STAR and the Nieuport-Delage 641

By: Rob Mulder and in co-operation with Robert Espérou and Régis Biaux
For: www.europeanairlines.no

A small airliner for a small airline company was the Nieuport-Delage 641, also known as Ni-D 641. This high-winged single-engine aircraft saw limited service in France and operated two international air services for the Société de Transports Aériens Rapide – STAR. Here is a short review of the use of the aircraft in France.

The firm Société Anonyme des Établissements Nieuport

But first a short review over the production of civil airliners constructed by the Société Anonyme des Établissements Nieuport. Edouard de Nieport, commonly known as Nieuport, formed the company in 1910. It had its own flying school at Villacoublay (Seine and Oise). During the Great War it produced some fighter-reconnaissance aircraft like the Nieuport 10 and 12 and some good fighters like the 11, 16, 17, 21, 23, 24, 27 and 28. The American Expeditionary Force was the major user of the Nieuport 28. A subsidiary of Nieuport was the airline company Compagnie Générale Transaérienne. CGT was originally formed in 1909 as one of the first airline companies in the world and operated with air ships until the start of the Great War in 1914. CGT made after the war some thirties flights with an air ship at Le Havre and Deauville. On August 25, 1919, CGT started up in co-operation with the English airline company Air Transport & Travel an air service between Paris and London. The French airline company carried only mail. In February 1921 it discontinued all services and was subsequently dissolved.

The first aircraft for CGT

The Nieuport 28 was originally a fighter powered by a 160 hp Gnôme engine and was from August 1919 available as a civil version. It was used by the CGT that used it as mail plane.

The Nieuport 28 was succeeded by the by the first post-war civil aircraft, the Ni-Delage 30T. It was introduced at the end of 1919. The 450 hp Renault 12Ka engine powered this biplane. The closed cabin could house four passengers. The pilot sat in an open cockpit. CGT took delivery of seven aircraft and used them on the Paris – London route.

The Ni-D 30T was succeeded by the Ni-D 30T1 with a 350 hp Sunbeam engine and a larger version called the Ni-D 30T2 with a 450 hp Sunbeam engine and capable of carrying four to seven passengers.

Next was the Ni-D 38 that was introduced in the mid-twenties as the successor of the many obsolete converted warplanes. A more modern and economical aircraft was to replace them. The Ni-D 38 was an equal-span biplane introduced in 1924 with a 180 hp Hispano Suiza 8Ab engine. It could carry two passengers in an enclosed cabin and two aircraft were produced for service with Compagnie Aérienne Française – CAF for operation on the air service Genève – Bordeaux. Two further aircraft were ordered and delivered.

Another aircraft developed for CAF and introduced in 1927 was the single-engine biplane (with a 180 hp Hispano Suiza (Ad water-cooled engine) type Nieuport-Delage Ni-D 390. The successor was the Ni-D 391 that was powered by the 200 hp Armstrong-Siddeley Lynx IVc engine. In 1931 the Ni-D 393 with a 240 hp Lorraine 7Ma succeeded these two models. A total of 34 aircraft were produced, including one ambulance version.

This brings us to the aircraft of this article the Nieuport-Delage 641. It appeared for the first time in 1927 as the Ni-D 640 (prototype carried the registration F-AIXI, c/n 1). It was a single-engine high-wing monoplane. The Ni-D 641 powered by a 230 hp Lorraine 7Ma air-cooled radial engine succeeded the Ni-D 640. The prototype, registered F-AJDA (c/n 1), flew for the first time in 1929 and production and deliveries started the following year. The cockpit was situated in front of the wing and the enclosed cabin housed four passengers in comfortable seats. One aircraft was exported to Brazil. It was the F-AJKL (c/n 3) that became P-BAAD (later to PP-VAD). But most aircraft were delivered to a small French airline company with the name Société de Transports Aériens Rapide – STAR.

Société de Transports Aériens Rapide – STAR

This company was formed in May 1930 with a stock capital of 1.5 million French Francs. It was a subsidiary of the Nieuport-Delage Company and Monsieur Delage became the general manager. He employed Jean Denis from Air Union as chief of the pilots.

Between June and September 1930 the STAR took delivery of seven Nieuport-Delage Ni-D 641s. In addition, three single-engine high-winged Fokker F.VIIa’s were delivered as well.

The STAR had as goal to perform charter work and set up a fast connection between Paris and other cities in France for the transportation of the newspaper Hachette. Furthermore, STAR opened an air taxi service between Cherbourg and Paris carrying passengers arriving and departing by the luxurious Atlantic liners. In 1930 regular air service were inaugurated and operated as well:

July 7 – September 30, 1930             Paris – Genève

August 1 – 31, 1930                              Paris – Berck – Le Touquet

August 3 – 31, 1930                              Paris – Deauville

August 24 – October 15, 1930         Paris – Lympne (UK).

