Born: France
Primarily active in: France

Rene Dorand was born in France in 1998. He was the son of a pioneer in fixed-wing aviation, and one of the Founders of the Ecole Superieure de L’Aeronautiqe Emile Dorand, and loved aviation from a young age. He graduated from the Ecole Superieure d'Electricite and the Ecole Centrale in France and afterward joined the French Service Technique Aeronautique in 1923.

Soon afterward, Dorand left the Civil Service and in 1931, together with Breguet, created the Syndicat d'Etudes de Gyroplane (French for "Syndicate for Gyroplane Studies"). Rene Dorand served as the technical director for the project, and Louis Breguet was the main designer. Their goal was the development of an experimental helicopter, the Gyroplane Laboratoire.

The aircraft consisted of an open steel tube framework containing the engine, fuel tank, controls, and pilot, and a plywood tail assembly. The tailwheel landing gear was installed with the main wheels on outriggers and with an additional small wheel at the front to avoid nosing-over during landing.

Power was provided by a 240 hp (180 kW) Hispano radial engine propelling the two contra-rotating, coaxial rotors. No anti-torque tail rotor was needed because with the rotors turning in opposite directions, the torque from one rotor was canceled out by the torque produced by the other rotor. The two twin-bladed metal rotors of 52 ft (15.9 m) diameter incorporated both cyclic and collective pitch blade control, which allowed control of the pitch and roll axis as well as climb and descent flight regimes.

The aircraft was completed in 1933, with gross weight about 4,300 lb (1,950 kg). After a few ground tests and an accident, the first flight took place on June 26, 1935. Shortly thereafter, the test pilot Maurice Claisse set many records. On 14 December 1935, he set a record for closed-circuit flight with a 500-meter (1,600 ft) diameter. The next year, on 26 September 1936, Claisse set a height record of 158 meters (520 ft). And, finally, on 24 November 1936, he set a flight duration record of one hour, two minutes and 5 seconds over a 44 kilometer (27 mi) closed circuit at 44.7 kilometers per hour (27.8 mph). Breguet and Dorand continued to conduct further experiments to improve the design until the aircraft experienced a hard landing in June 1939. Development was abandoned with the outbreak of World War II. The sole prototype was destroyed in 1943 during an Allied air attack on the airfield at Villacoublay.

Soon after the falling apart of the Syndicat d'Etudes de Gyroplane, Dorand established the Société Française du Gyroplane (French Gyroplane Company), as a follow-on to the joint company with Louis Breguet.

The French Navy commissioned Gyroplane Company to design a combat helicopter for coastal defense and anti-submarine warfare. Dorand designed the new machine using the coaxial rotor layout previously used on the Gyroplane Laboratoire. The new helicopter was designated the Gyroplane G.20, but it is also known as the Dorand G.20 or the Dorand G.II. The G.20 had a cigar-shaped metal fuselage with a V-tail having fabric covered control surfaces. Construction of the G.20 started in Guethary, France in 1938. When the German Army invaded France in 1940, the helicopter was moved to Chambéry in south-eastern France, near Italy, and construction resumed. The G.20 was completed in 1947 and underwent ground tests. However, the French military showed little interest in the project and provided no additional funding. Consequently, further development and testing of the G.20 was abandoned, and the helicopter never flew. He then proceeded to construct a four-passenger helicopter, the G.11E, which first flew in 1949. The G.111 was a follow-up project that first flew in 1951, but without sales orders, Dorand's company went out of business in 1952.

After the war and the bankruptcy of the Société Française du Gyroplane, Rene Dorand began a new company, Giravions Dorand. Here, Rene began to develop technologies that would become instrumental in future vertical flight technologies. These included the jet-flap rotor and the swashplate. He would die an unexpected death in 1981, only 5 years after his retirement from Giravions Dorand.

2019 VFS History Calendar

2018 VFS Year at a glance 

F. Ribailly(2008) Rene Dorand, Aerosteles: Liex de Memoire Aeronautique

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M. Kretz (1987)Thirteenth European Rotorcraft Forum Introductory Lecture; Rene Dorand: The Life of a Pioneer.