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Willy Coppens
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Aviator
    (July 6, 1892-December 21, 1986)
    Born in Watermaal-Bosvoorde, Belgium
    Heroic WWI Belgian flying ace with 37 enemy 'kills'
    Winner of the French and Belgian Croix de Guerre and the British Distinguished Service Order and many others
    Autobiography: published alternately as On the Wing and Flying Over Flanders
    Full name: Willy Omer Francois Jeans Coppen de Horthulst
    Thirty-four of his victories were against tethered, immobile, (though well-guarded) observation balloons.
    His autobiography was published under two different titles, neither one very good.
    He almost crashed when he missed hitting a balloon he was attacking and hit the tether lines instead, causing the balloon to fly into his craft.
    He and most other Belgian pilots had to pay for their own training in England.
    He had almost as many 'kills' as all other Belgian aces combined.
    Once the Germans tried to kill him by sending up a balloon loaded with explosives but he showed up while the balloon was still ascending, shot it down where it exploded on the ground, killing his would-be assassins and scaring the daylights out of him.
    He was knighted after the war.
    He set the then world parachute jump record in 1928 at 19,700 feet, after having lost his leg during the war.

Credit: tom_jeffords


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