In 1908, while the automobile races are in full swing, René Hanriot wins the World Championship (unofficial) in a Benz of 150 hp. But he already had another sport in mind. In May he bought one of Léon Levasseur’s Antoinette monoplanes with a 25 hp motor. But by the end of 1908, the monoplane was not yet delivered and René Hanriot lost patience. This was when he decided to make his own machine. In February 1909 he creates the Hanriot Monoplane Corporation with 500,000 Francs capital. A shed was used as a hangar, workshop and office. His son assisted with the building of the aeroplane. In the summer of 1909, the first Hanriot I proudly left the workshop for its first flight. The motor seemed questionable as early as the departure. Hanriot bought a 6-cyl Buchet, that develops 45 hp and weighs 155 kg.
The machine was subsequently displayed at the Salon de la Aeronautique in 1909.
By this time, devoting himself to his aviation business, René Hanriot abandons autoracing permanently for the flying. In the winter 1909- 1910, he buys several motors that he installs in his monoplanes. By now several copies and versions of the engine are available:
the V8 E. N. V., 50hp, 105kg, designed in 1908 by the British engineer Paul Rath
the four cylinder Vivinus, 70hp, 159kg
the Grégoire GYP by Pierre Joseph Grégoire, weighing 115kg,
the two cylinder Darracq , 30hp, 55 kg,
and a four cylinder of the Même Marque, 60hp, 130 kg.
But it is with the 4-cylinder Clément-Bayard of 40hp that the best results are obtained. The motor, cooled by water, weighs in at just 78kg, in working condition, and it develops not 40hp, as its competitors, but close to 50 true hp. With this motor the flights during the winter 1909-1910 are successful. The monoplane sometimes being piloted by the father, sometimes by the son.
With money earned racing automobiles, René Hanriot continues to develop his aviation business. Committed to flying, he opens a piloting school in Bétheny in December 1909, then in London in January 1910 where he opens a commercial affiliate The Hanriot Monoplane Company Ltd, with 600,000 Francs capital. The first year, 1910, he gains notoriety in Paris, at the 14, place du Havre, and creates at vast workshop in Paris at 34, rue du Moulin. Prudent, he recruits an experienced airman, Emile Ruchonnet, to develop his flying machines, and serve as engineer and chief pilot in his flight school. Former carpenter and former foreman with Levavasseur, Ruchonnet, who was registered in Reims, August 1909, in an Antoinette monoplane, has had his pilot’s license in France’s flying club since June 21, 1910. In April René Hanriot hires autoracer Louis Wagner as test pilot. He is in charge of representing the company at international meetings. His first competition is in Budapest June 5.
Eugene Ruchonnet, Leon Levasasseurs engineer, subsequent designs, developments of the first constructed at his Rheims workshop, had included the 20-hp, Darracq-engined Libellule and a larger derivative powered by a 40-hp Gype, both of which had enabled him to establish a flying school in Betheney in 1910. Instrumental in these aircraft had been Louis Wagner who, like Hanriot himself, had risen from the ground up as a racing car driver, and Marcel Hanriot, Hanriots son, who, at the age of 15, had become the world’s youngest pilot.
In a few months, Hanriot and Ruchonnet designed a new lighter monoplane, the type II. Baptized “Dragonfly” it flew at Bétheny in April, equipped with a 40hp Clément-Bayard. Then, they create a third type of monoplane, more powerful, intended for the competitions. The type IV, a two place, interested the army.
The type V and type VI were used in 1910 by Marcel Hanriot in air meets. Finishing his school year, Marcel Hanriot spends his Sundays on the grass in Bétheny. His father asks him to try all monoplanes produced by their firm. May 17 in Bétheny, Marcel Hanriot takes engineer Etienne Grandjean, a professor at à l’Ecole supérieure de l’aéronautique, for a flight over Champangne in the two place.
