Breguet XIX TF Super Bidon Point d’Interrogation

The Breguet 19 T.F. Super Bidon, better known by the name Point d’Interrogation, is one of the most important treasures held by the Museum. On board this craft, in 1930 Costes and Bellonte became the first aviators to travel from Paris to New York, crossing the Atlantic from east to west, taking over 37 hours.

Inaugural flight and modifications

The aircraft made its maiden flight on 23 July 1928 as the third and final Breguet 19 T.R. (for transatlantic) with a Hispano engine. Equipped with dual controls and radio, it was converted to T.F. “Super Bidon” in a project involving many modifications, including increasing the two spans and the pitch, changing the wing bracing, extending the fuselage and increasing the fuel capacity.
Following a failure on the South itinerary on 13 July 1929, Costes decided to reassure his backers by beating the world distance record between 27 and 29 September when he travelled the 7,905 km from Paris to Moullart in 51 flying hours, then from 15 to 17 December beating the closed loop record with 8,029 km.

The North Atlantic crossing from east to west

These accomplishments encouraged the sponsors Breguet, Hispano-Suiza and the mysterious “?” to renew their trust in Costes. With scrupulous attention to preparation of their equipment, and aided by progress in weather forecasting and navigation, Costes and Bellonte took off from Le Bourget on 1 September 1930 at 10.58 am.

Assisted by an exceptional easterly wind, the Point d’Interrogation reached 3,000 m altitude at night time and they navigated using the bubble sextant. In the early morning, a headwind reduced ground speed to 120 km/h. Novia Scotia was observed at around 2.20 pm and quickly disappeared, obscured by clouds that forced Costes to make a 150 km detour from his flight plan towards the south, and to lower altitude less than 100 m from the sea.

Costes, Bellonte… and Lindbergh!

He had to fly an instrument flight for two hours at 4,000 m altitude! Suddenly he could make out houses through a clearing. Bellonte communicated the route to New York, and he landed the Point d’Interrogation at Curtiss Field on 3 September after 37 hours and 12 minutes flying time. Among the 25,000 people greeting them, Lindbergh was the first to congratulate him. The heroes were rewarded with a “ticket parade” in New York, then they completed the “Goodwill Tour” through the United States before returning to France by boat. It was finally discovered that the perfumer Coty was the mysterious sponsor, but the plane kept its nickname.

The authentic “?” is on display at the museum

The aircraft was donated to the Museum in 1938, with Costes laying claim to it, since he considered that he was its owner. The institution claimed the right of usucaption and the celebrated pilot’s claim was rejected. Would he have sold this treasure to the highest bidder? There is reason to fear it.

Guide tour of the Breguet XIX TF Super Bidon Point d’Interrogation