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Adolphe Pégoud

Adolphe Pegoud
Adolphe Pégoud
Nickname(s) Roi du ciel (Eng: King of the sky)
Born 13 June 1889 (1889-06-13)
Montferrat, Isère
Died 31 August 1915(1915-08-31) (aged 26)
Petit-Croix, France
Allegiance France
Service/branch French Army
Years of service 1907–1915
Rank Second Lieutenant
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Knight of the Légion d'honneur
Médaille militaire
Croix de Guerre 1914-1918

Adolphe Célestin Pégoud (13 June 1889 - 31 August 1915) was a French aviator and flight instructor who became the first fighter ace during World War I.


Pégoud served in the French Army from 1907 to 1913. Immediately thereafter he began flying, earned his pilot's certificate, and in a few months, on 21 September 1913, as a test pilot for Louis Blériot, in a Blériot model XI monoplane and in a series of test flights exploring the limits of airplane maneuvers, he flew a loop, believing it to be the world's first. Pégoud's feat was consequently widely publicized and believed by many to be the first loop, although Pyotr Nesterov, a Russian army pilot, had flown the first one on 9 September 1913, just 12 days earlier, in a Nieuport IV monoplane at an army airfield near Kiev. Pégoud also was the first pilot to make a parachute jump from an airplane.[1] He also became a popular instructor of French and other European fledgling pilots.

German pre-war postcard depicting Pégoud's loop

At the start of World War I, Pégoud volunteered for flying duty and was immediately accepted as an observation pilot. On 5 February 1915, he and his gunner were credited with shooting down two German aircraft and forcing another to land. Soon he was flying single-seat aircraft and in April claimed two further victories. His sixth success came in July.

It is not known how many of Pégoud's victories involved destruction of enemy aircraft, as early air combat was rare enough to warrant credit for a forced landing. However, it is certain that Pégoud, rather than Roland Garros (four documented victories), was the first pilot to achieve ace status of any sort.

Pégoud being awarded with Croix de Guerre

On 31 August 1915, Pégoud was shot down by one of his prewar German students, Unteroffizier Walter Kandulski, while intercepting a German reconnaissance aircraft. He was 26 years old. The same German crew later dropped a funeral wreath above the French lines. An incorrect report is that two weeks later Kandulski was shot down by the French pilot Roger Ronserail. In fact Kandulski survived the war[2]


  1. ^ The South African Military History Society - Early Parachutes
  2. ^ [1]
  • Norman Franks & Frank Bailey - Over the Front: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air Services, 1914-1918. (1992).
  • Annette Carson - Flight Fantastic: The Illustrated History of Aerobatics.(1986)

External links

  • Pegoud's listing at
  • "Remembering Adolphe Pégoud, the First Ace Pilot" at Atlas Obscura
Preceded by
Top Flying Ace
France, WWI
Succeeded by
Eugene Gilbert
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