June 9, Marcel Hanriot flies from Bétheny to Mourmelon in their model VI. It gets ahead of Marthe Niel, a woman, flying a slower Voisin biplane. The following day Marcel Hanriot obtains his pilot’s license, with the n° 95. He is the youngest licensed pilot in France and most likely in all of Europe. During the 1910 season, the Hanriot monoplanes, piloted by Wagner (Budapest), Marcel Hanriot (Rouen, Caen, Dijon, Reims, Bournemouth), René Vidart (Lanark) and several foreign pilots, achieve glory in the aerial meetings. They win a number of honors and have several victories, showing off the French brand to the entire world, and reaping great financial rewards for the firm.
Aerial demonstrations are organized throughout the year from April to October, in the field at Budapest, but the summit of the 1910 season was the Grand Prix, from 5 May to 15 May1910 in Vienna, then the big week of aviation, June 5 to June 12, with prizes for flight time, distance traversed, altitude, and best take-off, plus a special prize for the trip (230 km traversed in six hours), with 200,000 Francs payoff.
Beginning 1910, thirty competitors were registered in Hungary. France engaged its habitual stables: with Voisin Rougier, Croquet, the Italian Baron of Caters, the Viscount Montigny and John Adorjan, with H. Farman Paulhan, Nicolas Kinet, Chavez, Efimoff and Jullerot, with Sommer André Frey, Hélène Dutrieu and Amerigo, Latham with Antoinette, Alfred of Pischoff (pardon, von Pischoff it was born Vienna Austria!). Orville Wright registered and entrusted a biplane to Engelhardt. Several pilots of the Austro-Hongrois Empire appear in local machines: Agoston Kutany, Erno of Horvath, Aladan of Zsekely. The day of the competition half of the registered competitors were missing. Dutrieu s’est abattue sur son Sommer to Odessa, and this is the Baroness of La Roche that defends the colors Voisin; she had access to a big ENV engine, as did Frey (Sommer) and Pischoff. The Austrian Illner (Etrich) and the French Wagner (Hanriot) had access to a 40hp Clément-Bayard (Clerget) engine. Kinet, Efimoff and Paulhan had access to Gnome engine with a remarkably effective propeller. The wind was blowing strong during the ten days of the competition and caused several spectacular accidents.
On June 7, Efimoff lost some pieces and crashed. Injured to the forehead and to the leg the French pilot was taken to hospital. On June 9, Latham breaks a wing strap (flying wire?) and crashed. His machine was pulverized but the Frenchman was miraculously unharmed.
The pilot is but one of six injured. Later in the evening, Bielovucic crashed but he was fortunately unhurt. The next day Illner’s airplane returned to service. Louis Wagner succeeded taking off in the evening but is forced to the ground by the wind. His machine is irreparable. Thus begins for Hanriot the 1910 season, and Marcel will outshine his father.
Aeroplanes Hanriot et Cie was founded during the First World War. Its first design was the Le Rhone-engined HD.1 sesquiplane fighter, rejected by the French services but subsequently used very successfully by Italian and Belgian pilots. An HD.2 floatplane version and more-powerful HD.3 two-seat reconnaissance/escort fighter were also built. After the war Hanriot license-manufactured British Sopwith aircraft and produced the H.43 advanced biplane trainer, H.46 Styx liaison and ambulance monoplane, and the H.131 low-wing racing monoplane, which won the 1931 Coupe Michelin. In 1930 the company became a division of Societe General Aeronautique (SNCAC), manufacturing aircraft under the Lorraine-Hanriot name.
In France, the Socialist Government of the so-called Popular Front brought all the companies building military aircraft, aero engines and armament under its control in 1936. The immediate result was the socialized oblivion of such established companies as Marcel Bloch, Bleriot, Nieuport, Potez, Dewoitine, Hanriot and Farman within half a dozen nationalized groups or Societies Nationales, named according to their geographical location (Nord, Ouest, Centre, Midi and so on).