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).
(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.
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.
20 October 1922: 1st Lieutenant Harold Ross Harris, Air Service, United States Army, the Chief, Flight Test Branch, Engineering Division, at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, was test flying a Loening Aeronautical Engineering Company PW-2A monoplane, a single-engine, single-seat fighter. The PW-2A, serial number A.S. 64388, had experimental balance-type ailerons. During this flight, Lieutenant Harris engaged in simulated air combat with Lieutenant Muir Fairchild (future Vice Chief of Staff, United States Air Force) who was flying a Thomas-Morse MB-3.
While banking the PW-2A into a right turn, Harris’ control stick began to vibrate violently from side to side and the airplane’s wings were “torn apart.” With the Loening diving uncontrollably, Harris jumped from the cockpit at approximately 2,500 feet (762 meters). After free-falling about 2,000 feet (610 meters), he pulled the lanyard on his parachute which immediately deployed. Harris then descended with his parachute providing aerodynamic deceleration, coming safely to earth in the back yard of a home at 335 Troy Street. He suffered minor bruises when he landed on a trellis in the garden.
Harris’ PW-2A crashed into a yard at 403 Valley Street, three blocks away. It was completely destroyed.
This was the very first time a free-fall parachute had been used in an actual inflight emergency. Lieutenant Harris became the first member of the Irvin Air Chute Company’s “Caterpillar Club.”
The Pittsburgh Post reported:
Flyer Quits Plane in Parachute, Saves Life; Unique Case
Dayton, O., Oct. 20.—Leaping from his Loenig [sic] monoplace in a parachute when the plane became uncontrollable over North Dayton today, Lieutenant Harold R. Harris, chief of the flying section of McCook Field, escaped death when his plane crashed to earth.
Technical data, officials at McCook Field said, show that Lieutenant Harris’ escape is the first time an air pilot has ever actually saved himself by use of a parachute. A mail plane flyer leaped in a parachute over Chicago several years ago, but the necessity of his leaving the plane was questioned.
Harris won the commercial plane event in the Pulitzer races in Detroit last week, flying the “Honeymoon Express” plane.
—The Pittsburgh Post, Saturday, 21 October 1922, Vol. 80, No. 303, Page 1, Column 1
Harold R. Harris was born at Chicago, Illinois, 20 December 1895, the first of four children of Ross Allen Harris, M.D., and Mae Ermine Plumb Harris. He enlisted as a private in the Aviation Section, Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps (E.R.C.), 2 May 1917. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, Aviation Section, Signal Officers Reserve Corps (O.R.C.) on 15 December 1917. Harris was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant on 19 January 1918. His commission was vacated 18 September 1920 and commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant, Air Service, United States Army, effective 1 July 1920.
Married Grace C. Harris, circa 1920. They had two children.
Ross attended the Air Service Engineering School, graduating in 1922. He also earned a Bachelor of Science degree (B.S.) from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California (“Caltech”).
Harris left the Air Service in 1926. He founded the world’s first aerial crop dusting business, the Huff Daland Company. Next he became a vice president and chief of operations for Grace Airways, a joint venture of Grace Shipping and Pan American World Airways, providing passenger service between South America and the West Coast of the United States.
During World War II, Harris, using his airline experience, helped to establish the Air Transport Command. In 1942, he was commissioned as a colonel in the U.S. Army Air Corps. By 1945, he was Chief, Air Transport Command, with the rank of Brigadier General.
Following World War II, Harris joined American Overseas Airlines, which soon was absorbed by Pan American. Harris was once again a vice president for Pan Am.
In 1955, Harris became president of Northwest Airlines.
Brigadier General Harold Ross Harris, United States Army Air Corps (Retired) died 28 July 1988 at the age of 92 years.
19 October 1908: From the grounds of the Château de Bagatelle, Paris, France, Eugène Welferinger (1872–1936) made the first flight of the Société d’aviation Antoinette monoplane, the Antoinette IV.
