Leon Levavasseur-engineer-aircraft designer and inventor

Léon Levavasseur (8 January 1863 - 26 February 1922) was a French powerplant engineer, aircraft designer and inventor. Levavasseur was born in Le Mesnil-au-Val, Cherbourg, France.


Initially studying fine arts, Levavasseur switched to studying engineering, with a particular interest in arc lamps and petrol engines.


His innovations included the V8 engine, direct fuel injection, and evaporative engine cooling. Primarily associated with the Antoinette Company, he continued to experiment with aircraft design after the company went bankrupt.

In the summer of 1902, Levavasseur suggested to industrialist Jules Gastambide that powerful, lightweight engines would be necessary for powered flight, and proposed the manufacture of these engines. He also proposed that the engines be named after Gastambide's daughter, Antoinette. Gastambide financed the venture. Levavasseur patented the V8 engine configuration that year.

The Antoinette company was incorporated in 1906, with Gastambide as president and Levavasseur as technical director. The vice-president was aviation pioneer Louis Blériot. The company's primary business was the sale of engines to aircraft builders. Levavasseur's Antoinette engines often included advanced features, including direct fuel injection and evaporative engine cooling.

Levavasseur experimented with the construction of aircraft and in 1906 the Antoinette Company was contracted to build an aircraft for Captain Ferdinand Ferber. In the July of 1909, Antoinette pilot Hubert Latham made two attempts to cross the English Channel both of which were unsuccessful due to engine failure while over the Channel. Latham's efforts to promote Levavasseur's Antoinette products were more successful at the Grande Semaine d'Aviation de la Champagne on 22-29 August 1909 at Reims, France, where he won the altitude prize, finished second in the speed competition, took third place in the Gordon Bennett Cup for aeroplanes, and, in the Grand Prix event, trying to fly the longest distance around the circuit in a single uninterrupted flight, he won second prize in one aircraft (an Antoinette IV) and fifth prize in an Antoinette VII.

Levavasseur died in poverty in February 1922


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