Saturday, July 25, 2009

100 Years of Flying History

Excerpt from "The Mastery of the Air"
If the Wright brothers can lay claim to the title of "Fathers of the Biplane", then it is
certain that M. Bleriot, the gallant French airman, can be styled the "Father of the
For five years--1906 to 1910--Louis Bleriot's name was on everybody's lips in connection
with his wonderful records in flying and skilful feats of airmanship. Perhaps
the flight that brought him greatest renown was that accomplished in July
1909, when he was the first man to cross the English Channel by aeroplane. This
attempt had been forestalled, although unsuccessfully, by Hubert Latham, a daring
aviator who is best known in Lancashire by his flight in 1909 at Blackpool in a wind
which blew at the rate of nearly 40 miles an hour--a performance which struck
everyone with wonder in these early days of aviation.
Latham attempted, on an Antoinette monoplane, to carry off the prize of £1000
offered by the proprietors of the Daily Mail. On the first occasion he fell in mid-
Channel, owing to the failure of his motor, and was rescued by a torpedo boat. His
machine was so badly damaged during the salving operations that another had to
be sent from Paris, and with this he made a second attempt, which was also unsuccessful.
Meanwhile M. Bleriot had arrived on the scene; and on 25th July he crossed
the Channel from Calais to Dover in thirty-seven minutes and was awarded the
£1000 prize.
Bleriot's fame was now firmly established, and on his return to France he received a
magnificent welcome. The monoplane at once leaped into favour, and the famous
"bird man" had henceforth to confine his efforts to the building of machines and
the organization of flying events.

Today is the 100th Anniversary of the First Crossing of the English Channel by an Aircraft and has been reenacted by Frenchman - Edmond Salis and Swiss Pilot -Mikael Carlson flying replicas of the famous Bleriot XIs across the channel and later followed by some 300 other pilots in various other planes.
Here is a video from BBC News Covering the story:

Louis Bleriot; the grandson of the Famous pilot was watching the planes land at around 9:00 a.m. GMT at the Duke of York's Royal Military School, not far from where Mr Bleriot landed after cutting his engine following the 36-minute flight, close to Dover Castle.

Bleriot's plane was made of wood and he used piano wire for the main cabling, he attempted to fly 50 times without success and his 11th attempt caught fire and burned his foot. This did not stop him though and his cross channel feat earned him the £1000 award from Lord Northcliffe, proprietor of the Daily Mail. His plane as well as his business became a worldwide wonder, Selfridges even displayed his aircraft in the new department store in London.

Most of all this kicked off the establishment of many more aircraft and aircraft manufacturers and led to flying being taken seriously for the first time in Europe.

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