A single-place, single-engine airplane, the Antoinette IV was one the first successful monoplanes. American Machinist described it as a “purely racing machine.”
The airplane and its V-8 engine were designed by Léon Levavasseur. It was modified a number of times, as was its sister ship, the Antoinette V.
Augustus Post, Secretary of the Aero Club of America, wrote in the weekly technical publication, American Machinist:
M. Lavavasseur considered that the monoplane offered the advantages of simplicity of form, natural stability, and was easier to construct; that is to say, that the thrust of the motor required for flight was less under the same conditions of speed and weight.
The “Antoinette” is particularly interesting on account of the manner in which the problems have been studied and the great amount of thought that has been given to them. The machine is perhaps without question the most finely finished of those in its class, shows the most careful workmanship in its most minute detail, and presents more new and original features than any of the other machines which may be compared with it. It also provides a comfortable cockpit for the aviator, a distinct advantage in long and trying flights.
—American Machinist, Hill Publishing Company, New York, 7 October 1909, Page 608 at Column 2
The Antoinette IV was approximately 11,50 mètres (37.72966 feet) long with a wingspan of 14,80 mètres (48.55643 feet). The leading edge was swept aft 3°. They had a chord of 3 meters (9.8 feet) at the root, tapering to 2 meters (6.6 feet) at the tip. The wing had an angle of incidence of 4° with 6° dihedral. The total surface area was 34 square meters (366 square feet). The weight of the Antoinette IV was 460 kilograms (1,014 pounds) with one hour of fuel. It was capable of reaching 120 kilometers per hour (75 miles per hour).
The airplane was described in contemporary reports as “beautiful” and often mentioned was the very narrow triangular cross section of its fuselage. Different configurations of landing gear were tried, with combinations of skids and wheels, wheels in tandem, and side-by-side. Directional control was created through “wing-warping” as had been used by the Wright Brothers. This was later modified to an aileron system. The tail surfaces were cruciform, with two triangular rudders located above and below the triangular elevator. Flight controls were four hand wheels and two pedals which connected to the control surfaces by cables.
As originally built, the Antoinette IV was powered by a steam-cooled, normally-aspirated, 7.274 liter (443.861 cubic inch displacement) Antoinette 8V 90° overhead valve V-8 engine which produced approximately 45–50 chaval-vapeur (44.4–49.3 horsepower) at 1,400 r.p.m. This engine was considerably smaller and lighter than Levavasseur’s previous V-8s. Because the compression ratio was increased, the aluminum cylinder heads were replaced with forged steel heads. Carburetors were used instead of direct injection, which was prone to clogging. The 8V was a direct-drive engine which turned a propeller with two aluminum blades which were riveted to a steel tube that attached to the engine’s output shaft. The propeller had a diameter of 2.20 meters (7 feet, 2.6 inches). The V-8 engine was 0.750 meters (2 feet, 5.5 inches inches) long, 0.600 meters (1 foot, 11.6 inches) wide and (0.600 meters (1 foot, 11.6 inches) high. It weighed 60 kilograms (132 pounds), dry, and 85 kilograms (187 pounds) in running order.
The engine sold for ₣12,500 (approximately $2,451 U.S. dollars) with delivery expected in 10 months. Antoinette airplanes could be purchased for ₣25,000, or about $4,902 U.S. dollars.
On 19 July 1909, Arthur Louis Hubert Latham, who had been taught to fly by Welféringer, attempted to fly the Antoinette IV across the English Channel, but an engine failure forced it down about 8 miles (13 kilometers) off the French coast.
The airplane remained afloat and Latham was rescued by the French torpedo boat destroyer FS Harpon, but the airplane was severely damaged during the recovery.
Léon Levavasseur was a French engineer, born 8 January 1863 near Cherbourg, France. He invented the 90° V-8 engine, which he patented in 1902. He specialized in lightweight engines, using components designed to be only as strong as was required by their specific use. He developed direct fuel injection and evaporative cooling for internal combustion engines.
