The Gourdou-Leseurre B.3 is a French single-seat monoplane fighter. The fuselage structure consists of steel and aluminium tubes braced with steel wires. The wing is made of wood. The structure is fabric-covered except for aluminium skin on the forward fuselage. The type, designed by Charles Gourdou and Jean Leseurre in 1918, was ahead of its time and was considered to have good flight characteristics.
As a part of the Finnish Aviation Force’s first fighter acquisition programme, one Gourdou-Leseurre B.2 was ordered in the spring of 1923 for test flights. The aircraft was compared against a Martinsyde F.4 and a Fokker D.10 also acquired for evaluation. Although the Gourdou was inferior to the Martinsyde – in terms of performance in particular – it was selected because of its lower purchase price and lower operating costs. In addition to the test aircraft, 18 Gourdou-Leseurre B.3s were bought in 1924 to form the first full-strength fighter squadron of the Aviation Force in the autumn of the same year. The squadron was mainly based in Utti.
The Gourdous were in heavy use in the mid-1920s. Aerobatics and formation flying in particular were rehearsed intensively. The first Finnish aerobatics team, called “The Emperor’s Circus Squadron” under the lead of Väinö Bremer, was established. The five-ship team performed in several locations around Finland during the winter 1925–1926.
Fatigue and corrosion of the light alloy structure became evident soon after the type’s service entry. The first aircraft were therefore withdrawn from service as early as 1928 while the last soldiered on until 1931. Nevertheless, the Gourdous laid a foundation for Finnish fighter operations.
The museum’s Gourdou-Leseurre B.3 is the only surviving example of the type in the world. The aircraft flew under registrations 8 F.12 and GL-12 for 177 hours 45 minutes. It was restored in Häme Wing at Tikkakoski in 1968–1970. The project set in motion aircraft restoration in the Finnish Air Force, which contributed to the establishment of the Central Finland Aviation Museum – nowadays the Finnish Air Force Museum.
Wing span 9.60 m; Maximum speed 90 km/h; Length 6.63 m; Height 2.40 m.
Single-seat monoplane fighter