Special: Pelican of J.C. Debreyer

A small flying wing designed by J.C. Debreyer


The 11th mars 2000 I got a unique opportunity. I was invited by Michel Mangenot of Air Est Services, the manufacturer of the Pelican, a remarkable flying wing.

Whenever you see this Pelican you will say: "Man, it is small !". I did too.The finished Pelican owned by its designer, J. C. Debreyer.

  • Span  7,2 m  23 ft 7 1/2 in
  • Length  3,1 m  10 ft 2 in
  • Wingarea  12 m2  129.2 sq ft
  • Weight  9 HP  80-85 kg  176 -187 lb 12 HP  100 kg  220 lb
  • Engine, different engines possible:
    • A tailmounted 9 HP or 12 HP A central mounted 30 HP (still in development) Landing gear
    • A central placed single wheel, a tailwheel and a small wheel under each wing attached to a rod.
  • Security coefficient to rupture +6 g
  • Construction time  400 hours
  • Performance with SOLO 12 HP
  • Take-off run  150 m  492 ft
  • Climb rate  2 m/s  6 ft 7 in/s
  • Cruise speed  75 km/h  46,6 mph
  • Take-off speed  40 km/h  24,8 mph
  • Fuel consumption  3 l/h at 75 km/h  0.79 US gallons at 46,6 mph
  • Autonomy  3 hours

The finished Pelican with open canopy.

Compare the hinges of the rudders with the ones of the model.

Here they still used U-shaped things under the wing to keep the wing level. Later they were replaced with wheels on long rods.

I looks a bit like a Fauvel (but all unswept flying wings do, especially those with two rudders), but it not a motorized glider. It is a ultralight according to the French regulations. Probably according to many other countries regulations too.

What was the main goal of the designer of the Pelican, J.C. Debreyer? He wanted to prove that you can fly with only 10 HP. And he did prove it.

During my talk with Michel Mangenot I asked him if you needed to be a experienced pilot to fly the Pelican. "On the contrary", he said, "it is a ideal plane for a beginner with limited resources (= money). It is cheap and stable enough for a beginner." When he said cheap I had no problem to believe. The next picture shows one of the rudders and the elevator in construction. Do you see the blue foam?

Rudder and elevator in construction. (picture by me)

On the background you see the bottom of a project (black rain drop shaped plate), which Michel Mangenot did help. It is a part of a car that did "race" in a competition where cars have to ride as far as possible with ONE liter (0.26 US gallon) fuel. This team of students made a good race. Mangenot did advise them in the use of composites and did help to construct the cars body.

Did you recognize the foam? Yes, it is the blue isolation foam you can buy in any local DIY (translation DIY: doe-het-zelf-winkel (NL), ........................). The low wing loading allows the use of this foam in the construction of ribs of the wings and rudders.

The left D-spar connected to the main fuselage part.

Just to show the small dimensions of the Pelican.

On the background there are several secondhand gliders and ultralights for sale. Mangenot travels the world in search of these secondhand. (picture by me)

The first Pelican was made in one piece. Christophe Bordeaux has some nice pictures of the Prototype in his site (section Fauvel of the Nurflugel-site). The prototype can be recognized by its "squared" cockpit which was made in wood. Michel Mangenot is currently working on a Pelican with detachable wings. There are still some things that need to be worked out. But I started thinking: "Are detachable wings necessary?" All the classic sport planes like Piper, Cessna, Robin don't have detachable wings. They are delivered to your airstrip and then you stock them in your hangar. Why wouldn't you buy a Pelican if you have a hangar (your own or the clubs) to place it in on your local airstrip. One-piece airplanes are easier to build, are lighter (no heavy connection points) and you don't have the fuss with connecting cables or rods. The problem of getting it to your airstrip is only a one-time-event. I am sure that moving companies can be a easy solution for this event.

The back of the main fuselage part.

Here you see the blue foam again. Also visible is the 17% thickness of the airfoil. Maybe a ideal place for some small fuel tanks whenever installing the central engine (own opinion) (central engine project is still in research). (picture by me)

Somebody (not known to me) holding the Pelican model.