Wednesday 24 April 2024

Adolphe Célestin Pégoud (1889 – 1915) – French aviator, flight instructor and fighter pilot Ace WW1.


Adolphe Célestin Pégoud was born on 13th June 1889 in Montferrat, France. Between 1907 and 1913 Adolphe served in the French Army. When he was discharged on 13th February 1913, he immediately began flying, and earned his pilot's licence on 1st March 1913. 

Adolphe became the first pilot to make a parachute jump from a plane. During the first jump, observing the unexpected path of the plane and particularly a loop-like trajectory, he was convinced he could reproduce and control the same in flight. After landing, Adolphe told reporters: "I've seen him, alone, looping the loop. So you see that this is possible. Also, I will try!"

As a test pilot for Louis Blériot, he devoted himself to that goal with a Blériot model XI monoplane in a series of test flights exploring the limits of airplane maneuvers. Having modified his plane, and after realistic "head down" ground training, he then flew the first inverted flight on 1st September 1913.

Adolphe became an instructor of pilots from France and other European countries.

When the First World War began, Adolph volunteered for flying duty and was immediately accepted as an observation pilot. On 5th February 1915, he and his gunner were credited with shooting down two German aircraft and forcing another to land. Soon he was flying single-seat aircraft and in April claimed two further victories. His sixth success came in July.

It is not known how many of Pégoud's victories involved destruction of enemy aircraft, as early air combat was rare enough to warrant credit for a forced landing. However, it is certain that Adolphe Pégoud, rather than Roland Garros (four documented victories, and later), was the first pilot to achieve ace status of any sort.

On 31 August 1915, Pégoud was shot down and killed by Unteroffizier Otto Kandulski (who had been his pupil) while intercepting a German reconnaissance aircraft. He was 26 years old. The same German crew later dropped a funeral wreath behind the French lines. Two weeks later, Kandulski was shot down by the French pilot Roger Ronserail, earning Ronserail the title "Le Vengeur de Pégoud" ("The avenger of Pégoud").

Photograph:  Adolphe Pégoud being awarded the Croix de Guerre