The French, as a nation, have always loved flying, and have had a strong light aircraft industry to back this up. When you combine this with a huge number of flying clubs and landing fields all over that beautiful country, it is hardly surprising that there should be some pretty inventive aircraft designers out there!
As a country, France was fought over twice in WW2 - the Germans coming in, then the Allies pushing them out. As you might expect, this held the Gallic design flair back just a little, but as soon as conditions allowed, talented individuals like Edouard Joly and Roger Druine began to design and build the first post-War generation of French light aircraft. Edouard Joly's first attempt, the tiny D9 Bebe which first flew in 1948, used a flat twin Poinsard engine of only 25 hp, but switched to converted Volkswagen engines for more power.
Roger Driune, on the other hand, approached the problem from a different starting point. Unlike Edouard Joly, whose original business was repairing and building gliders, Druine was an enthusiastic builder of large scale model aircraft. Indeed, some of his models were so large that someone posed the obvious question to him, 'Why don't you build one big enough for you to fly IN?' His first attempt, the D.3 was not a success, but the subsequent D.31 Turbulent was a major success. Druine went with VW power from the outset, initially 30hp engines of only 1,200 cc and later 1,600 cc units putting out 40 hp, and tried to design the smallest single-seater he could around this engine. The Turbulent is of all-wood construction. The single laminated spar wings are set at a constant dihedral angle to the fuselage, unlike the Bebe's which have the characteristic Jodel cranked wing, and are covered from the leading edge to the spar in thin sheets of plywood; from there to the trailing edge the wings are fabric covered, as are the control surfaces.
The fuselage is of a typical plywood 'box' construction, built up around four wooden longerons (one at each corner). Interestingly, you can have either an unbraked pair of wheels on the sprung steel undercarriage legs - complete with a traditional tailskid, or a set of braked wheels, in which case you get a real (if small) tailwheel. Most Turbulents , if homebuilt, come with an open cockpit, although it IS possible to have a canopy fitted. Rollason Aircraft & Engine Co. Ltd, produced a factory-built series of three Turbulents, type number D.31A, which had a specially strengthened wing spar, and other alterations, which allowed a full Certificate of Airworthiness, and could undertake some aerobatic manoeuvers. They also built 29 regular D.31 aircraft. However, some pilots feel that the D.31A lost some of the excellent balanced controls of the initial D.31 version.
The Tiger Club, that well-known group of enthusiasts who are keen de Havilland Tiger Moth owners, also operate a small display team of four Turbulent aircraft which perform a routine included aerobatics linked by ribbons, and flying under a 'limbo rope' made of tape! One of the Tiger Club machines, G-ARJZ, powered by a 40hp Ardem 4CO2 engine, was fitted with floats, to become one of the smallest seaplanes, ever! Amazingly, you could even fit the Turbulent with skis. As well as the many home-built versions in countries such as India, Australia and France, and the machines from Rollason, the German company Stark Flugzeugbau also undertook factory production.
Here you can see G-ASHT, a Rollason-built D.31 owned by Mr Charles Huke, on his way to the active runway for departure from the Great Vintage Flying Weekend at Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Since Mr Huke lives on a farm at Tisbury, near Salisbury, the 60 mile trip will take him about 45 minutes; if I were him, I would follow the old A338 road until I was nearly all the way home.
It may be small, but it is certainly appealing, plus, if you squint, you can even see a certain resemblance to the Douglas A-1 Skyraider to the rear of the aircraft!