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calendar   Saturday - July 25, 2009

Up In The Air, Junior Birdmen

Je salue un homme français très brave!

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Yes, Drew wrote those words. I salute a very brave Frenchman!

CALAIS, France — A restored original of the plane in which Louis Blériot crossed the Channel 100 years ago took off on Saturday in a bid to emulate the French aviator’s historic feat.

A Blériot XI cloth-and-wood monoplane dating from 1934, identical to the one flown by Blériot on July 25 1909, took off around 9 am (0700 GMT), watched by several hundred enthusiasts.

Pilot Edmond Salis, wearing a leather aviator cap and goggles, with a life vest strapped to his back, told reporters before take-off that the flight was “rather exceptional.”

“Louis Blériot surely asked himself the same questions as us before taking off, but there was more uncertainty then, since nobody had ever done it before him,” he said.

Salis, who has notched up dozens of flying hours in the aircraft, then headed off in the plane bound for the English Channel port of Dover.

Around 300 French, British and Belgian pilots were due to join in the tribute, flying in waves over the Channel on board microlight aircraft, seen as the closest modern equivalent to Blériot’s plane.

Blériot’s 37-minute flight between Les Barraques near Calais - since renamed Blériot beach - and Dover convinced a skeptical public that aviation had a future.

He covered the 43 kilometres at an average speed of 65 kilometres (just over 40 miles an hour), landing in a field at the foot of Dover castle.



I love old airplanes, and if I had a pilot’s license flying one of those WWI era “kites” would be the thrill of a lifetime. But you couldn’t pay me to fly a Blériot. The design dates from 1909, and there just isn’t any there there:


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A Bleriot XI, owned by Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Rhinebeck NY



The body is nothing more than a pile of sticks tied together with string. The naked little engine is mounted in a wooden bedframe screwed to the front of the pile of sticks. The wing isn’t even a wing: it’s just an airfoil. It has no undersurface; it’s just doped linen stretched over an arc. You can find sturdier wheels on a baby carriage. The pilot is “protected” from the elements by another bit of canvas. It has no windshield. The original ones didn’t even have seatbelts. The gas tank sits right under your feet, ready to burst when you land and the undercarriage gives out. I’ve seen one of these things fly - the wings sag about a foot on the ground, hanging from the upper pole on wires. It takes about 80 yards to get it up to the wicked fast takeoff speed of about 24 mph, at which point the wings curl up, and the plane is lifted into the sky by the wing wires attached to the landing gear. It literally pulls itself up by it’s bootstraps, and then zooms aloft to an amazing 50 mph top speed. 3 strong men could pick the entire airplane up off the ground and carry it around. Details here. I see ultra-light aircraft flying around here frequently. Those little things are hardly more than a lawnmower engine strapped to a hang glider, but they are both larger and more powerful than the Blériot. It’s that tiny.

However the Blériot was one of the very first airplanes that actually looked like airplanes. The craft by Wright and Curtis had the bits on backwards, so to speak. Blériot put the tail in the back, and it’s been there ever since. Note that this airplane is a Blériot XI. He had at least 4 other earlier models that were even more primitive!


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“Assoyez-vous oh, je vais mourir!”

Louis Charles-Joseph Blériot just prior to take-off on that eventful day



But when Msr. B made it to England, he was a hero. “The new Colossus”. Even though he crash landed.
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For more on this bit of aviation history and Bleriot himself, clicky-click.

Some years later, Blériot was the guy who ran the company that built the Spad, one of the best fighters of WWI. He died in 1936.

See More Below The Fold

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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 07/25/2009 at 08:53 PM   
Filed Under: • Fun-Stuff •  
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