Monday, August 25, 2008

Charles 'Popoff' Monier 1920-1953

Born in January 1920, Charles Monier took an early interest in mechanical engineering and was educated at the Bréguet school. In 1937, he passed his tourist pilot's licence at the Lognes Aeroclub and, when war was declared, joined the air force. He passed his military pilot's licence in March 1940 and joined the Avord fighter school. The Armistice was declared before he had seen active service.

He then joined the Free French Air Forces in London and then the fighter detachment No. 1 on the Libyan front. Monier, who was nicknamed Popoff, then joined the Alsace group which included all the French fighter pilots of the Middle East. He defended the El-Alamein sky during the major battle that decided Egypt's fate in the Spring of 1942.

He then took part in campaigns in the north of Europe but his lack of progress in English held him back from being promoted to the top ranks as he should have done given his abilities as a pilot and serviceman. Given the rank of reserve officer candidate in January 1944, he volunteered to join the Normandy GC 3 fighter group which was operating on the Russian front.

After the war, he became interested in civil aviation transport which he saw as the next fantastic development, and he applied to join the Air France trainee pilot flight training centre. In the end, he was assigned to the flight testing centre. After passing his test pilot engineer's licence through evening classes, he joined Dassault in 1947.
For 6 years he took part in the development of the Ouragan, Mystère II and Mystère IVA aircraft and participated in the race to be the first pilot to reach a speed of Mach 1: he achieved Mach 0.985 without even realising that he had thus broken the sound barrier.
In spite of his "Daredevil" nickname, which he earned as a result of his accident-prone, miraculous-escape-chequered aviation career, he lost his life on 3 March 1953, during a tank jettisoning test on a Mystère II 01 aircraft.