Tag Archives: Channel Crossing

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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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

Louis Charles Joseph Blériot. (Library of Congress)
Louis Charles Joseph Blériot, portrait by Vandyk. (Library of Congress Item 90712965 )

25 July 1909: At 4:41 a.m., Louis Charles Joseph Blériot took of from Calais in his own Type XI single-engine monoplane, and flew across the English Channel to Dover. He landed at Northfield Meadow near Dover Castle. Blériot flew at about 250 feet (76 meters) above the water, at approximately 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour).

The airplane did not have a compass, so Blériot used a French destroyer heading toward Dover as a visual reference.  After passing the ship, visibility deteriorated and he was only able to see the water below him. He 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.

Bleriot at mid-Channel
Louis Blériot at mid-Channel, 25 July 1909. (George Grantham Bain)

This was the first time an airplane had been flown across the English Channel, and brought Blériot international acclaim. Very quickly, orders for his Type XI were coming in.

Louis Charles Joseph Blériot and his Type XI airplane at Northfield Meadow, Dover, shortly after arriving from France at 0517 a.m, 25 July 1909. (Library of Congress)

The Blériot XI was a single-seat, single-engine monoplane. 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). It 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.

The original Blériot XI at Musee des Arts et Metiers (PHGCOM. Use authorized.)
The original Blériot XI at Musee des Arts et Metiers (PHGCOM)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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