- Category : 1905-births
- Type : PE
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Split - Small (57)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Unexpected 3
French aviation pioneer, he was a noted test pilot, aerobatic virtuoso, and champion of speed races during the interwar period. In his career Michel Détroyat accrued 8,200 flight hours on more than 300 types of aircraft.
Détroyat joined the army in 1923 at age 18 at the Istres flight school where where he helped found the acrobatics school in 1924. He quickly became the student monitor of the 34th Aviation Regiment Bourget and participated in the creation of the first "patrol acrobatics” led by Commander Pinsard. He then developed the “slow barrel” manoeuvre, and demonstrated his mastery of the art of piloting.
On 12-13 April 1927 he completed the first Paris-Istres return trip in a Breguet 19 Lorraine at a speed of 200 kmh (outward) and 155 kmh (return) without navigation error.
On 21 May 1927 at Le Bourget, Détroyat welcomed Charles Lindbergh at the finish of the first non-stop solo crossing of the Atlantic. They performed together on 27 May over Paris, engaging on their return to Le Bourget in a play of aerial combat.
Détroyat left the army in June 1927 and joined Morane-Saulnier as a second pilot and instructor. He became a test pilot after the tragic accidental death of Alfred Fronval on 28 June 1928.
He won the Michelin Cup in 1929 and 1930. He was named Chevalier of the Legion of Honour on 29 October 1931.
He competed in aerobatic flight competitions several times with Marcel Doret and Jérôme Cavalli, and other French aerobatic aces, along with German aces Gerhard Fieseler and Ernst Udet, as well as Italian (Colombo), Czech (Novak and Ambruz), and American (Milo Burcham) pilots.
In September 1936 he was invited to participate in the National Air Races in Los Angeles, USA. He won in a Caudron C.460 with a Renault engine. On 6 September 1936, he won the Greve Trophy at an average speed of 397.432 kmh. On 7 September he won the coveted Thompson trophy at a speed of 425.194 kmh, 52 kmh faster than the previous record. Since that day, he remains the only non-American pilot to have won the US National Air Races.
On 1 March 1937, Michel Détroyat was named “National expert pilot” by the French Air Ministry. He thus became Inspector of aircraft materials of the SNCA (National companies of aeronautical construction) and monitored the prototypes before their presentation before the CEMA (Commission of tests of aircraft material).
In April 1938, he became “Advisor to the Minister of Air” and carried out several study missions to the United States. He attended the Lilienthal Congress with Charles Lindbergh (who was sent at the request of the American Embassy which had commissioned a report on the Luftwaffe). Both pilots were invited by General Udet to visit the factory Messerschmitt and were completely stunned by the much higher production rates to those known in their countries.
In 1939, he went to the USA to test the P-36, and ordered a hundred units. This aircraft was better known in France under the name Curtiss Hawk H.75. It equipped the French army throughout the first part of the Second World War.
On 10 March 1939, Détroyat was appointed president of the Association of Airline Professionals of Aeronautics (APNA). In September, he was mobilized as an instructor and introduced pilots to the handling of the latest fighter planes. On 25 December he became reserve captain.
He was arrested in October 1944 on charges of having organized an air transport group for the benefit of the Germans, and was released in November 1945. He was condemned on 14 January 1946 for national degradation and received twenty years of banishment. His name was struck from the Legion of Honour roll on 28 February 1950.
After several years in Spain, he returned to France in 1951, resumed his training and participated in meetings until 1954, when he flew airliners in Indochina. He participated in the Hanoi-Saigon airlift. He was then appointed instructor pilot at the General Directorate of Aviation of Vietnam in 1955.
He returned to France in July 1955 and piloted jet planes (SIPA S.200, Morane-Saulnier MS.760 Paris and Fouga CM.170 R Magister). On 7 May 1956, he achieved the feat of landing his Piper aircraft on a cement platform only 50m in length.
On 9 September 1956, Michel Détroyat was rushed to a Neuilly-sur-Seine hospital and had an operation on 2 October. He died on the morning of 5 October from a cerebral embolism at age 50.