aircraft manufacturer Nieuport (Société Anonyme des Establissements Nieuport) was founded in 1909, and was initially famous for its beautiful monoplane
s. (It began making biplane
s because of the performance requirements of aerial combat
The company recieved many accolades for the Nieuport 17, called the Superbébé. It was introduced in March of 1916, and helped to eliminate Germany's air superiority at the time by being a capable foil to the Fokker E.III, then the reigning kick-ass fighter plane. (It was so successful that the Germans copied the design.) initially mounting an over-the-wing Lewis gun, the plane was eventually upgraded with a synchronized through-the-propeller Vickers gun.
All of the planes of the series were famous for their spectacular power-to-weight ratios, which was balanced to a degree by the aircraft's notorious fragility. For example, the power plant in the 17 was a Le Rhône 9J, a 9-cylinder rotary engine producing 110 hp (the power was increased to 120 hp in the 27.) The drawback to such a powerful engine in what was essentially a wood-and-cloth frame was unfortunately a strong torque-steer tendency that made the plane quite nible to run in one direction, but a real bear to turn in the other (due to the gyroscopic force of the rotating engine block), a tendency that was exploited by experienced adversaries.
Several improved models came off of the Nieuport assembly lines, most notably the Nieuport 23, Nieuport 27, and the Nieuport 28 (powered by a very powerful Gnome Monosoupape 9-cylinder rotary rated at 160 hp), which was flown by American forces such as the Hat-in-the-ring Squadron lead by Eddie Rickenbacker. The '28 was used by the Americans because the French no longer wanted it as a front-line fighter, the Spad XIII having taken that role. Although loved by pilots, the 28 had several problems, one being the tendency to lose its upper wing covering when pulling out of a steep dive.)
On an interesting note, the first Nieuports that were issued to the Americans had no guns. After weeks of waiting, a frustrated Eddie Rickenbacker (27 kills by the end of the war), Raoul Lufberry (17 kills), and Doug Campbell (6 kills) flew the 94th's first (unarmed) patrol on March 19, 1918. The low victory counts of the American pilots compared to the Europeans were due to the short time they were in action, not to any lack of skill or daring.
After the war, several wound up in Hollywood, where they took roles in movies, most notably in the famous Dawn Patrol films.