Why is Toulouse the world capital of aeronautics?

Since the invention of the first aircraft, attributed to Clément Ader at the end of the 19th century, Toulouse has successfully set out to conquer the skies, positioning itself as a leader in aeronautics activities. Many mythical aircraft have taken off from Toulouse, and companies have developed civil and commercial air transport.

Let’s go back in time through 6 historical facts that trace the links between the city and aviation.


Éole takes flight

Clément Ader was an engineer from Toulouse who was fascinated by mathematics, drafting and the flight of bats. On 9th October 1890, aboard his Éole aircraft, he managed to rise fifty metres from the ground. With funding from the army, Ader perfected other models derived from his first heavier-than-air aircraft, and gave them the name of “avion” (from the Latin avis, meaning bird).


The leading lights of the aeronautics industry

During the First World War, Pierre-Georges Latécoère mass-produced military aircraft in his Montaudran factory. At the end of the conflict, he founded the Société des Lignes Latécoère to convert his machines to civilian transport. In 1921, Émile Dewoitine created his own company dedicated to fighter aircraft. Nationalised in 1937, as it grew, reorganised and merged, it produced nearly fifty military models before being integrated into the group now known as Airbus.


The Aéropostale story

Aéropostale is an aviation company created in 1927 after the takeover of Latécoère Airlines. Under the leadership of Didier Daurat, illustrious pilots took off from the Montaudran airfield to deliver mail to Morocco, Senegal, Brazil… Mountains and deserts to negotiate, mechanical breakdowns, hostile tribes: despite the perils, they paved the way for air transport.


Flying over Toulouse

From the 1950s onwards, the French aeronautical industry developed its own models of aircraft. The Caravelle took off from Toulouse on 27th May 1955: it was the first mass-produced jet aircraft designed for medium-haul flights. Concorde is also a technological feat. The result of Franco-British cooperation, capable of breaking the sound barrier, it took off for the first time from Toulouse in 1969.


The Airbus aircraft

Airbus was born out of a desire by French, British, German and Spanish companies to design large aircraft. Assembly takes place in Toulouse: the A300 was the first model to be marketed, followed later by other models, notably the A380, the largest long-haul airliner, and the unusual Beluga XL, capable of transporting large aircraft parts.


Onwards and upwards

More than a century later, the aviation industry is improving its energy efficiency with new designs (A320neo, A350, A330neo), examining and reinventing runways to optimise flight paths and improving the movement of aircraft on the tarmac. Environmental objectives have become a major issue and, by 2024, the former Francazal base will welcome a research centre dedicated to perfecting green hydrogen.

Things to do

In Toulouse, there are plenty of sites dedicated to the world of aeronautics and space to visit!