Tag Archives: Channel Crossing

26 September 2008

Yves Rossy over the English Channel, 26 September 2008. (Times Online)

26 September 2008: Yves Rossy flew across the English Channel, 22 miles (35 kilometers) in 13 minutes, using his jet-powered wing. At 8,000 feet (2,440 meters) over Calais he jumped from an airplane and aimed for the cliffs of Dover. His only means of steering was by moving his head. After flying at speeds of 120 miles per hour (193 kilometers per hour), he parachuted to the ground at Dover.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 July 1909

Starting the Anzani engine of Louis Blériot’s Type XI monoplane, 25 July 1909. (Library of Congress)

25 July 1909: At 4:41 a.m., Louis Charles Joseph Blériot took of from the hamlet of les Baraques,¹ near Sangatte, Pas-de-Calais, France, in his own Type XI single-engine monoplane, and flew across the English Channel (la Manche) to Dover. He landed at Northfall Meadow, near Dover Castle, Kent, England.

Feet wet: Blériot crossing the shoreline, outbound, on the morning of 25 July 1909. (Flight)

The airplane did not have a compass, so for a visual reference. Blériot used a 26-knot Pertuisane-class torpedo boat destroyer, Escopette, which was sailing toward Dover.  After passing the ship, visibility deteriorated and he was only able to see the water below him.

A Marine Nationale Pertuisane-class torpedo boat destroyer (contre-torpilleur). This is the same class as Escopette. (Marius Bar)

Blériot flew on and after about ten minutes was able to see the coastline ahead. He realized that the wind had blown him to the east of his intended course, so he flew along the shoreline until he recognized a signal marking the landing point. The wind was gusty near the cliffs and he landed harder than intended, slightly damaging his airplane.

A contemporary aviation news publication reported:

. . . Accounts differ as to the exact moment of departure and descent, and as a matter of fact it is doubtful if any reliable timing was made since M. Bleriot started without a watch as well as without a compass. The distance of the flight was about 31 miles, and hence the speed was in the region of 45 miles an hour. During the crossing he flew at an altitude of 150 ft. to 300 ft., and thus kept much nearer the water than Mr. Latham did on his attempt.

Flight: First Aero Weekly in the World. Vol. I, No. 31, 31July 1909, at Page 458, Column 2.

Louis Blériot with his Type XI monoplane at mid-Channel, 25 July 1909. (Library of Congress)

This was the first time an airplane had been flown across the English Channel, and brought Blériot international acclaim. He was appointed Chevalier de la légion d’honneur, by France. A London newspaper, the Daily Mail, awarded him a £1,000 prize.

Very quickly, orders for his Type XI were coming in. Between 1909 and 1914, approximately 900 were sold.

Louis Bleriot’s Channel-crossing Type XI monoplane was donated to the Musée des arts et métiers in Paris by the newspaper Le Matin, in October 1909. It remains in the museum’s permanent collection.

Louis Charles Joseph Blériot and his Type XI airplane at Northfall Meadow, Dover, shortly after arriving from France at 0517 a.m, 25 July 1909. (Library of Congress)
Louis Charles Joseph Blériot, Chevalier de la légion d’honneur. (Library of Congress)

Louis Charles Joseph Blériot was born 1 July 1872 at Cambrai, Nord, Pas-de-Calais, France. He was the son of Louis Charles Pierre Alexander Blériot and Clémence Marie Eugenie Candeliez Blériot. In 1882 Blériot was sent to l’Institution Notre-Dame de Grâce, a boarding school in Cambrai, and then, to a high school in northern France. He next studied at the Collège Sainte-Barbe in Paris. After a year there, he transferred to the École Centrale Paris, at Châtenay-Malabry, in southwest Paris.

In 1895–1896, Blériot served as a sous-lieutenant assigned to the 24ᵉ régiment d’artillerie (24th Regiment of Artillery) at Tarbes in the Pyrenees mountains, which divide France from Spain.

Blériot next worked as an electrical engineer and in 1896, he invented acetylene headlamps for use on automobiles. Blériot gained an interest in aviation after attending l’Exposition de Paris 1900. The income from his lamp manufacturing allowed him to conduct serious aeronautical experiments.

In 1901, Blériot married Mlle. Jeanne Alicia Védere (the marriage banns were published 2 February 1901). They would have six children, born between 1902 and 1929.

Mme. Blériot (née Jeanne Alicia Vedére) and M. Louis Charles Joseph Blériot at the House of Commons, Westminster, United Kingdom, 15 September 1909. (National Portrait Gallery, London)

Over the next few years, worked with several other pioneers of aviation, including Ernest rchdeacon,  Léon Levavasseur, Gabriel Voison, Eventually, he started his own aeronautical research and aircraft manufacturing company, Recherches Aéronautique Louis Blériot. In 1913, he bought the aircraft manufacturing company that would become Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés, designers and builders of the legendary fighter of World War I, the SPAD S.XIII C.1. His businesses in France and England manufactured airplanes, automobiles and motorcycles.

