Tag Archives: Louis Charles Joseph Blériot

10 May 1961

Crew of The Firefly at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 10 May 1961. (Sand Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Crew of The Firefly, 1st Lieutenant David F. Dickerson, Major Elmer E. Murphy, and Major Eugene Moses, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 10 May 1961. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

In 1930, aviation pioneer Louis Charles Joseph 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. The technology to accomplish this was three decades in the future.

Convair B-58A-10-CF Huslter 59-2451 taxis out at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 10 May 1961. (General Dynamics/San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives Catalog number 01 00093630)
Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2451 taxis out at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 10 May 1961. (General Dynamics/San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives Catalog Number 01 00093632)

On 10 May 1961, a U.S. Air Force/Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler, serial number 59-2451, The Firefly, did just that. Flown by a crew consisting of Aircraft Commander, Major Elmer E. Murphy, Navigator, Major Eugene Moses, and Defensive Systems Officer, First Lieutenant David F. Dickerson, the Mach 2+ Strategic Air Command bomber flew 669.4 miles (1,077.3 kilometers) in 30 minutes, 43 seconds. Their average speed was 1,302.07 miles per hour (2,095 kilometers per hour).

Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2451 during Bleriot Trophy speed run, 10 May 1961. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2451 during Blériot Trophy speed run, 10 May 1961. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The black and white marble trophy was presented to the B-58 crew by Alice Védères Blériot, widow of Louis Blériot, at Paris, France, 27 May 1961. It is on permanent display at the McDermott Library of the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The Blériot Trophy, photographed 12 June 1961. "Side view of The Blériot Trophy on display. It is the figure of a naked man made of black marble in a flying position emerging from clouds. The clouds are white stone and are the figures of women in various poses on top of a marble dome." (University of North Texas Libraries)
The Blériot Trophy, photographed 12 June 1961. “Side view of The Blériot Trophy on display. It is the figure of a naked man made of black marble in a flying position emerging from clouds. The clouds are white stone and are the figures of women in various poses on top of a marble dome.” (University of North Texas Libraries)

The Convair B-58 Hustler was a high-altitude, Mach 2+ strategic bomber which served with the United States Air Force from 1960 to 1970. It was crewed by a pilot, navigator/bombardier and a defensive systems operator located in individual cockpits. The aircraft has a delta-winged configuration similar to Convair’s F-102A Delta Dagger and F-106 Delta Dart supersonic interceptors.

Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2451 taxis back to teh ramp at Edwards Air Force Base, following teh Bleriot Trophy speed run, 10 May 1961. (General Dynamics/San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives Catolog number 01 00093633)
Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2451 taxis back to the ramp at Edwards Air Force Base, following the Blériot Trophy speed run, 10 May 1961. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The Hustler is 96 feet, 10 inches (29.515 meters) long, with a wing span of 56 feet, 10 inches (17.323 meters) and overall height of 31 feet 5 inches (9.576 meters). The wings’ leading edge is swept back at a 60° angle and the fuselage incorporates the “area rule” which resulted in a “wasp waist” or “Coke bottle” shape for a significant reduction in aerodynamic drag. The airplane’s only control surfaces are two “elevons” and a rudder. There are no flaps.

The B-58’s delta wing has a total area of 1,542.5 square feet (143.3 square meters) and the leading edges are swept back at a 60° angle. The wing has an angle of incidence of 3° and 2° 14′ dihedral (outboard of Sta. 56.5).

The B-58A had an empty weight of 51,061 pounds (23161 kilograms), or 53,581 pounds (24,304 kilograms) with the MB-1 pod. The maximum takeoff weight was 158,000 pounds (71,668 kilograms).

The B-58A was powered by four General Electric J79-GE-5 axial-flow afterburning turbojet engines, suspended under the wings from pylons. This was a single-shaft engine with a 17-stage compressor and 3-stage turbine. It had a Normal Power rating of 9,700 pounds of thrust (43.148 kilonewtons). The Military Power rating was 10,000 pounds (44.482 kilonewtons), and it produced a maximum 15,600 pounds (69.392 kilonewtons) at 7,460 r.p.m., with afterburner. The J79-GE-5 was 16 feet, 10.0 inches (5.131 meters) long and 2 feet, 11.2 inches (0.894 meters) in diameter. It weighed 3,570 pounds (1,619 kilograms).

The bomber had a cruise speed of 544 knots (626 miles per hour/1,007 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 1,147 knots (1,320 miles per hour/2,124 kilometers per hour) at 67,000 feet (20,422 meters). The B-58A had a combat radius of 4,225 nautical miles (4,862 statute miles/7,825 kilometers). Its maximum ferry range was 8,416 nautical miles (9,685 statute miles/15,586 kilometers).

The B-58 weapons load was a combination of Mark 39, B43 or B61 thermonuclear bombs. The weapons could be carried in a jettisonable centerline pod, which also carried fuel. The four of the smaller bombs could be carried on underwing hardpoints. There was a General Electric M61 20 mm rotary cannon mounted in the tail, with 1,200 rounds of ammunition, and controlled by the Defensive Systems Officer.

