We are just a stone's throw from the Arc de Triomphe in the heart of Paris, facing the latest luxury hotel of the Hong Kong based group, The Peninsula. But what interests us particularly is on the sixth floor. In one of the hotel restaurants, having just arrived, we discover the unimaginable, the unthinkable, the extraordinary. An exact replica of "l’Oiseau Blanc" (the White Bird), perched at a height of over 50 metres (164 ft.), as if frozen in history.
The original crashed off Newfoundland after attempting the first crossing of the Atlantic in 1927. This immaculate white replica Nungesser and Coli biplane, adorned with the famous black heart, looks toward the Eiffel Tower. It has taken three years’ work for twenty people and the dedication of Bernard Decré, who spends much of his time in attempting to unravel the mystery of the aircraft’s disappearance.
Bernard Decré - President of the association “The Search for L'Oiseau Blanc”: watch the interview in the video.
The fact that the owner of the Peninsula Hotels chain is an aviation enthusiast was a strong motivating factor in the realization of this project.
Nicolas Béliard, General Manager – The Peninsula Paris: watch the interview in the video.
You have to allow time for the eye to become accustomed to the setting, the smallest details of this restaurant-museum that obviously bears the name of "l’Oiseau Blanc". There is the propeller, the rudimentary dashboard, and here and there, multiple objects in glass cases; and at the end of the corridor, sitting proudly on a pedestal, is an exact reproduction of the biplane’s Lorraine-Dietrich engine, a magnificent piece of work carried out by the Safran museum.
Whilst the wreckage of the original aircraft (Levasseur) lies at the bottom of the Atlantic, it is surprising to see its replica overhead, just a few miles from where it last took off.