In 1930, Blériot established the Blériot Trophy, to be awarded to an aviator who demonstrated flight at a speed of 2,000 kilometers per hour (1,242.742 miles per hour) for 30 minutes. 31 years later, 10 May 1961, the three-man crew of a Convair B-58A Hustler named The Firefly accomplished that feat.

Louis Charles Joseph Blériot died 2 August 1936, in Paris. He was buried at the Cimitière des Gonards, Versailles, Île-de France, France.

Louis Bleriot flew this airplane across the English Channel 25 October 1909. It was donated to the Musée des arts et métiers by the French newspaper, Le Matin, in October 1909. (Musée des arts et métiers)

The Blériot XI was a single-seat, single-engine monoplane. It was 26.24 feet (7.998 meters) long with a wingspan of 25.35 feet (7.727 meters) and height to the top of the cabane strut of 8.0 feet (2.438 meters). It had an empty weight of 507 pounds (229.9 kilograms). (Sources give conflicting specifications for the Blériot XI, probably because they were often changed in an effort to improve the airplane. The model flown across the English Channel was described by Flight as the Blériot Short-Span Monoplane. Dimensions given here are from the three-view drawings, below.)

In its original configuration, the Type XI was powered by an air-cooled, 3.774 liter (230.273 cubic inches) Robert Esnault-Pelterie (R.E.P.) two-row, seven-cylinder fan engine (or “semi-radial”), which produced 30 horsepower at 1,500 r.p.m.,  and drove a four-bladed paddle-type propeller. The R.E.P. engine weighed 54 kilograms (119 pounds). This engine was unreliable and was soon replaced by an Alessandro Anzani & Co. W-3.

The Anzani W-3 was an air-cooled, naturally-aspirated, 3.377 liter (206.078 cubic inch) 60° (some sources state 55°) three-cylinder “fan”-type radial engine (or W-3). It was a direct-drive, right-hand-tractor engine which produced 25 horsepower at 1,600 r.p.m. The W-3 was 0.300 meters (11.811 inches) long, 0.386 meters (15.197 inches) high, and 0.694 meters (2 feet, 3.323 inches) wide. The engine weighed 65 kilograms (143 pounds). The engine turned a highly-efficient Hélice Intégrale Chauvière two-bladed, fixed-pitch, propeller which had a diameter of 6 feet, 8 inches (2.032 meters). The Anzani W-3 cost 3,000 French francs in 1909.

The Blériot XI had a maximum speed of 47 miles per hour (76 kilometers per hour) and the service ceiling was approximately 1,000 meters (3,281 feet).

A description of the Blériot Type XI appeared in Vehicles of the Air, by Victor Loughead,² Second Edition, The Reilly and Britton Co., Chicago, 1910, Figure 197, between Pages 406 and 407:

Blériot Type XI, front view.

Blériot Type XI, side view.
Blériot Type XI, top view.

¹ The village was renamed Sangatte-Blériot-Plage in 1936.

² Victor Loughead was the older brother of Allan and Malcolm Loughead, founders of the Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company of Santa Barbara, California, better known today as the Lockheed Martin Corporation.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 April 1913

Gustav Hamel (1886–1914)
Gustav Hamel (1886–1914)

17 April 1913: Pioneer British aviator Gustav Wilhelm Hamel flew from Dover, England, across the English Channel and on to Cologne, Germany. Also on board his airplane was Frank Dupree,¹ a reporter for the London Standard. His airplane was a Blériot XI. ² The duration of the flight was 4 hours, 18 minutes.

FLIGHT reported:

HAMEL FLIES FROM DOVER TO COLOGNE.

AMONG the many extraordinary flights which have been accomplished, certainly not teh least epoch-making, inasmuch as it was the first flight from England to Germany, was that made by Mr. Gustav Hamel last week, with a passenger, from Dover to Cologne. Starting from Dover Aerodrome (accompanied by Mr. F. Dupree, of the staff of the Standard, by whom arrangements for the flight had been made), he left Dover as 12.40 p.m. Making his way across the Channel, the French coast was picked up just south of Dunkirk, and then a course was set by the aid of the compass for Mechlin. Across Belgium and Holland the military Blériot sped its way, but the storms which had to be passed through put the pilot out a little in his reckoning, and when the Rhine was sighted it was at a point about 60 miles north of Cologne. This deviation lengthened the journey considerably, but Cologne was safely reached at 4.58 p.m., and on alighting the English travellers were courteously received by the German officers. The duration of the flight was 4 hrs. 18 mins., and the distance as the crow flies from point to point is 245 miles. In view of the deviation, Mr. Hamel estimates the distance covered at 320 miles. Altogether, Mr. Hamel passed over five countries.

