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Bloch MB.81 Warbird Information

Bloch MB.81

Manufacturer: Bloch
First flight: Mid-1932
Primary user: Armée de l'Air

The MB.81 was a French military aircraft built by Société des Avions Marcel Bloch as a flying ambulance since it was designed to carry one passenger, in or out of a stretcher. Developed in response to a government-sponsored competition in support of the new doctrine of "aerial first aid", it was employed exclusively in the overseas colonies, specifically Morocco and Syria. Unlike the MB.80 prototype, the MB.81 had a closed cockpit and a somewhat larger cargo space. This was the company's first design which made it out of prototyping.


The aircraft was designed to be able to seek patients or casualties by scouting, even at high altitudes, during military operations in mountainous countries, like then-French Morocco over the Atlas Mountains.

The main design feature made it possible to transport a casualty lying prone, in a compartment placed between the pilot and the engine. The wings could also be adapted to hold casualties, remaining constantly under the sight of the pilot and connected to him by an Aviaphone communication system.

The MB.80 made its first flight at the beginning of summer 1932 in Villacoublay, piloted by Zacharie Heu. An all-metal monoplane with low wings, it was equipped with a French Lorraine 5 PC of 88.24 kW (120 hp) which allowed him to reach a speed of 190 km/h (119 hp) at an altitude of 6,400 meters (21,000 ft). It was able to take off in 70 meters (230 ft) and to land in 95 meters (312 ft). In a 1932 test, the MB.80 carried out 209 landings in one and a half days without any problems.

The plane was built without any assistance from the government, but an initial order of 20 was placed by the Ground French Forces (the French Armée de l'Air was founded in 1933), and it was one of the aircraft that relaunched Marcel Bloch in the aeronautical construction industry.

The production model, called the MB.81, was fitted with a French Salmson 9 Nd of 128.68 kW (175 hp). It took part in military operations in Morocco and in Syria at the beginning of the 1930s.

The MB.81 entered service in 1935, and was used extensively throughout North Africa and the Middle East. A few were used in 1939-1940, before the French surrender, and in July, 1941 in the battle for Syria between the Vichy French and the British/Free French.


MB.80 - prototype (1 built)
MB.81 - production version (20 built)



Armee de l'Air

Vichy France


Data from {name of first source}

General characteristics

Crew: One, pilot
Capacity: One casualty
Length: 8.40 m (27 ft 7 in)
Wingspan: 12.59 m (41 ft 4 in)
Height: 2.90 m (9 ft 6 in)
Empty weight: 580 kg (1,276 lb)
Powerplant: 1 x— Salmson 9Nd 9-cylinder radial engine, 128.68 kW (175 hp)


Maximum speed: 188 km/h (101 knots, 118 mph)
Range: 654 km (353 nm, 409 mi)
Service ceiling: 6,400 m (21,000 ft)

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