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Jarrige, Pierre - Aviateurs belges en Algérie (2019) - Belgian aviators in Algeria

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Belgian aviators in Algeria

When the Belgian pioneer Jan Olieslagers unleashed the passions, in 1910, during his flights in Oran-La Sénia with his Blériot, he did not suspect that, fifteen years later, in 1925, three of his compatriots: Edmond Thieffry, Léopold Roger and Joseph De Bruycker, will land their huge three-engine biplane on this same airfield, on their way to a victorious flight to Léopoldville.

The historic flight of Edmond Thieffry and his companions marks the beginning of a ten-year emulation during which the air link between Belgium and the Congo will be the main preoccupation of Belgian aeronautical circles.

The road is long, 10 000 kilometers, the difficulties are numerous, but the tenacity of the Belgian aviators will overcome all the obstacles: the relief, the sea, the Sahara, the jungle, the weather and the landings in the countryside.

From 1925 to 1935, raids, experimental flights, military missions and sporting exploits followed one another with varying fortunes, but without a single serious accident.

It took ten years for the regular link, the famous LBC (Liaison Belgique-Congo), to become a reality with its inauguration in February 1935 by the crew Prosper Cocquyt, Schoonbroodt and Maupertuis, on the three-engine Fokker FVII Edmond Thieffry. This regular commercial link of SABENA is the vital artery of the worldwide network of Belgian airlines. Oran-La Sénia is a stopover of this regular airline, the cordon which connects Belgium to its dear Congo, the jewel of Africa, the country that God has endowed with all the wealth.

During these ten years, it was necessary to fight against the worst of enemies, the worst of rabble: the politicians with their ulterior motives, their short-term views and their palinodies. The Belgians needed France to cross Algeria, the Sahara, the AOF and the AEF, the French needed Belgium to cross the Congo. Since 1927, French and Belgian aeronautical and financial groups have been fighting over Franco-Belgian collaboration and the exploitation of revenues. Instead of a synergy, the interests diverge, they are only negotiations, deals, compromises and shady contracts.

Fortunately, above the "business world", two men: Tony Orta and Jean Dagnaux esteem each other and cooperate with the same ideal and carry out their ambitious project with a phalanx of pilots and outstanding technicians. All these men faced the same difficulties and rubbed shoulders with each other on the common airfields from Algeria to Leopoldville. The SA-BENA christened one of its Junkers Ju 52s Commandant Dagnaux.

The march towards the final goal benefits from the work done by the military who build airfields with fuel depots, hangars, lighting, weather stations and radio. They collaborate for a thorough knowledge of the weather and the propagation of radio waves and for the installation of radio direction finders. SABENA and Air Afrique collaborate in the establishment of stopovers and schedules and in the improvement of airfield structures and the setting up of spare parts depots.

The help brought by the subsidies of the States, the granted bonuses and the investments in the Belgian Congo of the big companies favour important progress. This enormous work, which laid the foundations of air transport and the development of Africa, was destroyed in 1960, two years before the end of French Algeria.

PDF - 95 pages - in French