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When the French Army wanted a strong, serviceable utility aircraft, post-World War Two, they asked the Max Holste concern to re-invent the wheel, or rather re-invent the DHC Beaver. The initial attempt to satisfy the requirement resulted in the 5 seat MH.152, powered by a 220 hp Salmson Argus; the aircraft was both underpowered and too small. The resulting larger aircraft, the MH.1521, like the earlier DHC-2 Beaver was powered by the rugged 450 hp Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-4 radial engine. The French Army called it the Broussard, or 'Bushranger'.

However, despite the fact that nearly 400 of them were built in France during the 1950s, to both civil and military standards, and that it looked remarkably similar to its Canadian rival (except for a twin-tail assembly) it was no way near as successful.  Nose heavy, and with some difficult handling characteristics, it is a real handful for the average pilot.  It can handle a payload of over 2,200 lbs, but that ensures that it flies more like a truck than an aircraft; aerobatics are strictly prohibited! It was used extensively in French operations during the civil war in Algeria (1954 - 1962). Indeed, the French WW2 ace, Pierre Clostermann, who had flown Spitfires and Tempests with the RAF, flew the Broussard with Escadrille ELO 3/45 in Algeria. Operational experience indicated that the Broussard was vulnerable to small arms fire; it was spending most of its time at low altitudes, and was NOT very quick, with a maximum speed of only 168 mph. To deal with this large areas of the fuselage were protected with armour plate. This made the aircraft's handling characteristics rather marginal, under certain conditions. The last military aircraft were withdrawn from service in 1983.

Here we see an example in French Army markings, at the Great Vintage Flying Weekend at Keevil. This aircraft was built in 1960 as a MH-1521-C-1. It had been on the French Register as F-GDPZ, but was imported to the U.K. in 2000, where it acquired an identity of G-YYYY - it was also painted in a florid, multi-coloured paint scheme by its new owners, Aerosuperbatics Ltd of Rendcomb, Gloucestershire. The 'YYYY' identity letters were supposed to symbolise the open canopies of four parachutists, as that was the aircraft's job for a while!

Now with the Eggresford Heritage Flight, in Devon, it is painted in an authentic French scheme from the Algerian War period. The civilian owner told me that care has to be taken to ensure that the engine is properly prepared before starting, as oil can accumulate in the bottom cylinder overnight, and if not carefully started, damage will ensue due to 'hydraulic shock'. Just like the Beaver, when it does finally take off, everyone with a mile or so knows about it – it is one of the noisiest aircraft, pound for pound, that I have ever heard!

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