On the 28th of March 1910, Henri Marie Léonce Fabre (29 November 1882 – 30 June 1984) flew his Hydroavian, the first seaplane, at Étang de Berre, a lagoon about 25 kilometers (15½ miles) west of Marseille, on the Mediterranean coast of France. The airplane, named Le Canard, flew 457 meters (1,499 feet).

The Hydroavian is 8.45 meters (27 feet, 8.67 inches) long with a wingspan of 14 meters (45 feet, 11.18 inches) and height of 3.70 meters (12 feet, 1.67 inches). It has an empty weight of 380 kilograms (838 pounds) and the gross weight is 475 kilograms (1,047 pounds).


Henri Fabre standing beside the 50-horsepower Gnome Omega 7 engine  and propeller used to power the Hydroavian. (Photo by Fabre Family/AFP via Times of Malta)

Fabre’s airplane was powered by a normally-aspirated, air-cooled, 7.983 liter (487.140-cubic-inch-displacement) Société des Moteurs Gnome Omega 7-cylinder rotary engine which produced 50 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. The direct-drive engine turned a two-bladed wooden propeller in a left-hand, pusher configuration. The Omega 7 is 79.2 centimeters (2 feet, 7.2 inches) long, 83.8 centimeters (2 feet, 9.0 inches) in diameter, and weighs 75.6 kilograms (166.7 pounds). The prototype of this engine is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air & Space Museum.


Fabre Hydroavian at Monaco, April 1911 (Photo by CTIE Monash University)

Though it was damaged in a crash in 1911, Le Canard was restored and is in the collection of Musée de l’air et de l’espace.

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Text Author: Bryan R. Swopes