|Bleriot starting the engine on the day he crossed the channel|
On July 25, 1909, French aviation pioneer Louis Blériot successfully crossed the English Channel from Calais to Dover Castle in a heavier than air aircraft.
Louis Blériot studied several years at the precious École Centrale Paris before entering the military service and spending further time in the 24th Artillery Regiment stationed in the Pyrenees. The talented young man then joined an electrical engineering company, but left it as soon as he constructed the first practical headlamp for automobiles. He successfully sold his items to Renault and Panhard-Levassor the two most influential car manufacturers back then.
Next to his interests in cars and electricity, Blériot put his focus increasingly on aviation. In 1900, he began experimenting which his successful business allowed financially. He employed further people to help him experimenting and withing five years he built his first gliders. Unfortunately, the first versions of the Blériot glider stayed pretty unsuccessful, causing several crashes. Almost all versions back then were powered with the lightweight Antoinette engines, built by Levavasseur. The latest version, Blériot IV was damaged in a taxiing accident in 1906 and caused the dissolvment of the inventor’s pertnership with Voisin. At the same day, Alberto Santos Dumont managed to fly over 220 metres, causing him lots of fame and awards by the Aéro Club de France.
Blériot decided to start his own business, creating his very own aircrafts leading to the world’s first successful powered monoplane. In 1907, Blériot made significant advancements on ground runs with the Blériot V, but also damaged the craft’s undercarriage badly. In the same year, he hit the ground with the aircraft nose-first and the inventor and engineer was luckily unhurt even though the plane was almost completely destroyed. More testing and experimenting followed and resulted in the Blériot VII, first successful monoplane. People started recognizing Blériot’s achievements and admired him for successfully flying over 500 metres including a U-turn. The first cross country flight followed in 1908. Further improvements focussed on better and more efficient engines that would not overheat when the aircraft was on flight, which was a big problem for him back then.
In the following months, Blériot flew longer, wider, faster and received more and more public attention. On July 19, the record breaking engineer received a letter to cross the English Channel in a heavier-than-air aircraft in order to win a thousand-pound prize. He had several opponents, also trying to win the price. Hubert Latham failed and landed in the water. An excited crowd came to see Blériot’s attempt and he left ground early in the morning without a compass taking his course from a ship underneath him. After 36 minutes, he landed safely in Dover. After this success, Blériot became a celebrity instantly.
After the numerous experiments he performed and the successful flight in 1909, Blériot’s aircraft manufacture received hundrets of orders for aircrafts which made him a wealthy man. In later years, Blériot was involved in long lasting patent battles with the Wright Brothers, but their claims were later dismissed.
Louis Blériot revolutionized aviation and continued teaching flight to younger students and gave technical advices to further aircraft builders until his passing on August 1, 1936.
At yovisto, you may enjoy a short outline of Blériot’s achievements by the president of the Royal Aero Club.
References and Further Reading:
- Louis Blériot Memorial Behind Dover Castle UK
- Historically accurate, fictional account of the Blériot channel crossing
- Louis Charles-Joseph Blériot flight and plane information
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