Voisin 3LA -LAS



Voisin 3LAS V505




Voisin 3LA - LAS


Single-engine two-seat bomber and observation aircraft


    Shortly after the start of the hostilities in 1914, it became clear that what remained of the flying equipment of the Compagnie des Aviateurs (a handful of JERO/Henri Farman (H)F.20/23bis and a mix of requisitioned civilian aircraft) was not adequate to operate under combat conditions. The Farmans were underpowered and often struggled to stay aloft in the harsh and windy weather conditions of the coastal front near the IJzer river in he winter of 1914/15. Having been impressed with the sturdiness, reliability and power of the French Voisin 3LA (which sometimes operated alongside the Compagnie des Aviateurs during the retreat) the Belgians more than welcomed an offer by the French Government, finalised on 5 January 1915 between Cdt Emile Mathieu (CO of the Compagnie des Aviateurs) and French Colonel André Bouttieaux for the delivery of 7 Voisins.

   The first Voisin 3LA was ferried from Issy les Moulineaux (near Paris) to Sint-Idesbald (Ten Bogaerde) on 25 February 1915 by Lt de Bueger and S/Lt Boschmans. By early May 1915 six type 3LA aircraft powered by a 130hp Salmson Canton-Unné M.9 water-cooled radial engine were delivered to Escadrille III commanded by Lt. R. Dhanis. The seventh aircraft of this order crashed at Villacoublais on May 7th after suffering engine problems at take off, unfortunately killing pilot Lt. Leopold Busy. This was the only fatal accident the Belgians suffered with the Voisin. Already on 3 March 1915, Ministre de la Guerre (and also Prime Minister) Charles de Broqueville approved an order for 11 additional Voisins, delivery of which started as of 3 July 1915. Besides it’s excellent flying characteristics, the Voisin was also notable for being the first aircraft in the war to win an aerial combat when on 5 October 1914 French pilot Joseph Franz and his gunner Louis Quenault shot down an Aviatik B.II of Flieger Abteilung 18 near Jonchery sur Vesle (F.). (Before that, on 25 August 1914, the Belgians Petrowsky and Benselin had shot down a German Taube over St. Agatha-Berchem, but this victory was not confirmed by the Allies). Escadrille III used the Voisin for a variety of missions including: reconnaissance, artillery spotting and bombing. The Belgian Voisins were usually armed with a .303 in Lewis machine-gun, which was fired from a tripod above the pilot’s head and could take a variety of bombs up to 100 kg depending on the type. The second delivery of 11 Voisins also included a number of machines of the 3LAS type, where the additional “S” stands for “surélevé”. In fact they were equipped with the more powerful Salmson P.9 150hp engine that was slightly turned upwards for better performance and ground clearance. While operated with Escadrille III the Belgian Voisins remained unmarked keeping their original French V series registration. The following registrations have been confirmed: V292 (LA), V300 (LA), V341 (LA) V407 (LA), V428 (LA), V505 (LAS) and V565(LAS). 

    When the first improved Farmans became available in early 1916, the Voisin was gradually retired from front line service to start a second career as a trainer at the Belgian military flying school of Etampes (F.). Here 6 surviving Voisins of both types were used (renumbered V41 to V46) until the school finally moved to Juvisy-sur-Orge in 1917. The fuselage of a French Voisin 5LA b2 is preserved at the Royal Army Museum in Brussels while the French Musée de l’Air at Le Bourget exhibits a complete and original Voisin 3LAS. (Daniel Brackx)

Picture  Serial Date In Date Out History
V292 (LA) 1915 - V292, Escadrille III, fate unknown
V341 (LA) 1915 Jun 1915 V341, Escadrille III, crashed at Ten Bogaerde on 26Jun1915
V428 (LA) 1915 1915 V428, Escadrille III, crashed at Ten Bogaerde in 1915
V505 (LAS) Jul 1915 - V505, Escadrille III, fate unknown
Flying School Etampes (F.)
V41 (LAS) 1915 1917 Escadrille III, V-41 Pilot School Etampes (F.)
V42 (LA) 1915 1917 Escadrille III, V-42 Pilot School Etampes (F.)
V45 (LA) 1915 1917 Escadrille III, V-45 Pilot School Etampes (F.)
Non-identified Belgian Air Service Voisin 3LA - LAS
Voisin pictures from the Louis de Burlet's and Yves Duwelz' Collections
Belgian Voisin 3LA - LAS Crew members
Lieutenant Louis de Burlet (Observer)
Lieutenant Robert Desmet
Lieutenant Lucien Poot





Last updated 01/04/15 12:08   Daniel Brackx