As with all rotaries, the crankshaft is fixed and
the engine and propeller spin as one unit.
With Gnome designs up to 100 hp there was no throttle
pilot either had full power or no power.
By pressing a 'blip switch' located on the top
of the stick, the pilot could ground out the magneto and
stop the spark plugs from firing.
When this bigger engine of 160 hp was designed,
it was felt that there had to be some way to control the
engine power better for ground handling and landing.
Two magnetos were incorporated in the design.
One was used in the normal fashion where
it was either, 'on' or 'off'.
The second magneto was routed through an interrupter
the first magneto grounded and not firing, the pilot had
a 5 position switch for the other magneto and could select
full, half, quarter, one-eighth throttle or off. This was accomplished by interrupting the normal firing order
of the engine. Normally,
a 4-cycle engine fires once every 2 revolutions.
With the selector in the half-throttle position
it would fire once every 4 revolutions.
In the quarter position it would fire once every
8revolutions and in the eighth throttle position, once
every 16. It
is very interesting to hear this engine operate.
If you did not know how it worked, you would think
that it was the worst running engine that you have ever
After the war,
a Frenchman set a World Inside Loop record in an A-I doing
1,111 loops in 111 minutes.