Haitian Heritage Month Heroes: Charles Terres Weymann (1889 – 1976)
Charles Terres Weymann, born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on August 2, 1889, was an airplane racing pilot and businessman who served as a test pilot during World War I for Nieuport, a French airplane company that primarily built racing and fighter aircraft during World War I and between the wars. For his service, Weymann was awarded the rank of Chevalier in the French Legion of Honour.
Before World War I, he was a prolific racing pilot. He represented the U.S. in the 3rd Gordon Bennett Trophy race in July 1911 at the Royal Aero Club's flying field at Eastchurch, England, winning the race flying a 100 hp Gnome-engined Nieuport monoplane over the 25 six-kilometer laps at an average speed of 78.1 mph (125.663 km/h). In November 1911, he flew the winning aircraft in the French Army's Reims Military Aviation Competition. He also won an international air race in 1912 between Jersey and St. Malo at an average speed of 60 mph.
After the war, Charles Weymann used his knowledge of airframe manufacturing to develop a system of making fabric bodies for road vehicles. He opened factories in Paris in 1921, London in 1923, and Indianapolis in 1928. When the market for his products skyrocketed, Weymann licensed his system to many of Europe's most prestigious brands.
A fashion change in the late 1920s led to demand for gloss-painted bodies and the fabric market disappeared. A system was developed using metal panels with a similar flexible mounting, allowing movement between panels. The new system was used on coach-built bodies, but it did not suit the demands of mass production.
Weymann’s French factory closed in 1930, followed by his Indianapolis location in 1931. The British plant had turned to the manufacture of bus bodies and survived as Metro Cammell Weymann, but Weymann resigned from the company in 1932.
Weymann returned to the aviation industry, and with the help of engineer Georges Lepère, he continued to design namesake aircraft such as the Weymann 66 and gyroplanes at Société des Avions CT Weymann. He died in France in 1976.