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1909 Bleriot XI

Bleriot Front Quarter View

Louis Bleriot was one of France's earliest aviation pioneers. He was born in Cambrai, France, in 1872, and became interested in flight in the early years of the 20th century. In 1907 he made his first flight in Bagatelle, France, in an airplane of his own design. Although this early airplane left much to be desired, he improved it rapidly and in only two years had acquired a reputation as one of France's leading airplane manufacturers.

Left Side View of Bleriot

In 1909, Bleriot acquired lasting fame by flying his 25-hp Model XI across the English Channel. Halfway across, his engine began to overheat but he was able to fly into a rain shower that cooled it off enough to allow him to complete the flight. The 22-mile crossing took 40 minutes, and ended in a crash landing on the plain above the chalk cliffs of Dover.

Left Rear view of Bleriot

The Museum's Bleriot is a reproduction built by the museum. It uses a modern aircraft engine instead of the original 3-cylinder Anzani radial, but otherwise is a faithful duplicate. It is flyable, but because it is so unwieldy it is only flown on the calmest days.

Bleriot cockpit

In keeping with the overall simplicity of the early aircraft, the Bleriot cockpit has a minimal amount of instrumentation. Lateral control is via wing-warping instead of ailerons.

Additional Information

Fiddler's Green makes printed-card models of all sorts of historic aircraft, and they have a Bleriot XI model in their catalog. This site also has a brief history of Bleriot and the Channel crossing.

The site has a lot of information about Bleriot, including a description by Roger Freeman of what it's like to fly the Bleriot. It starts with Frank Tallman's write-up, so scroll down to see Roger's.

More information about Louis Bleriot is available on the web.