Single engine single transport aircraft and general purpose trainer
In the early thirties, the "Société des Avions Henri Potez" was a very successful aircraft manufacturer selling its products in France and abroad. Among many aircraft designs, Potez also specialised in single engine multi-seaters. In general these were very robust and antique looking biplanes and monoplanes. These aircraft (all more or less developments of the Potez 25) were specially adapted for use in military service, by small airline companies or even the odd wealthy private owner. From the start, the military Potez 33 was equipped for reconnaissance, bombardment and gunnery training and had a spacious and enclosed cabin. Construction was a mix of wood and metal and the aircraft was equipped with a large track (2.20m) undercarriage. The wooden wings were a development of those used on the Model 32. The cockpit was laid out for twin pilot use, thus facilitating long distance flights. The Potez 33 could be equipped with a forward firing machine gun (not adopted by the AéM. in Belgium) as well as a dorsal turret and two machine guns bellow the fuselage (not adopted by the AéM. in Belgium). The bombardment equipment consisted of a vertical bomb rack within the fuselage. The machine also had several hatches allowing vertical and horizontal photo reconnaissance and already could boost two radio sets (TSF), still a rarity in its days.
The Potez 33 was a military derivative of the commercial airliner (4 passengers) Potez 32, itself being a development of the Potez 29 biplane.
The Belgian Aéronautique Militaire/Militair Vliegwezen ordered 8 Potez 33's around 1931. (Very little information is available on the use of this aircraft type in the AéM.). A picture dated 25 March 1931 shows one of the Potez 33's of the Hirondelle Squadron (5/III/1Aé), while in a 1931 edition of the "Conquête de l'Air" mention is made of the order for Algol engines to power the Potez. Being operationally used by the Schools and some Observation Regiments the eight machines were coded Z-1 to Z-8.
Several Potez 33's were in service with the Ecole d'Aviation (Cacatoés) based at Evere (Z-2, -3, -4, and -8) and brilliantly fulfilled the needs of this unit. They allow the training of future observers in their reconnaissance tasks as well as in the use of the TSF (radio). As most Belgian observers also had a secondary task as gunner, they could also train their shooting skills with the dorsal turret which was already equipped with a gun camera. Another user of the training potential of the aircraft was the Pilot School at Wevelgem (Pinguin) which is known to have used Z-5 and Z-7.
In the observation units the Potez 33 was mainly used as a liaison and transport aircraft. In time of war, most of these units were detached to rudimentary equipped "war"-airfield and the Potez came in handy to commute between those fields and the main logistical home-base. The following Observation-Units using Potez 33's have been identified by means of pictures: 5/III/1Aé (Hirondelle) (Z-2), 3/II/1Aé (Feuille de Houx) (Z-7) and 7/IV/1Aé (Mephisto).
Attrition rate was relatively high and by 1940 only one Potez remained operational, being detached to the Gunnery school at Oostende from 28 April 1940 onwards. With the start of the hostilities on 10 May 1940 the school evacuated to France and the last of the Belgian Potez 33's was abandoned at Pau (F.) in June. Thus came an end to the career of this little know aircraft of the Belgian Aéronautique Militaire. (Yves Duwelz & Daniel Brackx)
|Picture||Serial||C/N||Date In||Date Out||History|
|Z-1||-||1931||-||Z-1, Ecole d’Aviation (Cocatoè)|
|Z-2||-||1931||-||Z-2, Ecole d’Aviation (Cocatoè), 5/III/1Aé (Swallow)|
|Z-4||-||1931||-||Z-4, Ecole d’Aviation (Cocatoè)|
|Z-5||-||1931||-||Z-5, Ecole d’Aviation (Cocatoè), 3/II/1Aé (Holy Leaf), 5/III/1Aé (Swallow)|
|Z-6||-||1931||-||Z-6, III/1Aé, Ecole d’Aviation (Cocatoè)|
|Z-7||-||1931||-||Z-7, Pilot School Wevelgem (Penguin), 3/II/1Aé (Holy Leaf)|
|Z-8||-||1931||-||Z-8, 5/III/1Aé (Swallow), Ecole d'Aviation (Cocatoè)|
|Interior - armament views of an Aéronautique Militaire Potez 33|
|Unidentified Potez 33's of the Aéronautique Militaire Belge|
|Three side views of a Potez 33|
Supplementary detailed information at
Last updated 17/07/14 08:07 Daniel Brackx