Sud-Est SE.2010 Armagnac F-BAVI - 1956

These two rare colour photos show Sud-Est SE.2010 Armagnac F-BAVI of the French airline Société Auxiliaire de Gérance et d'Exploitation de Transports Aériens (SAGETA) at Essendon in 1956. The aircraft was one of two Armagnacs used to bring athletes, officials and visitors to Australia for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.

Retired Air Traffic Controller Jack Russell recalled that of the various aircraft types to visit Australia for the Games, the most distinctive was the French Armagnac, " 80-ton aircraft which resembled two shipping containers welded together lengthways with a wing and two under-powered engines prortuding on each side. The aircraft's performance matched its appearance. It carried up to 107 passengers, and had and amazing internal cabin height of 3.6 metres." One of the two Armagnacs to visit Melbourne, and other international aircraft remaining until the Games were over, were ferried to Mangalore. An arriving TAA pilot, when asked to report sighting and passing a Mangalore-bound Armagnac replied "If it's that block of flats below us, we're passing it now!".

The Armagnac was one of the largest aircraft of its day, with a wingspan of 48.95 m , a length of 39.63 m and a height of 13.5 m - it dwarfs the TAA DC-3 in the photos above and below. It had a maximum weight of 77,500 kg and was powered by four Pratt & Whitney R4360-B12 Wasp Major radial engines. Up to 160 passengers could be carried. The Armagnac was designed in the immediate post-war era for Air France, but the airline refused delivery due to disappointing performance and range, which made it unsuitable for its intended trans-Atlantic role.

F-BAVI was the last survivor of a total production of 10 aircraft, including prototypes. It was scrapped in 1975 at Bordeaux/Merignac after having lain derelict for some years.

SAGETA was formed by French airlines TAI, Air France, UAT, shipping line Messageries Maritimes, Air Algérie, Aigle-Azur and SNCASE to operate a fleet of seven subsidised SE.2010s primarily between France and French Indochina (Vietnam). The airline had bases in Toulouse and Saigon and operated between 1953 and 1955.

(Photos: Lindsay Wise via Maurice Austin collection)

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