The Firefly's ground crew for the Blériot Trophy speed run, 10 May 1961. (General Dynamics/San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives Catalog number 01 00093629)
The Firefly’s ground crew for the Blériot Trophy speed run, 10 May 1961. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

On 26 May 1961, The Firefly, flown by a different aircrew, set a speed record by flying New York to Paris, while enroute to the Paris Air Show, a distance of 3,626.46 miles in 3 hours, 19 minutes, 58 seconds, for an average of 1,089.36 mph.

Convair built 116 B-58s between 1956 and 1961. They were retired by 1970.

On 3 June 1961, the Blériot Trophy-winning crew of Murphy, Moses and Dickerson departed Le Bourget Airport aboard 59-2451 for the return trip to America. The B-58 crashed five miles from the airport. All three men were killed and the aircraft totally destroyed.

Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2451, The Firefly.
Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2451, The Firefly.

General Dynamics contributed an extensive collection of photographs of the speed run to the San Diego Air and Space Museum, which holds them in its Archives.

A 1961 Air Force film covering the event and the presentation of the Blériot Trophy can be seen on You Tube at https://youtu.be/0D_n8YRodII

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 April 1912

Dennis Corbett-Wilson at Fishguard, Wales, 22 April 1912. (VisitWexford)

22 April 1912: Departing at 5:47 a.m., Denys Corbett-Wilson flew his Blériot XI from Fishguard and Goodwick, Pembrokeshire, Wales, across St. George’s Channel and landed at Crane, near Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland, 1 hour, 40 minutes later. This was the first crossing of the Irish Sea from England to Ireland by air.

Lieutenant Denys Corbett-Wilson

Corbett-Wilson, having flown in heavy rain for the final half hour, with an erratic compass and misfiring engine, saw a field at Crane that he thought was suitable for landing his airplane. The area was too small, though, and he ran into heavy brush, slightly damaging the Blériot.

The damaged airplane was stored at the stables of Lord Donoughmore’s Estate. Many years later the estate was sold and the wreck was purchased. It was later donated to a museum in Kilkenny.

Denys Corbett-Wilson was born at Thames Ditton, Surrey, England, on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1882. He was the son of W.H.C. Wilson, Esq., Barrister-at-Law, and Ada Caroline Corbett-Wilson.

Corbett-Wilson learned to fly at Pau, France in 1911. A sportsman and “an intrepid rider to hounds,” he joined the Royal Flying Corps at the beginning of World War I and was commissioned a second lieutenant, Special Reserve, Royal Flying Corps. He served with No. 3 Squadron at Béthune, France, and was promoted to lieutenant in November 1914.

Lieutenant Denys Corbett-Wilson was killed in action while on a reconnaissance flight along the Western Front, 10 May 1915. His airplane, a Morane-Saulnier Type L, was struck by an artillery shell. He was buried with full military honors at Fournes-en-Weppes by the German Army.

Denys Corbett Wilson's Blériot XI was slightly damaged after running out of room for landing at Crane, Wexford, ireland, 22 April 1912. (Corbett Wilson collection)
Denys Corbett-Wilson’s Blériot XI was slightly damaged after running out of room for landing at Crane, Wexford, Ireland, 22 April 1912. (Corbett-Wilson collection)

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).

After 1910, the Blériot XI was often equipped with a Gnome rotary engine. This was a normally-aspirated, air-cooled, 7.983 liter (487.140-cubic-inch-displacement) Société des Moteurs Gnome Omega 7-cylinder rotary engine which produced 50 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. The direct-drive engine turned a two-bladed wooden propeller in a left-hand, pusher configuration. The Omega 7 is 79.2 centimeters (2 feet, 7.2 inches) long, 83.8 centimeters (2 feet, 9.0 inches) in diameter, and weighs 75.6 kilograms (166.7 pounds). The prototype of this engine is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air & Space Museum.

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.

Denys Corbett Wilson with a Bleriot XI-2 at Highcliffe, near Christchurch, New Zealand, 18 June 1913. This version o fteh airplane is powered by an air-cooled Gnome 7 cylinder rotary engine producing 80 horsepower.
Denys Corbett-Wilson with a Blériot XI-2 at Highcliffe, near Christchurch, Dorset, 18 June 1913. This version of the airplane is powered by an air-cooled 487.140-cubic-inch (7.983 liter) Gnome Omega 7-cylinder rotary engine, producing 50 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. (Christchurch History Society)

© 2017, 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).

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

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

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. It 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)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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16 April 1912

Harriet Quimby, September 1910. (Edmunds Bond/The Boston Globe)

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.

FLIGHT reported:

MISS QUIMBY FLIES THE CHANNEL.