The Blériot monoplane which was used was fitted with an 80 h.p. Gnome motor, which, by the way, was equipped with the famous F. and S. ball-bearings. ³ The fuel used was Shell spirit, of which forty gallons were carried, and there was sufficient left at the journey’s end to cover another 100 miles, a distance which would have taken the aviator well out of the German Empire. For lubrication purposes Wakefield “Castrol” was used.

The Machine for New Zealand.

     Hamel’s great flight from Dover to Cologne was arranged by the Standard in conjunction with the Imperial Air Fleet Committee, of which Lord Desborough is President, and on conclusion of the flight the aeroplane was offered to and accepted by the New Zealand Government. A fund has now been opened with the object of paying for the machine, the cost of which has been in the meantime guaranteed by the Standard and Messrs. Wm. Coward and Co., Ltd.

FLIGHT, No. 226 (No. 17, Vol. V.), 26 April 1913, at Page 466

A short film of preparations for the flight is available from British PATHÉ at:

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/gustav-hamel-pilot

Gustav Hamel was born in Germany, but he and his family emigrated to England in 1910, becoming subjects of the Crown. In 1911 he attended the Blériot flying school at Pau, France, and earned Aéro-Club de France‘s aviator certificate number 358, and the Royal Aero Club (R.Ae.C.) certificate number 64. He completed many “firsts” in aviation, including delivering the first official air mail. Hamel disappeared on another flight across the English Channel, 23 May 1914.

Gustav Wilhelm Hamel (‘Men of the Day. No. 2283. “Flight.”‘) by (Richard) Wallace Hester (‘W. Hester’, ‘Hester’, ‘WH’ and ‘WH-‘) chromolithograph, published in Vanity Fair 31 July 1912 14 1/8 in. x 9 1/2 in. (359 mm x 242 mm) paper size. © National Portrait Gallery, London

The Blériot XI was a single-seat, single-engine monoplane, designed by Raymond Saulnier and built by Louis Charles Joseph Blériot. It was 24 feet, 11 inches (7.595 meters) long with a wingspan of 27 feet, 11 inches (8.509 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 10 inches (2.692 meters). The wings had a chord of 6 feet (1.829 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 507 pounds (229.9 kilograms).

In its original configuration, the airplane was powered by an air-cooled, 3.774 liter (230.273 cubic inches) R.E.P.  two-row, seven-cylinder fan engine (or “semi-radial”) which produced 30 horsepower at 1,500 r.p.m., driving a four-bladed paddle-type propeller. The R.E.P. engine weighed 54 kilograms (119 pounds). This engine was unreliable and was soon replaced by an air-cooled 3.534 liter (215.676 cubic inch) Alessandro Anzani & Co., 60° (some sources state 55°) three-cylinder “fan”-type radial engine (or W-3) and a highly-efficient Hélice Intégrale Chauvière two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller, which had a diameter of 6 feet, 8 inches (2.032 meters). The Anzani W-3 was a direct-drive, right-hand tractor engine which produced 25 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m. It was 1.130 meters (3 feet 8.49 inches) long, 1.500 meters (4 feet, 11.01 inches) high, and 0.720 meters (2 feet, 4.35 inches) wide. The engine weighed 66 kilograms (145.5 pounds).

The Blériot XI had a maximum speed of 47 miles per hour (76 kilometers per hour) and the service ceiling was (3,280 feet) 1,000 meters.

Gustav Hamel and his Blériot XI at Radnorshire, Knighton, England, 29th August 1913.
Gustav Hamel and his Blériot XI at Radnorshire, Knighton, England, 29th August 1913.

¹ Also reported in contemporary newspaper articles as “Frank Dupre,” and frequently described as “an American.”

² Although not specifically identified in contemporary newspaper articles, the airplane flown by Hamel on this date was a Blériot XI-2 Génie, a two-place variant which was powered by a Gnome Lambda 7-cylinder rotary engine. The weights, dimensions and performance very likely varied from those described above. It was accepted by New Zealand on 4 March 1913, and was shipped aboard the White Star Line passenger ship, S.S. Athenic. The airplane arrived at Auckland on 29 September 1913. The airplane was named Britannia.

According the Air Force Museum of New Zealand:

The first flight was not undertaken until January 1914, when Joe Hammond, a New Zealander and Second Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps, was engaged to demonstrate the machine. After several test flights from the Epsom Showgrounds, he was ready to take up his first passenger. Rather than select one of the many dignitaries present, he took aloft an actress, Miss Esme McLennan of the Royal Pantomime Company. Hammond was released from duty for his lapse in protocol, and the aircraft put into storage in New Zealand. The New Zealand Government offered it for service in World War One, and it returned to the UK in October 1914.

