Pierre-Georges LATÉCOÈRE, the industrial visionary
At the age of 22, after the death of his father, the student Pierre-Georges Latécoère had to take over his father’s company. There he was immersed in manufacturing coaches for the railway that was expanding quickly. France called him for the military service in 1914 but he was soon demobilized; however, he had enough time to realize that his Montaudran factory, near Toulouse, could manufacture parts for military guns and vehicles for France in war times. In 1917, the aircraft manufacturer Salmson entrusted him with manufacturing 600 attack biplanes.
After the armistice, Latécoère came up with an idea: to turn war planes into commercial planes. Then he had another one: to create a mail airline that could get to South America. In those times, no plane could fly farther than 400 kilometers… “I made my calculations again and they confirm the specialists’ opinion… my idea is unattainable. I just have one thing to do: carry it out!” He started the tests with his friend Beppo de Massimi, a former pilot officer. For Christmas 1918, he crossed the Pyrenees mountain range up to Toulouse and created his Latécoère Airline. In March 1919, he got up to Rabat, in Morocco, an achievement that ensured him to win the French governor’s support. Despite his steadiness, Latécoère knew how to get connected: he hired Didier Daurat and excellent pilots such as Meroz, Guillaumet, Saint-Exupéry…
His story gets intermingled with that of the Aeroposta up to 1927 when, due to financial difficulties, he had to give away his airline to Marcel Bouilloux-Lafont. He continued manufacturing planes for the airline and seaplanes until he died in 1943. The Latécoère group still exists nowadays and they manufacture spare parts for plane builders.