ALTHOUGH Miss Harriet Quimby has made an enviable reputation for herself as a capable pilot in America, her native country, she has not been very well-known on this side of the Atlantic, and no doubt few of our readers who read the announcement in FLIGHT a week or so back that she was coming to Europe, looked for her so soon to make her mark by crossing the Channel. Contrary to what one would expect, the feat was carried through without any fuss or elaborate preparations, and only a few friends, including Mr. Norbet Chereau and his wife and Mrs Griffith, an American friend, knew the attempt was being made and were present at the start. Miss Quimby had ordered a 50-h.p. Gnome-Blériot, which arrived from France on Saturday, and was tested on Sunday by Mr. Hamel. On Tuesday morning, as previously arranged, after Mr. Hamel had taken the machine for a preliminary trial flight, Miss Quimby, who had been staying at Dover under the name of Miss Craig, took her place in the pilot’s seat, and at 5.38 left Deal, rising by a wide circle and steering a course, by the aid of the compass, for Cape Grisnez. Dover Castle was passed at a height of 1,500 feet, and by the time the machine was over the sea, it was at an altitude of about 2,000 feet. Guided solely by compass, Miss Quimby arrived above the Grisnez Lighthouse a little under an hour later, and making her way towards Boulogne she came down at Equihen by a spiral vol plané not far from the Blériot sheds.

     To Miss Quimby, therefore belongs the honour of being the first of the fair sex to make the journey, unaccompanied, across the Channel on an aeroplane; and, appropriately enough, as the first crossing of an aeroplane by a “mere man” was on a Blériot machine, her mount was of that type. Miss Trehawke Davies, it will be remembered, was the first lady to cross the Channel in an aeroplane, but she was a passenger with Mr. Hamel on his Blériot monoplane.

FLIGHT, No. 173. (No. 16, Vol. IV.), 20 April 1912 at Page 345

Quimby was the first woman to fly across the channel, but that was not her only “first”: On 11 August 1911, after 33 flight lessons over a four-month period at the Moisant Aviation School at Hempstead, Long Island, New York, she had become the first American woman to receive a pilot’s license, Number 37, from the Aero Club of America. She was called as “America’s First Lady of the Air.” Miss Quimby was widely known for her “plum-colored” satin flying suit.

Miss Harriet Qumby, 1911, (Leslie Jones Collection, Boston Public Library)

Harriet Quimby was born 11 May 1875 at Arcadia, Michigan. She was the fourth child of William F. Quimby, a farmer, and Ursula M. Cook Quimby. The family moved to California in 1887, initially settling in Arroyo Grande, and then San Francisco. There, she worked as an actress, and then a writer for the San Francisco Call newspaper, and Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly. Quimby also wrote a number of screenplays for early Hollywood movies which were directed by D.W. Griffiths.

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. Miss Quimby was buried at the Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York.

Miss Harriet Quimby with her Blériot monoplane.

The Blériot XI was a single-seat, single-engine monoplane, designed by Raymond Saulnier and built by Louis Charles Joseph Blériot. It was 26.24 feet (7.998 meters) long with a wingspan of 25.35 feet (7.727 meters) and overall height of 8 feet (2.438 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).

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

Miss Quimby’s airplane, though, was powered by a normally-aspirated, air-cooled, 7.983 liter (487.140-cubic-inch-displacement) Société des Moteurs Gnome Omega 7-cylinder rotary engine which produced 50 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. The direct-drive engine turned a two-bladed wooden propeller in a left-hand, pusher configuration. The Omega 7 is 79.2 centimeters (2 feet, 7.2 inches) long, 83.8 centimeters (2 feet, 9.0 inches) in diameter, and weighs 75.6 kilograms (166.7 pounds). The prototype of this engine is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air & Space Museum.

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

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.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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23 January 1909

The Blériot XI in flight, May 1909. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)
Louis Charles Joseph Blériot. (Library of Congress)
Louis Charles Joseph Blériot. (Library of Congress)

23 January 1909: The Blériot XI made its first flight at Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris, France. The airplane was flown by Louis Charles Joseph Blériot. It was designed by Raymond Saulnier and was a development of the earlier Blériot VIII.

Saulnier later founded Morane-Saulnier Aviation—Sociètè Anonyme des Aèroplanes Morane-Saulnier—with the Morane brothers, Léon and Robert.

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 overall height of 8 feet (2.438 meters). It had an empty weight of 507 pounds (229.9 kilograms).

Raymond Saulnier

(Sources give conflicting specifications for the Blériot XI, probably because they were often changed in an effort to improve the airplane. Dimensions given here are from the three-view drawings, below.)

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 changed for an air-cooled 3.117 liter (190.226 cubic inch) Alessandro Anzani & Co., 60° three-cylinder “fan”-type radial engine (or W-3) and a highly-efficient Chauvière Intégrale two-bladed propeller. The Anzani engine produced 25 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m.

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

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

Just over six months from its first flight, on 25 July 1909, Louis Blériot flew his Blériot XI across the English Channel from Calais to Dover. He flew the 25 mile (40 kilometer) distance in 36 minutes. The airplane was slightly damaged on landing.

Blériot’s original airplane is in the collection of the Musee des Arts et Metiers, Paris, France.

The Blériot XI was a successful and influential design. It was widely used by both civilian and military aviators.

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

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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