VFS Remembers René Mouille

The Vertical Flight Society Remembers René Mouille (1924-2019)
Pioneering French helicopter designer

René Mouille passed away on Jan. 10, 2019, at the age of 94. Over his long career, AHS—The Vertical Flight Society recognized him with all three of its highest honors:

  • 1975 Honorary Fellow — granted to Society members whose career-based leadership, vision or other meritorious contribution has advanced significantly the interests of Vertical Flight Society and the vertical flight community. Mouille's citation was: "For the design of the Fenestron fan-in-fin tail rotor system and his continued efforts to improve the technology of our industry."
  • 1979 Alexander Klemin Award — given for notable achievement in advancement of vertical flight aeronautics
  • 1990 Alexander A. Nikolsky Honorary Lecturer — given to an individual who has a highly distinguished career in vertical flight aircraft research and development and is skilled at communicating their technical knowledge and experience. Mouille's lecture was entitled, "Technological Evolution of French Helicopters."

Mouille was born in Nord, France, on Oct. 30, 1924 and graduated from the "Catholic Institute of Arts and Crafts (Institut Catholiques d'Arts et Métiers, ICAM) in Lille, followed by the "Higher School of Aeronautical Works" (Ecole special des travaux aeronautiques, ESTAe) in Orsay [subsumed into the Arts et Metiers ParisTech in 1988].

Mouille joined the Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est (SNCASE or "Sud-Est") in 1945, and soon became involved in the development of early helicopters, beginnning with the Sud-Est S.E.3000, which was the first post-war helicopter to fly in France. (SNCASE merged with SNCASO in 1957 to form Sud Aviation, which became part of Aérospatiale in 1970, and is today part of the Airbus legacy.) 

Rene Mouille was chief designer of the Aerospatiale Helicopter Division until 1988, retiring as the Director of Development. In his 42-years with Aerospatiale and its predecessors, Mouille contributed a significant number of engineering innovations, including the fan-in-fin tail rotor (Fenestron), all-composite main and tail rotor blades, and the composite main rotor head. According to his Airbus obituary

With over 40 patents to his name, Mouille was instrumental in pushing the barriers of helicopter technology, such as with the hub NAT (Non-Articulated Drag) with visco-elastic dampers, the famous Fenestron©, and the Starflex rotor. He also invented the SARIB suspension system (Antivibratory Suspension with Integrated Resonator and Bar). The inventions by René Mouille and his collaborators are still widely used in the helicopter industry today.

As a design engineer, he was responsible for much of the engineering achievements in Aerospatiale helicopters, including the Alouette II/III, Super Frelon, Gazelle, Puma/Super Puma, AStar, TwinStar, and the Dolphin/ dauphin/ Panther. The Airbus obituary noted:

He is at the origin of the design for the SE3120 (Alouette I) which, in the hands of Jean Boulet, broke the 1953 world distance record over a closed circuit. Deputy to Charles Marchetti, he designed the SE 3130 Alouette II (the first turbine helicopter) which opened the way for French helicopter industrialization.

René Mouille continued to have a great number of professional success stories after that: the Alouette III in 1958, the Super Frelon in 1962, the Puma in 1964, the Gazelle in 1967, and the Dauphin and Ecureuil in the 1970s. In 1963, he was nominated Engineer-in-Chief of the helicopter division of Sud Aviation.

Mouille delivered his 1990 Nikolsky Lecture, Technological Evolution of French Helicopters, at the AHS 46th Annual Forum and Technology Display in Washington, D.C., May 21–23, 1990. According to his Nikolsky Lecture biography, "Mouille has received nearly every major aerospace and engineering honor given by France, including the Medaille de l’Aeronautique, Ordre National du Merite (Chevalier), Trophee Brequet, Medaille du Progres, and the Grand Prix 1988 de l’Association Aeronautique." 

The Vertical Flight Society is accepting contributions to the Vertical Flight Foundation (VFF) towards the René Mouille Memorial Scholarship. Please go to www.vtol.org/donate to make a donation in memory of René Mouille.



René Mouille (right) of Aerospatiale receives AHS Honorary Fellowship, from Vertiflite July/August 1975 (VFS photo)


1979 Dr. Alexander Klemin Award presented to Rene Mouille (right) at Forum 35 Awards Luncheon, May 22, 1979, Washington, D.C. USA (VFS photo)


1990 Alexander A. Nikolsky Honorary Lectureship awarded to René Mouille (center) at the AHS Forum 46, for his lecture, "Technological Evolution of French Helicopters" (VFS photo)

Rene Mouille (Airbus photo)

René Mouille (photo courtesy of Airbus)

Further resources: