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World War One: Nieuport 11

Designed by Gustave Delage in 1914, the Nieuport 11 biplane was affectionately known as the "Bébé" (Baby). The aircraft was originally designed for racing, and as such it was light, fast and extremely maneuverable.


Its only major problem with this aircraft was in the design of the wing struts. In a steep dive, the struts allowed the wings to twist, sometimes with disastrous results.

The type was used by the British and French to counter the Fokker E.III 'Eindecker' scourge in 1916, but the Nieuport 11 was at a disadvantage as it had no interupter gear that would allow the aircraft's gun to fire through the propellor arc. Instead the pilot had to utilise the gun mounted on the top wing.

It remained in service on the Western Front until 1916 and in Italy until mid- 1917.

Ni.11This aircraft represents Nieuport 11, N.2123 which was built by the Italian company Maachi under license in 1917, and was assigned to the 80a Squadriglia, Italian Air Service in May that year. 

Ni. 2123  became the personal mount of Sgt. Alvaro Leonardi, who survived the war with a score of 8 confirmed victories.  The first (and only) of those kills gained at the controls of Ni. 2123 was scored by Leonardi on the 24th May 1917, when he shoot down an Ufag L1 seaplane (L1 36 or L1 37).

The colour scheme was based on the Italian version of the ‘Happy Hooligan’ comic strip, in which this character was called ‘Fortunello’ (which means 'Lucky').  The character is very reminiscent of the modern day ‘Homer Simpson’. 

It seems that the "Fortunello" was very popular as a personal marking with the pilots of 80a Squadriglia, as many of them had one, each with slightly different features.

Supported by a Sopwith Camel, the Nieuport dogfights with a couple of Fokker Dr.1 triplanes.

The Ni.11 as seen from a chase plane.


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