The results on these services were far from impressive. In 1930 a total of 100,000 kilometres was flown, transporting 207 passengers, 8,600 kgs of newspapers but no mail! Beside the regular air services STAR operated joy ride at and charter flights to and from numerous air meetings throughout France.

In its final year of operation STAR flew the air service Paris – Dijon – Marseille and on May 4 it was changed into Paris – Dijon – Moirans – Cannes with the first flight inaugurated by the Fokker F.VIIa. In Paris connection to London was established through Imperial Airways Ltd. The Nieuport-Delage Ni-D 641s were used for the carriage of newspapers and in June a trial flight over the route Paris – Lausanne was made. Beside last years services Paris – Lille was inaugurated and operated for a while.

Unfortunately 1931 saw the loss and damage of a number of Ni-D 641s:

Date Aircraft Fate
May 7 Ni-D 641, F-AJNP Extra-ordinary landing at Challes
May 10 Ni-D 641, F-AJQY Extra-ordinary landing near Langres
May 14 Ni-D 641, F-AJNU Extra-ordinary landing near Langres
July 6 Ni-D 641, F-AJRA Severe accident injuring the pilot Ripault
    and two passengers
July 15 Ni-D 641, F-AJRB Near Grenoble where the pilot Bouthiet was
killed together with one passenger. Two other
passengers were injured.

These accidents contributed to the end of the airline company STAR and at the end of August all service were discontinued. The aircraft (Ni-D 641) had by February 1932 clocked the following flying-hours:

Registration
Number
of hours
F-AJNO 275
F-AJNP 272
F-AJNU 171
F-AJQY 262
F-AJQZ 131

By January 1935 the aircraft were demolished. The company STAR, operating without a subsidy, could not survive a difficult economical situation after Black Monday (crash of the stock exchange in New York in October 1929). It was not until August 1931 before the STAR received a subsidy for the line Paris – Cannes, but it was by then too late. The number of accidents was far too high compared with other French airline companies.

The fleet

We would appreciate any reactions on the fleet of STAR for the period 1930-1931. Not mentioned here are the three Fokker F.VIIa’s.

C/n 8

Nieuport-Delage Ni-D 641

Engine: 1x 230/240 hp Lorrain 7Mb Mizar  
Regn. Date Remarks
F-AJQZ 05.06.30 Registered to Société de Transports Aériens Rapides – STAR, Paris
  02.32 Had flown 131 flying hours.
  08.31 Withdrawn from service
  01.35 Demolished and cancelled
C/n 2 Nieuport-Delage Ni-D 641
Engine 1x 230/240 hp Lorrain 7Mb Mizar  
Regn. Date Remarks
F-AJNO 06.06.30 Registered to Société de Transports Aériens Rapides – STAR, Paris
  02.32 Had flown 275 flying hours.
  08.31 Withdrawn from service
  01.35 Demolished and cancelled
C/n 9 Nieuport-Delage Ni-D 641  
Engine: 1x 230/240 hp Lorrain 7Mb Mizar  
Regn. Date Remarks
F-AJRA 27.06.30 Registered to Société de Transports Aériens Rapides – STAR, Paris
  06.07.31 Crashed at Dijon for 40 %.
  .31 Cancelled
C/n 7 Nieuport-Delage Ni-D 641  
Engine: 1x 230/240 hp Lorrain 7Mb Mizar  
Regn. Date Remarks
F-AJNU 01.07.30 Registered to Société de Transports Aériens Rapides – STAR, Paris
  14.05.30 Crashed near Langres. Not rebuilt?
  02.32 Had flown 171 flying hours.
  01.35 Demolished and cancelled
C/n 6 Nieuport-Delage Ni-D 641
Engine: 1x 230/240 hp Lorrain 7Mb Mizar  
Regn. Date Remarks
F-AJNP 08.07.30 Registered to Société de Transports Aériens Rapides – STAR, Paris
  08.31 Withdrawn from service
  01.32 Had flown 272 flying hours.
  01.35 Demolished and cancelled
C/n 10 Nieuport-Delage Ni-D 641  
Engine: 1x 230/240 hp Lorrain 7Mb Mizar  
Regn. Date Remarks
F-AJRB 18.08.30 Registered to Société de Transports Aériens Rapides – STAR, Paris
  15.07.31 Crashed near Grenoble and destroyed beyond repair.
  .31 Cancelled
C/n 11 Nieuport-Delage Ni-D 641
Engine: 1x 230/240 hp Lorrain 7Mb Mizar  
Regn. Date Remarks
F-AJQY 06.09.30 Registered to Société de Transports Aériens Rapides – STAR, Paris
  10.05.31 Crashed near Langres and rebuilt.
  02.32 Had flown 262 flying hours.
  01.35 Demolished and cancelled

My gratitude goes to Robert Espérou and Régis Biaux for their help in compelling this article.