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Want to fly over Paris? A mere hundred francs will buy you a seat onboard the Goliath, the Jazz Age flying streetcar.

The two FF.60 bomber prototypes of 1918 heralded the start of a great family of passenger airliners and night bombers which dominated European aviation for the next decade. However the design formula remained fairly constant with equal-span biplane wings and a conventional monoplane-type tail unit. The landing-gear legs had trousered fairings and each supported twin wheels. Immediately above each leg was an engine set in a large nacelle on the lower wing, with minimal clearance between the propeller and the slab-sided fuselage.

Bomber versions invariably had gunners' cockpits in the nose and amidships, while the pilot and co-pilot/navigator were seated in tandem in open cockpits. Commercial transport Goliaths had a nose cabin for four passengers and an aft cabin for eight, separated by a raised open cockpit for the two pilots under the leading edge of the upper wing.

About 60 commercial Goliaths were built in several versions with Salmson, Renault, Lorraine, Gnome-Rhone-built Jupiter, Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar and Farman engines, among the most important being those powered by 171.4kW (260 hp) Salmson Z.9 radial engines operated by Air Union.

Several flew with other airlines including the Farman airline, and indeed it was this company that started the world's first regular international passenger service, beginning on 22 March 1919 between Paris and Brussels. Of course this had not been the first international passenger service by an airline between European capital cities, this being officially recognised as the Farman flight between Paris and London on 8 February 1919 carrying military personnel. However the latter was not the start of a sustained or civil passenger service and as such does not conflict with the Paris-Brussels "first".

Eight-passenger compartment (Air France archive)

Three postcards from Aerofossile2012's photostream @ Flickr:

Versions operated by the Farman airline included the Renault-powered F.61 and Gnome-Rhone-built Jupiter-powered F.63bis. Six passenger-carrying Goliaths were also built under licence in Czechoslovakia, two going to the air force.

Thirty-six F.60 bombers (with Salmson engines and cut-down noses) served with the French 21 and 22 Regiments d'Aviation and 24 square-nosed Jupiter-powered Goliaths equipped naval escadrilles 6R1, 6B1 and 6B2, following tests with a passenger type. These could be mounted on twin floats (with stabiliser floats under the lower wings) as an alternative to the normal wheel-type landing gear.

Soviet Union purchased enough F.62s to equip two units which formed the embryo of its new heavy bomber force; Japan and Italy bought a single example each for testing; and Poland acquired 32 F.68 bombers.

Civil versions of the Goliath were purchased by airlines in Colombia and Cuba.

The bombers - like the 42 F.63 for the French Army and a large batch of F.65 for the French Navy (above) - each had a 'balcony'-type nose-gunner's cockpit with a 'step' below.

Two larger four-engine biplane types, developed in 1920s, were named "Super Goliath". Both had their engines mounted on lower wing in a tandem (puller-pusher) configuration which later became Farman's family feature.

The first "Super", designated BN.4, was introduced at the Paris Salon de l'Aeronautique. Flight magazine wrote:

"The fuselage and tandem engine units of a huge four-engined bomber (B.N.4) is also exhibited. This is equipped with almost every conceivable " gadget," and would gladden the hearts of some of the Air Ministry experts from the Technical Department. It is not proposed to give a description here, but it may be stated that the night-bomber is fitted with four 500 h.p. Farman engines, and has a total loaded weight of 11,000 kgs. (24,200 lbs.). Some idea of the size of this machine may also be formed from the fact that the wing span is 35 m. (115 ft.), and the wing area 266 sq. m. (2,860 sq. ft.). In spite of its size the Farman B.N.4 is expected to have a top speed of 165 km./h. (103-m.p.h.). "

This impressive aircraft showed a tendency to nose over. After a series of tests and improvements the military lost their interest in the BN.4 and stopped funding the project.

Instead, they supported another Farman type, the F.140, powered with 500hp W-12 engines. After succesful tests of the prototype aircraft which set a number of world records in November 1925, two pre-production aircraft were built and finally six improved F.141 Super Goliaths entered service with Armeé de l'Air in early 1930 - only to be grounded in September. The reason for their demise was a high number of accidents which literally plagued all Farman multi-engine aircraft.

Forward fuselage of the F.60 F-HMFU Île de Franceof Air Union (crashed in 1925, repaired and returned to service, registration canceled in 1932) is exhibited at the Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace, Le Bourget - the same old airport which once was the Goliaths' homeground.

Source: Virtual Aircraft Museum

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