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Société Nationale des Constructions Aéronautiques du Sud-Ouest (South-west)

In France, the aviation industry had been taken over by the government before World War II. In accordance with its electoral program, the Popular Front government passed a law nationalizing the armament industry, in the Chamber of Deputies on July 17, 1936. The aviation industry was directly concerned. The nationalization of a major part of the airframe sector led to the setting up of six state-owned aircraft manufacturing companies. On January 16, 1937, the Société des Avions Marcel Bloch was fully nationalized, and its factories (Courbevoie, Châteauroux-Déols, Villacoublay, Bordeaux) formed the essential part of the Société nationale de constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Ouest (SNCASO). As the minister for Air, Pierre Cot, had no executives qualified enough to manage it, he asked Marcel Bloch to be its delegated administrator.

After the war, two companies, Sud-Est and Sud-Ouest, pursued various helicopter projects. Sud-Ouest produced the small Djinn for the French Army. One model, the SO-1221 Djinn, was the most successful tip-jet helicopter design and one of the few to be put into production, with a total of 178 being built.

Looking to break out of their limited licensing-based market, in 1951 Sud-Est started the design of a new jet-powered airliner which would eventually evolve into the Caravelle. This aircraft used Rolls-Royce Avon turbojets and the nose and cockpit design were from the De Havilland Comet, but was otherwise a new design. One pioneering feature was the mounting of the engines at the rear fuselage, thereby reducing cabin noise. Production started in 1958, by which time the market-leading Comet had suffered a series of in-air breakups and had been withdrawn from service. The Caravelle did not suffer this design flaw and thus remained the only production jet de the mid-range market until the launch of the Douglas DC-9, securing a very successful career with sales all over Europe and even a run of 20 in the United States. General Electric turbofans and Pratt amp Whitney JT8Ds were used to power later variants, from the GE-powered Caravelle 7, to the longer, short-range Caravelle 12. The Caravelle was by then generally considered as the first successful jetliner.

Sud-Ouest and Sud-Est were merged into Sud-Aviation in 1957. The new firm then started on the design of a supersonic transport version of the Caravelle, known as the Super-Caravelle. However, the projected cost of the project was so high that Sud Aviation, at the direction of the French and British governments, formed a consortium with BAC in November 1962 to merge their design and production efforts to create the Concorde.

The company eventually produced over 1,600 examples of the Alouette II and its derivatives. They were supplied to military and civilian users in approximately 50 countries. A high-altitude version dubbed the Lama was also produced in France and Brazil and manufactured under license in India by Hindustan, which named it the Cheetah. The Cheetah was used heavily in the Himalayan Mountains for various tasks, including rescuing injured mountain-climbers.

During the early 1960s Sud-Ouest manufactured several Sikorsky helicopters under license and developed the Puma medium twin turbine-powered helicopter. The Puma became popular with military and civilian users and found widespread use in the offshore oil industry. In 1970, Sud-Ouest and several other firms merged into a single company named Aérospatiale.




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