The New Zealand Monoplane Britannia over the Auckland Exhibition Grounds, January 1914. (Air Force Museum of New Zealand)

³ Fichtel & Sachs, Schweinfurt, Germany (Schweinfurter Präcisions-Kugel-Lager-Werke Fichtel & Sachs)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 April 1912

Harriet Quimby and her Blériot XI. (Library of Congress)

16 April 1912: American aviatrix Harriet Quimby flew across the English Channel in a Blériot XI monoplane. She departed Dover at 5:30 a.m. and crossed a fog-shrouded channel to land at Hardelot-Plage, Pas-de-Calais, 1 hour, 9 minutes later. Her only instruments were a hand-held compass and a watch.

Harriet Quimby (Theodore C. Marceau)

Quimby was the first woman to fly across the channel, but that was not her only “first”: On 11 August 1911, she had become the first American woman to be licensed as a pilot. She was known for her purple satin flying suit.

Harriet Quimby was killed at Quincy, Massachusetts, 1 July 1912, when her Blériot XI, circling the airfield at 1,500 feet (457 meters) suddenly pitched down and she and her passenger were thrown out.

The Blériot XI was a single-seat, single-engine monoplane, designed by Raymond Saulnier and built by Louis Charles Joseph Blériot. It was 24 feet, 11 inches (7.595 meters) long with a wingspan of 27 feet, 11 inches (8.509 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 10 inches (2.692 meters). The wings had a chord of 6 feet (1.829 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 507 pounds (229.9 kilograms).

In its original configuration, the airplane was powered by an air-cooled, 3.774 liter (230.273 cubic inches) R.E.P.  two-row, seven-cylinder fan engine (or “semi-radial”) which produced 30 horsepower at 1,500 r.p.m., driving a four-bladed paddle-type propeller. The R.E.P. engine weighed 54 kilograms (119 pounds). This engine was unreliable and was soon replaced by an air-cooled 3.534 liter (215.676 cubic inch) Alessandro Anzani & Co., 60° (some sources state 55°) three-cylinder “fan”-type radial engine (or W-3) and a highly-efficient Hélice Intégrale Chauvière two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller, which had a diameter of 6 feet, 8 inches (2.032 meters). The Anzani W-3 was a direct-drive, right-hand tractor engine which produced 25 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m. It was 1.130 meters (3 feet 8.49 inches) long, 1.500 meters (4 feet, 11.01 inches) high, and 0.720 meters (2 feet, 4.35 inches) wide. The engine weighed 66 kilograms (145.5 pounds).

The Blériot XI had a maximum speed of 47 miles per hour (76 kilometers per hour) and the service ceiling was (3,280 feet) 1,000 meters.

Harriet Quimby, wearing her purple satin flying suit, pulls the Chauvière Intégrale propeller of the Blériot XI to start the air-cooled Anzani 72° W3 ("fan" or "semi-radial") 3-cylinder engine.
Harriet Quimby, wearing her purple satin flying suit, pulls the Chauvière Intégrale propeller of the Blériot XI to start the air-cooled Anzani W3 (“fan” or “semi-radial”) three-cylinder engine.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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7 January 1785

Balloon Leaving Dover, Jean-Pierre François Blanchard and Dr. John Jeffries depart Dover, 7 January 1785, by E.W. Cocks, oil on canvas, ca. 1840 (Science Museum, London)
Balloon Leaving Dover, Jean-Pierre François Blanchard and Dr. John Jeffries depart Dover, 7 January 1785, by E.W. Cocks, oil on canvas, ca. 1840 (Science Museum, London)

7 January 1785: On a clear, calm day, Jean-Pierre François Blanchard and Doctor John Jeffries flew across the English Channel in a hydrogen-filled balloon. They lifted off from Dover Castle, Kent, England at about 1:00 p.m. The journey to Guînes, Pas-de-Calais, France took about two and a half hours.

The balloon was approximately 8.2 meters (27 feet) in diameter. A gondola was suspended beneath the gas envelope, equipped with oar-like devices that were intended to steer and propel the light-than-air craft.

With sufficient buoyancy to just lift the two aeronauts and their equipment, the Channel crossing was made at a very low altitude. During the flight all ballast, their equipment and most of their clothing were jettisoned. They crossed the French coast at about 3:00 p.m. and at 3:30, came to rest in a clearing in the Felmores Forest, near Guînes.

Balloon Arriving at Calais, by E.W. Cocks, oil on canvas, ca. 1840 (Science Museum, London)
Balloon Arriving at Calais, by E.W. Cocks, oil on canvas, ca. 1840 (Science Museum, London)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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