Under French Skies

by: Harold E. Stockton Jr.
All photographs are courtesy of Grzegorz Slizewski unless otherwise noted.

CR.714 belonging 
to GC I/145, 28K

Upper surface camouflage scheme for a Caudron CR.714 belonging to GC I/145 at Billancourt France, May 1940. The side view of this aircraft can be seen at this page.

   Following satisfactory acceptance trials at the Centre d'Essai du Materiel Aerien (C.E.M.A.) at Villacoublay, an initial service order for 100 examples of the CR.714 was placed in November 1938 under the Plan V. An additional order was placed for a similar number of fighters in early 1939, but shortly after this both contracts were canceled by the Government, as the Armee de l' Air had decided that the aircraft's rate of climb was not good enough by contemporary standards. It was stated that, though the CR.714 was comparable to other fighters then in service, its rate of climb precluded it from consideration in its designed role of interceptor.
   This cancellation of the CR.714 must be considered against the fact that the CR.714 weighed half the weight and with half the power of its fighter contemporaries. Another consideration for the CR.714 was the fact that each fighter only took about 5,000 man-hours to build and was constructed mainly of wood. This last man-hour figure was a significant savings over the earlier generation French fighter that had been designed by Dewoitine, the D.500 and D.510, which took an average of 12,500 man-hours to construct per aircraft.
   A contemporary of the CR.714 was the MS.406 fighter which initially took about 33,000 man-hours to build, though by March 1938 this figure had been trimmed down to about 17,700 man-hours per aircraft. Too much cannot be made over the CR.714's man-hour saving in construction time over the MS.406 as the Dewoitine D.520 fighter was to be constructed in an assembly line fashion that resulted in a significant savings in construction time for each aircraft. By the 350th aircraft constructed, Dewoitine was able to get the construction time average per aircraft down to 8,000 man-hours.
   Though the French contracts had been canceled, construction continued at the Caudron plant for 100 CR.714 fighters. Part of the Plan V called for eighty CR.714s to be sold to Finland, and an additional twenty for export to Yugoslavia. Though aircraft were under construction for the Finnish order, only ten CR.714s had been delivered to Finland before the hostilities between Finland and the Soviet Union ended on 12 March 1940. Because of the CR-714s relatively high landing speeds in relation to Finnish standards, the aircraft were not suitable for the short Finnish runways.
   What is known about the production numbers of completed Caudron fighters is that by 1 February 1940 only five CR.714s had been accepted by the Centre de Reception des Avions de Serie (C.R.A.S., Center for the Acceptance of Aircraft in Series production). By four months later, this number had only risen to fifty-six.

   The author Harold Stockton Jr. can be reached at his e-mail address.


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