Fabre Hydravion

Fabre Hydravion

The Fabre Hydravion or Le Canard (eng: The Duck) was a French experimental seaplane designed by Henri Fabre, and the first seaplane in history to take off from water under its own power.


Henri Fabre was from a ship-owning family and he was interested in Engineering and Hydrodynamics. With a public interest in aviation in France, Fabre decided to build a seaplane. The Hydravion had a fuselage structure of two beams that carried unequal span biplane surfaces with a tailplane at the forward end and a monoplane wing at the rear. The engine was a Gnome rotary engine driving a pusher propeller which was mounted at the rear of the upper fuselage beam.

Le Canard was developed over a period of four years by the French engineer Henri Fabre, a mechanic named Marius Burdin, former mechanic of Captain Fernand Ferber, and a naval architect from Marseilles named Léon Sebille. It was an aircraft equipped with three floats which were developed by engineer Bonnemaison, and were patented by Fabre.

It successfully took-off and flew on March 28, 1910, at Martigues, France for a distance of 457m (1500ft) over the water. Apart from the achievement of being the first seaplane in history Fabre had no experience of flight before that day. It flew successfully three more times that day and within a week had flown a distance of 6km (3.8 miles).

These experiments were closely followed by the aircraft pioneers Gabriel and Charles Voisin. Eager to try flying a seaplane as well, Voisin purchased several of the Fabre floats and fitted them to their Canard Voisin airplane. In October 1910, the Canard-Voisin became the first seaplane to fly over the river Seine.

In 1911, Fabre's Le Canard was flown by Jean Becue at the prestigious event Concours de Canots Automobiles de Monaco.

Following these successes, Henri Fabre built several seaplanes but concentrated on designing floats for other french pioneers.


Two units of Le Canard are preserved today: one is in Marignane airport (Bouches du Rhône), the other is in the Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace du Bourget (Seine-Saint-Denis), near Paris.



  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft (Part Work 1982-1985), 1985, Orbis Publishing

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