Pierre-Georges Latécoère was a 35-year-old French industrialist, known for his intelligence, patriotism and exceptional business sense. Immediately after the First World War, he converted his train car assembly factory to an aeronautic construction plant; it became the most important plant of its kind in France.
|Pierre-Georges Latécoère, founder of the company
Courtesy of Musée Air France
But this did not stop Latécoère. The war, in fact, highlighted the possibilities of aviation. Although they were temporary, and were used primarily for military purposes, some airmail links were established before the Armistice. Latécoère's dream, from the start, was to create a 13,000-kilometre aerial postal route from Toulouse to Tierra del Fuego.
|Loading tests being carried out on a stabilizer in Toulouse, 1923.
French industrialist Pierre-Georges Latécoère established his aeronautical construction plant in 1917.
Courtesy of Archives Latécoère
On December 25, 1918, Latécoère decided to initiate the first stage of what would later be known as the "line". Flying a military Salmson 2, and assisted by pilot René Cornemont, he took off from Toulouse. After a perfect flight of 2 hours and 20 minutes, they landed in Barcelona. The second stage was to connect Barcelona to Alicante in Spain. On March 3, 1919, two Salmsons, one flown by Paul Junquet and Latécoère, and the other by Henri Lemaître and Beppo di Massimi, took off during a heavy rainstorm. The planes were forced to make an emergency landing, but no one was injured. The dream was possible! On July 7, 1919, the French government granted Latécoère a contract for the Toulouse-Rabat line, with five-year operating rights.