Mr. Chief of Staff of the Air Force [General Palomeros], Mr. Director General of Civil Aviation [Patrick Gandil], Mr. Director General of Heritage, dear Philippe Bélaval, Mr. President of the Aéro-club de France, dear Jean-JeanFrançois Georges, President of the Heritage Commission of the Aéro-club de France, dear Max Armanet, Director of the Air and Space Museum [Catherine Maunoury] Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
This dinner marks a meeting: that of the cultural institution with the world of aeronautics.
The conquest of the air and the meteoric advance of aeronautics, in just over a century, were one of the greatest technological adventures of our modernity. It is a recent memory, yet already so rich, that occupies a place of choice in the most varied fields of our artistic creation: from design to our literature or our cinema.
For all that, the French aeronautical heritage has remained in some way, in the same way as the automobile heritage, a «poor relative», in comparison with railway vehicles or protected boats: the industrial heritage, Although it was recognized in its movable component as a historic monument in 1970, aircraft classified in 2009, when I joined the Department, could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
It is for these reasons that the Aéroclub de France and the French Ministry of Culture and Communication signed, on 1 July 2009, an agreement aimed at developing protection for the archives and historical monuments of specimens, documents, souvenirs and archives from the French aeronautical world.
This initiative is all the more important because since Clément Ader’s «chip jump» in 1890, since Louis Blériot crossed the English Channel in 1909, France has been a pioneer in aviation.
Another aspect of this relatively short and dense history at the same time, which motivated this heritage initiative even more: the aeronautics industry has had a rich and tormented history due to the rapid transition from the craft era to that of large industry, with restructuring, nationalisation. Many firms have now disappeared, and only Air France and Latécoère have been able to preserve all their documentation. To reconstruct this entrepreneurial memory is to enrich the knowledge of scientific and technical history; it is also to highlight forgotten pages of great adventures at the crossroads, often of aesthetics and industry. Remarkable initiatives already exist in this field – I am thinking of the work of the Groupement pour la Préservation du Patrimoine Aéronautique, based near Angers.
It was therefore necessary to act to counteract this relative indifference that is known in France towards the technical heritage.
The first objective of the Convention between the Aéroclub de France and my Ministry is precisely to identify, with a view to their protection under the title of historical monuments, French-built civil and military aircraft or which, of foreign origin, were produced in France and played an important role in the history of our country, including the Blériot XI, the Maurane-Saulnier aircraft of the interwar period, including five copies from the Salis collection, unique in France, have just been classified; from the four-engine long-haul Lockheed Super-Constellation or the mythical twin-jet Caravelle de Sud-Aviation - symbol, with the Mystery and Mirage fighters of Dassault-Aviation, a national industrial revival in the second half of the 1950s. This year we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first flight of Mystery IV.
If my department’s heritage protection policy were to be open to the movable objects of the aeronautical heritage, it is also because it has been modernized, because it aims to protect and enhance entire sections of our collective memory that until now have beenthere were not taken into account, or not enough, by our classification systems: and I am concerned that the Maurane-Saulnier aircraft can benefit from the preservation, restoration, expertise and development facilities available to the State in the same capacity, such as the extraordinary heritage of the lighthouses on our coast or the lifeboat on the island of Ouessant.
To these unusual aircraft whose obvious aesthetic dimension carries dreams, we must also add the relics of great personalities of French aviation, archives related to missing entities and pictorial works depicting French aircraft or prominent events in the history of French aviation.
The second objective, no less ambitious, of our convention, is to ensure that the Aeroclub de France can provide the Ministry of Culture with assistance with methodology and work on protected objects.
This exemplary partnership between us is meant to be a school. My department is now considering adapting this formula to the census, to protection, to help with the methodology of restoring automobile heritage. I would like to take this opportunity to salute the remarkable work carried out by the National Heritage Institute for the training of conservators, which applies today to objects from industrial heritage and, in particular, to so-called “mobility assets”.
But machines would be nothing without the men who design, manufacture and serve them: to enhance the memory of aeronautics, it is of course to make a place of choice for personalities like the brothers Robert and Léon Maurane and their partner Raymond Saulnier whose centenary of the association has just been celebrated, Henry Farman, Pierre-Georges Latécoère, Henry Potez, Émile Dewoitine and Marcel Bloch-Dassault, among other eminent figures.
It is also to highlight the memory of the illustrious pilots, since Georges Guynemer, the legendary ace of the First World War, and the great veterans of the Aéropostale, Henri Guillaumet, Jean Mermoz and Antoine de Saint- Exupéry, whose first crossing of the Mediterranean will be commemorated next year; or that of the great test pilots like Marcel Doret, Léopold Galy or, closer to us, André Turcat, who made the first takeoff of the prototype of the Concorde on March 2, 1969.
The history of aviation is also that of the women who played a very important role there very early on, since the Baroness de la Roche obtained her certificate in 1910 and the exploits of Adrienne Bolland, Maryse Bastié, Hélène Boucher and Jacqueline Auriol, who made the headlines of the last century, up to the present day with Catherine Maunoury, double world champion and ten times French aerobatic champion, today at the head of the Air and Space Museum.
As you can see, and you know better than I, there is no shortage of material. It is up to us to work together to ensure that our conviction is more widely shared by our fellow citizens. The work that will be carried out jointly by the Aeroclub de France and the Ministry of Culture and Communication will allow us to better restore the past of a living heritage and to guarantee it a presentation to the widest possible public.