This July, we heard about how a group of aviation enthusiasts were building a flying replica of the radical Bugatti 100P racing aircraft. Named Reve Bleu (Blue Dream), it was undergoing taxi and engine testing at the time. This Wednesday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, however, it made its first flight – and did a nose-plant at the end.
Ettore Bugatti began construction on the original 100P in 1937, but had to put the project on hold when the Second World War began. Among the aircraft’s unique features were forward-swept wings, two slant-mounted Bugatti Type 50 engines located behind the cockpit, and two contra-rotating propellers. Unfortunately the aircraft never did fly, and although it has since been restored, its engineless shell is too fragile to be airworthy.
Reve Bleu is highly faithful to the size, power, and shape of the original, although it also incorporates modern amenities such as fiberglass construction and machined alloy fittings.
The flight that took place on Aug. 19th was simply a short hop down the runway, to check the power required/available and to check control responsiveness. Reve Bleu became airborne at a speed of 90 knots (167 km/h or 104 mph), proceeding to a top speed of 110 knots (204 km/h or 127 mph) and an altitude of 100 ft (30.5 m) above ground level.
It did "float" more than the team anticipated, however, causing it to land farther down the runway than planned. Although there was reportedly still plenty of room in which to stop, the aircraft’s right-hand brake gave out, causing it to veer off the runway. Because the ground had been made soft by heavy rains the previous night, Reve Bleu then tipped forward onto its nose, damaging both propellers. The pilot was uninjured.
"Such is the nature of flight testing a new design," the team states. "The relevant news is we successfully flew the Bugatti 100P for the first time. The plane flew beautifully."
You can watch a video of the flight on the team's Facebook page.