Monday, August 25, 2008

Daniel Rastel 1907-1969


Daniel Rastel was born in 1907. He joined the French Air Force aged 18, and on August 13th 1926, he qualified as a military pilot on SPAD VII. His first assignment was to the 2nd Fighter Group of the 35th Squadron in Lyons, flying Nieuport 29's.

In 1930, thanks to his ability as a pilot, Sergeant Rastel was assigned to the GAN (New Aircraft Group), which is now the CEAM (Military Aerial Experiments Center) based in Villacoublay. Two years later he joined the CEMA (Aerial Equipment Test Center), now known as the CEV (Flight Test Center), where he qualified as a test pilot. He flew all the existing aircraft types, but his true love was for fighter planes, on which he was able to demonstrate his piloting skills flying aerobatics.

In 1935, he resigned from the French Air Force with the rank of Flight Sergeant. By then, he had totaled more than 1600 flying hours on more than 60 different aircraft types. That same year, he obtained his Public Transport Pilot's License and joined Avions Marcel Bloch. Here, he was responsible for the acceptance flight testing of the production aircraft built in the company's Bordeaux production plants.
When Avions Marcel Bloch became the SNCASO, he joined the prototype team and, in 1939, flew his first prototype aircraft, the Bloch 175.

In 1940, he flew 15 missions for the Défense Aérienne du Territoire (Territorial Air Defense) as reserve second lieutenant in a defense squadron based in Mérignac. In 1941, his undercover activities obliged him to move into the free zone, where he joined a small core of the SNCASO that had set itself up in Cannes. Here, he flew the test flights of the SO 80, a small twin-engine postal aircraft built in the Bocca factory, as well as the SOP I, the first metal glider designed by Lucien Servanty. He also continued the test flights of the MB and the SO 161 (which became the Languedoc 161). In 1942, when the free zone was no longer safe for him, he tried, unsuccessfully, to fly to North Africa with the SO 161. He did manage to reach Spain, but was captured and imprisoned first in the concentration camp of Miranda, then in Jaraba, from where he escaped at the same time as Henri Deplante. He subsequently made it to Gibraltar and then England in May 1943.

He was assigned to the Groupe de Chasse Alsace des Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres (Alsace Fighter Group of the Free French Air Force), but was called back to Paris in 1944 by Lucien Servanty to be Chief Pilot of the SNCASO. In 1945, Daniel Rastel made the maiden flights of the SO 30N and the SO 30R. He also flew test flights on Languedoc SO 161, MB 174, SO 3050 and SO 90.

n 1946, he flew the Me 262 to prepare for the tests of the first French jet aircraft, the SO 6000 Triton, which flew for the first time on November 11th, 1946 at Orléans-Bricy.

He resigned from the SNCASO after obtaining his Test Pilot License. In 1952, he joined Avions Marcel Dassault as test pilot. He was assigned to Bordeaux-Mérignac where his time was devoted to the development and acceptance test flights of the MD 312/311 Flamant and MD 450 Ouragan aircraft, and then Mystère II, Mystère IV, SMB-2, and Etendard IVM. On January 1st 1959, he replaced George Brian as Chief Test Pilot at Mérignac. He made two flights on Mirage III A 01, taking it to Mach 2.

He was subsequently appointed Director of Press Relations for Avions Marcel Dassault, a position he held for 4 years. Daniel Rastel died on 30th March 1969 after a flying career spanning 36 years and totaling 5838 hours on aircraft ranging from the SPAD VII to Mirage III.s