The “golden hour” is that small window of time at sunrise or sunset, where the sun is at just the right spot to cast a warm golden hue over everything it touches. It adds an ethereal feel that is much sought after by many photographers.
Today, it was my good fortune to be taking my afternoon walk to Brno’s Medlánky airport as the “golden hour” struck while this Socata Rallye was heading out.
Have a good weekend everyone, I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking.
The Rallye (“Rally” in English) family of aircraft is a prolific one, with a number of twists and turns by way of corporate takeovers, product renamings and license production to create a rather convoluted history.
What is not unclear, however, is that the Rallye family represents the most successful French designed single engine general aviation aircraft of the latter half of the 20th century. Perhaps that should come as no surpize considering the origins of its pedigree: Morane-Saulnier.
When talking about French aircraft producers, few names are as well known as Morane-Saulnier. The Morane-Saulnier name has been around nearly as long as powered flight and is attached to some very pioneering aircraft from the pre World War I era, successful fighter aircraft in both world wars and a number of successful training and aerobatic aircraft in the interwar period. At the time the Rallye prototype first flew, in 1959, the company had nearly half a century of aircraft design experience behind them.
The company existed independently from 1911 to 1962, when it became a subsidiary of the Potez aircraft company. In the late 1960s, state owned Sud Aviation took over Potez and inherited the Rallye design in the process. After the Sud Aviation take over, the Morane-Saulnier name was replaced with SOCATA (Societe de Construction d’Avions de Tourisme et d’Affaires) and continued French production of the Rallye family took place under the SOCATA name.
Giving Wings to the Public
Just as it was in the post First World War period, there was a significant upsurge in aviation mindedness among the public of many nations in the immediate post World War Two years. This led to the need for modern general aviation designs to satisfy the requirements of both individual pilots and flying clubs.
America had staked its claim on the market with the Cessna 172, which first flew in 1955 and experienced almost immediate widescale success.
Not to be left out, the French government opened a competition in 1958 for French aircraft manufacturers to design a light single engined aircraft suitable for training and touring as well as glider and banner towing. Morane-Saulnier won the competition with their MS.880 design and the prototype Rallye took to the air for the first time in 1959.
The Rallye was immediately successful at home and flying clubs across France took the new aircraft on in quantity. Before long, the aircraft experienced success more widely in Europe and points abroad. Over 3,300 examples of the Rallye were built across various family models, and the type saw export to no fewer than 65 countries. Aside of civilian use, members of the Rallye family were used by the air arms of 14 countries.
Part of the Rallye’s success can be found in its pilot friendly nature, it has a reputation as a very forgiving aircraft that is quite tolerant of novice mistakes. The same pilot friendly handling, along with the generous view outward provided by the large cabin canopy, also makes the Rallye pleasant for longer flights associated with touring.
A Look at the Rallye
Two key qualities of single engine general aviation aircraft are affordability and maintainability. In achieving these qualities, simplicity is paramount. The Rallye certainly fits this description; it has proven itself to be a very economical and dependable machine at the flying club level.
At a glance, the Rallye can be described as an all metal, low-wing monoplane with a fixed landing gear. It seats up to four people, depending on the model.
On closer inspection, the Rallye has a few features that are rather unusual for an aircraft of its class:
As opposed to traditional doors, the cabin of the Rallye is opened and closed by a sliding canopy. This is an unusual feature on aircraft of the Rallye’s class and it allows for the aircraft to be flown up to a certain speed with the canopy left a bit opened. This means it’s possible to experience the sensation of open cockpit flying in the Rallye.
The Rallye was also designed to have near STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) qualities to it. To this end, it features slats on the leading edges of its wings that extend automatically at lower speeds to improve handling during low speed flying and at landings.
Aside of the leading edge slats, the Rallye also has quite large flight control surfaces for an aircraft of its size. This makes it very responsive in flight and lends to its forgiving flight characteristics. The trade off for the larger flight control surfaces is higher drag; accordingly, the Rallye is not the swiftest of aircraft in its class.
As part of the STOL features, the Rallye has quite robust landing gear that can handle not only short landings in the STOL regime, but also hard landings by student pilots.
The Rallye Family
As mentioned at the start of this article, the Rallye family has a rather confusing looking family tree. This confusion comes not only from which Rallye variants were produced under the Morane-Saulnier brand versus those built under the SOCATA name, but also members of the family that began life with one designation, but were renamed later for marketing purposes.
There is also the license built versions by PZL, in Poland, to consider. In the late 1970s, PZL was granted a license to produce the Rallye as the PZL-110 Koliber (“Hummingbird” in English) and Polish Rallye production continued for several years after French production ended in 1984. Eventually, the Koliber diverged far enough from the Rallye to be able to constitute its own aircraft family.
The best way to look at this aircraft family is to separate it by the lightweight (MS.880) and heavyweight (MS.890) series, as all variants fall into one of those two categories. The main difference between the two series is that the MS.880 series was initially designed with two seats and later modified to have three or four seats, while the MS.890 series was designed with four seats from the start.
MS.880 / MS.880A
These two aircraft were prototypes. The MS.880 was the two seat version while the MS.880A was the three seat version. Additionally, the MS.880A had a swept vertical tail fin.
MS.880B Rallye Club
The MS.880B was the first full production version of the Rallye. It was a two seat aircraft with a 100 horsepower engine. A total of 1,100 of this version were built.
MS.881 / MS.883
These were two seat versions with slightly more powerful engines than the MS.880B had. The MS.881 was fitted with a 105 horsepower engine while the MS.883 had an engine of 115 horsepower.
MS.885 Super Rallye
The Super Rallye was available in two and three seat versions and had a 145 horsepower engine. Slightly over 200 of this version were produced.
Powered by a 150 horsepower engine, only three of this version were made.
Rallye 100S Sport
This was a two seat trainer version with a 100 horsepower engine. 55 of this variant were built.
Rallye 100T / Rallye 125
The Rallye 100T was essentially an MS.880B with some minor revisions. the Rallye 125 was a four seat version of the Rallye 100T with a 125 horsepower engine.
As the Rallye 235 designation suggests, this variation was fitted with a 235 horsepower engine. This model was later redesignated as the SOCATA Gabier.
The SOCATA R235 Guerrier was the military version of the Rallye 235.
SOCATA 235CA was the designation for a handful of Rallye 235 aircraft that were modified for agricultural work. The modifications included a tail wheel landing gear arrangement and a hopper to hold material for spraying.
The Rallye Today and Learning More
With around 3,300 built, there are still a good number of the Rallye family flying. However, they are not spread evenly around the world and your best chance of seeing one is likely to be in Europe.
A number of attempts were made to market both the Rallye and Koliber in America, but only a modest number were sold there due to the fact that there were already plenty of American made aircraft of similar capabilities saturating the market there.
You can find two good articles about flying the Rallye at the Achtung, Skyhawk! website. This article covers a flight from Spain to Croatia in an early MS.880 model and this article covers a flight in the later Rallye 150 model.