SNCASE Languedoc - Operational History

Operational History

The SE.161 was named the Languedoc before it entered service with Air France on the Paris to Algiers route from 28 May 1946. By October they were withdrawn from service, not only with landing gear and engine problems but considered unable to operate in winter conditions and unsafe to fly. They re-entered service in 1947, re-engined with the reliable United States-built Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engines; also de-icing equipment, medium-range cockpit radios, and limited cabin heating, the designation changing to SE.161.P7. These enhancements partially reassured commercial airline customers. The Languedoc was soon a familiar type on Air France's increasing European network and continued to operated scheduled services to London Heathrow, Berlin Tempelhof, Paris Le Bourget and Brussels Melsbroek until summer 1952, when they were steadily replaced by the reliable and popular Douglas DC-4.

Despite the costly experience of introducing the Languedoc to service, they were never as reliable as the Douglas DC-4 or the ultra-modern turboprop Vickers Viscount, such that many French passengers refused to fly on the unreliable, unheated and noisy aircraft. Air France ultimately sold some of its Languedocs to Air Liban of Lebanon, Misrair of Egypt and Aviaco of Spain. Others were transferred to the French military.

Ten ex Air France aircraft were converted for operation in the Search and Rescue (SAR) role with SGACC. They were modified with a large ventral gondola, observation windows and a ventral search radar under a transparent fairing, similar to the design adopted in the French Navy SAR Avro Lancasters.

The largest military operator was the French Navy, which operated 25 different Languedoc aircraft over the years. The first aircraft were delivered in 1949 and used as long-range transports between Paris, Marseilles and Lyons and North Africa; later aircraft would be used as flying classrooms for non-pilot aircrew training. The flying classrooms were modified with both a nose radar set and a ventral "dustbin" radar. The aircraft was withdrawn from Naval service in 1959.

A small number of Languedocs were used as flying testbeds and mother ships, succeeding the pair of He 274 prototype airframes left behind by the Luftwaffe in 1944 that were partly being used as "mother ships" for high-speed French aerodynamic research aircraft, with four Languedocs being used as mother ships for René Leduc's experimental ramjet aircraft in place of the hard-to-maintain He 274s, themselves scrapped by the French in 1953. Languedocs were also used for other types of experimental work including an unsuccessful use as live airborne television relay for Charles de Gaulles's Algerian visit in 1958.

The last Air France Languedoc was withdrawn from domestic service in 1954/55, being then unable to compete with more modern airliners.

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