His company, Société d’aviation Antoinette, and its products, were named for the daughter of his business partner, Jules Gastambide. The company initially produced lightweight engines for other airplane builders, but began to construct complete airplanes in 1906. Both Levavasseur and Gastambide left Antoinette in 1909 following a disagreement with the board of directors, but they returned five months later. The company failed in 1911.
Levavasseur was appointed Chevalier de la légion d’honneur in 1909.
Léon Levavasseur died in Paris, France, 26 February 1922, at the age of 59 years.
Recommended: An excellent article about Léon Levavasseur’s Antoinette engines can be found at Old Machine Press:
25 June 1919: Junkers Flugzeugwerke Aktiengesellschaft test pilot Emil Monz made the first flight of the Junkers F.13 at Dessau, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It was the first airplane to be built of all-metal construction specifically for commercial passenger service. The the first flyable prototype, constructor’s number (c/n) 533, carried the identification mark D 183. Professor Junkers had named the airplane Herta in honor of his oldest daughter.¹
Up to this time, airplanes had been primarily constructed of wood. Wood is susceptible to changes in dimension because of temperature and humidity, and it can warp over time. This effects the flight characteristics of the aircraft. Wood is also vulnerable to termites.
By building the airplane of metal, a much more rigid structure was created. The airplane’s flight characteristics did not change over time. Also, because metal is so much stronger than wood, an all-metal airplane could be significantly lighter than one built of wood.
Designed by Chief Engineer Otto Reuter, the F.13 was a single-engine, low-wing monoplane (tiefdecker) with a corrugated duralumin skin over a duralumin structure. It had a flight crew of two and four passengers could be carried in a comfortable enclosed cabin of the same size as automobiles of the time. The single wing was cantilevered and, unusually for the time, used no braces or support wires.
The prototype had a wingspan of 14.47 meters (47 feet, 5.7 inches). The wingspan was increased to 14.82 meters (48 feet, 7.5 inches) in production airplanes. The airplane was 9.59 meters (31 feet, 5.6 inches) long and 4.10 meters (13 feet, 5.4 inches) high. It had a maximum takeoff weight of 1,800 kilograms (3,968 pounds).
The first F.13 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 14.778 liter (901.81 cubic inch) Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft Mercedes D.IIIa vertical inline six-cylinder engine. This was a single overhead cam right-hand tractor direct-drive engine. It used two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.64:1. It produced 174 horsepower at 1,400 r.p.m., and drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch laminated wood propeller. The D.IIIa weighed 660.0 pounds (299.4 kilograms), including the propeller hub and exhaust manifold.
Production airplanes used BMW and Junkers engines.
The F.13 had a maximum speed of 170 kilometers per hour (106 miles per hour).
In production from 1919 to 1932, a total of 332 Junkers F.13s were built. Some remained in service in the late 1930s.
In 1920, D 183 was confiscated by the Inter-Allied Control Commission. Later, the F.13 flew for Lufthansa. The registration mark was changed to D 1 and it was named Nachtigall (Nightingale).
Emil Monz was born 9 June 1893, in Stuttgart, Germany. He was the son of Karl and Mathilde Monz. He married Fräulein Maline Georgine Erhardt, 24 January 1915, at Weingarten u. Wilhelmsdorf, Württrmberg, Deutschland.
During World War I, Monz was a reconnaissance pilot for the German Empire.
On 13 September 1919, Monz flew the second F.13, with seven passengers on board, to an altitude of 6,750 meters (22,146 feet). This was an unofficial world record.
Emil Monz died 18 February 1921 when the Junkers F.13 that he was flying, D 128, crashed in a snowstorm enroute to Stuttgart.
¹ While it is believed that Professor Junkers named the prototypes after his daughters Herta and Annelise, sources vary over which name was applied to which aircraft. The confusion may be a result of the serial numbers. The first F.13 to fly was c/n 533, while the second had an earlier number, c/n 531.