Bréguet Br.765 Sahara “Double Pont”: French double-deck transport aircraft
The Bréguet 761/763/765 are a family of 1940s and 1950s French double-deck transport aircraft produced by Bréguet Aviation. The aircraft were normally called the Deux-Ponts (Double-Decker) but it was not an official name.
Bréguet began design work on the Bréguet 761 double-deck airliner even before the end of the Second World War, in 1944. It was decided that a medium-range airliner with seating for over 100 passengers would be built. The design envisaged using readily available engines with the aim of ease of manufacture and an early first-flight date. The design was known as Project 76-1. The aircraft was destined not to be the first French postwar design to fly, an honour which instead fell to the Sud-Est Languedoc, a civilianised Bloch MB161. The prototype Br.761, F-WASK, first flew at Villacoublay on 15 February 1949.
The 761 featured a cantilever wing set at mid-height on the bulky fuselage. The retractable tricycle landing gear featured dual-wheel main units. The empennage had twin fins and rudders and a vestigial central fin. The prototype was powered by four 1,580 hp (1,180 kW) SNECMA 14R-24 radial engines. The Bréguets serving with Air France had up to 107 seats and an elevator between the two floors.
The prototype was followed by three Br.761S pre-production aircraft powered by 2,020 hp (1506 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-B31 radial engines. These were fitted with 12 ft 1½in (3.70 m) diameter Hamilton Standard propellers. The aircraft successfully completed their trials incident-free. Their first flights were in 1951 and 1952.
In October 1955 an order for 30 Bréguet Br.765 Sahara aircraft for the Armée de l’Air was announced. This order was cancelled by the end of the year, but construction on four aircraft was so far advanced that they were completed. These entered service with 64 Escadre de Transport.
The French Air Force acquired the three pre-production Br.761S aircraft, these and the six Sahara aircraft acquired from Air France provided the French Air Force with a valuable transport fleet for moving personnel and materials to the Pacific nuclear testing areas. The Sahara fleet was retired in 1972.