In 1933, in order to respond
to a program of "Combat multi-seater" or BCR, Potez Sté studied
the Potez 54 M4. The concept of the BCR is based on the heavily
armed battleplane, autonomous in its defense and able to bombard
the urban and industrial zones ... The detail of the BCR program
is officialized in October 1933: the plane is served by a Crew
of 4 to 5 men and has machine guns under turrets for its defense.
It can carry 1 ton of bombs, photographic equipment and radio
at 350 km / h at a cruising altitude of 4 000 m with a range of
1,300 km ... An ambitious program that generates too general aircraft
to be truly effective .
The design of this aircraft,
self-financed by the company, is fast: prototype construction
begins on August 25, 1933 and the 1st flight is made on November
The aircraft, whose official
designation becomes Potez 540, is of mixed construction: Fuselage
in Wood with double drift and wing with metal structure covered.
It is equipped with a semi-retractable landing gear. It is powered
by two hispano-Suiza 12Xbrs of 690hp two-bladed wooden propellers.
The machine is maneuverable, but the engines are suspended causing
vibrations. The tests at the CEMA (Aircraft Experimentation Center)
begin on 23 March 1934 and end on 5 May. The apparatus undergoes
some modifications during these tests: it adopts in particular
a mono-drift and it receives metallic three-bladed propeller.
It is then made available to the Air Force on November 25, which
orders four pre-series aircraft (Nos. 2 to 5). The validation
of the plan " I " allows to confirm on July 6th, 1934 the order
of 39 other Potez 540 which becomes on five places (n ° 6 to 44)
and the first Potez 542. Faced with the tension in Europe, an
additional order of 50 Potez 540 passed mid- April 1935 (n ° 45
to 94) followed by a request for 6 complementary apparatuses (n
° 135 to 140).
To meet the demand, the
Potez 540 is manufactured under license from other manufacturers.
Blériot realizes the n ° 151 to 180, Latécoère the n ° 181 to
200 and finally Breguet the n ° 201 to 240.
The Potez 540 is delivered
in units from May 1935. It will equip the GR and GAO of Reconnaissance
and Groups of Bombardment. Slightly modified, it becomes 540 TOE
or 542 TOE to serve units overseas.
At the beginning of the
hostilities, there are still Potez 540 and 542 on the front line.
These, outdated, will be quickly assigned to less risky tasks,
links or school, and will be replaced by new aircraft starting
to arrive in units. In particular, they remain active in the Ministerial
Squadron and the Walking Group of geographical service of the
Army. On May 10, 1940, at the time of the German attack, 137 Potez
540 were counted, including 11 in North Africa. At the armistice,
about 100 aircraft are registered. They will serve as transport
or liaison aircraft and some will be used by Free France
The Potez 540 had a certain
success abroad, since twenty copies will be sold to the Spanish
Republicans with whom it will participate in the fighting. Romania
will also buy 10 Potez 543 and the only Potez 541 built.