South American Rally | From April to June
At the end of the First World War, Pierre-Georges LATECOERE created an airmail service with the aim of connecting Europe to the continents of Africa and South America. The first route, from Toulouse to Casablanca, became operational in 1919 and later was extended to Dakar in Senegal which would become the staging post for Buenos Aires. The story of the LATECOERE Airmail Service, which also carried a few passengers, is told in the wonderful book “Vent de Sable” by J.KESSEL.
In 1927, when the Toulouse-Dakar route was fully operational, Marcel BOUILLOUX-LAFONT, who took over LATECOERE Airmail renaming it “L’AEROPOSTALE”, asked Jean MERMOZ to develop the South American routes. The established routes from Natal to Rio de Janeiro and from Rio to Buenos Aires formed the foundation of the extended service. With the help of other experienced pilots including Antoine de SAINT-EXUPERY, Marcel REINE and Henri GUILLAUMET together with mechanic Alexandre COLLENOT and Chief Operating Officer Julien PRANVILLE, to name some of the better known, he planned and built the following routes from the base in Buenos Aires:
- The north-east route to Rio and Natal for which he developed the airfields at Montevideo, Pelotas, Porto-Alegre, Florianopolis, Santos, Vitoria, Bahia, Maceio and Recife;
- To the north heading into Paraguay;
- To the west into Santiago de Chile.
It was on the north-east route through Uruguay and Brazil that Jean MERMOZ mastered the skills necessary for night flying which in May 1930 would be put to good use during his epic flight from Dakar, across the Atlantic, to Natal on the north east tip of Brazil. The flight was made in the LATECOERE 28 aircraft “Comte de La Vaulx” with crew members Leopold GIMIE and Jean DABRY.
The Santiago route had the extra complication of flying over the Andes in open cockpit aircraft with a service ceiling of twelve to thirteen thousand feet, well below the peaks of the Andes, and thus required flying through the mountain passes. On one trip Henri GUILLAUMET, who had made the crossing of the Andes a hundred times before, ran into a huge storm and landed his Potez 25 near Laguna Diamante. Unable to take off again from the snow covered terrain he walked for five days, dressed in leather pilot suit and overcoat, until exhausted he was rescued by a fourteen year old boy and taken to a mountain village to recover. His words, recorded by Antoine de SAINT-EXUPERY, were “What I have done, I swear, no beast could have done it”. The story is told in the movie “Wings of Courage”.
The LATECOERE Rally offers you the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of these early airmail pilots in South America.
The LATECOERE Rally aims to keep alive the memory of the LATECOERE Airmail Service and its pilots through visiting the AEROPOSTALE airfields and savouring the history and culture of South America and its aviation heritage.
Crews will need to obtain a Uruguayan pilot license endorsement in order to fly the aircraft, which are registered in Uruguay and hired from Montevideo.
There are three ways in which this can be done:
- Pass an exam (fifty multiple choice questions in Spanish and English) covering international and Uruguayan aeronautical regulations. This exam is taken in Paris and question primers are available beforehand;
- Fly with a French instructor holding a Uruguayan endorsement. This is a limited option and subject to conditions. Please contact us for more information;
- Fly with a Uruguayan instructor.
There are six planes available for rent in Montevideo. Once your participation is confirmed, you will receive:
- A flight book containing information about logistics, administration and health;
- One month before the start of the Rally, logbooks and flight information;
- Raid LATECOERE T-shirt, fleece and cap.
Team spirit is the key to a successful Rally and to our aim to register the LATECOERE and AEROPOSTALE Lines with the World Heritage organization.