The Blériot XI is a French aircraft of the pioneer era of aviation. The first example was used by Louis Blériot to make the first flight across the English Channel in a heavier-than-air aircraft, on 25 July 1909. This is one of the most famous accomplishments of the pioneer era of aviation, and not only won Blériot a lasting place in history but also assured the future of his aircraft manufacturing business. The event caused a major reappraisal of the importance of aviation; the English newspaper The Daily Express led its story of the flight with the headline “Britain is no longer an Island”.
It was produced in both single- and two-seat versions, powered by several different engines, and was widely used for competition and training purposes. Military versions were bought by many countries, continuing in service until after the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Two restored examples – one in the United Kingdom and one in the United States — of original Blériot XI aircraft are thought to be the two oldest flyable aircraft in the world.
The Blériot XI, largely designed by Raymond Saulnier, was a development of the Blériot VIII, which Blériot had flown successfully in 1908. Like its predecessor, it was a tractor-configuration monoplane with a partially covered box-girder fuselage built from ash with wire cross bracing. The principal difference was the use of wing warping for lateral control. The tail surfaces consisted of a small balanced all-moving rudder mounted on the rearmost vertical member of the fuselage and a horizontal tailplane mounted under the lower longerons. This had elevator surfaces making up the outermost part of the fixed horizontal surface; these “tip elevators” were linked by a torque tube running through the inner section. The bracing and warping wires were attached to a dorsal, five-component “house-roof” shaped cabane consisting of a pair of inverted V struts with their apices connected by a longitudinal tube, and an inverted four-sided pyramidal ventral cabane, also of steel tubing, below. When first built it had a wingspan of 7 m (23 ft) and a small teardrop-shaped fin mounted on the cabane,
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The Type XI took part in many competitions and races. In August 1910 Leblanc won the 805 km (500 mi) Circuit de l’Est race, and another Blériot flown by Emile Aubrun was the only other aircraft to finish the course. In October 1910, Claude Grahame-White won the second competition for the Gordon Bennett Trophy flying a Type XI fitted with a 75 kW (100 hp) Gnome, beating a similar aircraft flown by Leblanc, which force-landed on the last lap. During the race Leblanc had established a new world speed record. In 1911, Andre Beaumont won the Circuit of Europe in a Type XI and another, flown by Roland Garros, came second.
Maximum speed: 385 km/h (239 mph, 208 kn)
Cruise speed: 360 km/h (220 mph, 190 kn) (econ cruise)
Stall speed: 128 km/h (80 mph, 69 kn) (wheels and flaps down)
Never exceed speed: 498 km/h (309 mph, 269 kn)
Range: 1,110 km (690 mi, 600 nmi) (max fuel, 2,010 kg (4,430 lb)
Service ceiling: 7,300 m (24,000 ft)
Takeoff distance to 10.5 m (35 ft): 1,200 m (4,000 ft)
Landing distance from 15 m (50 ft): 1,100 m (3,500 ft)
The Blériot XI gained lasting fame on 25 July 1909, when Blériot crossed the English Channel from Calais to Dover, winning a £1,000 (equivalent to £115,000 in 2018) prize awarded by the Daily Mail. For several days, high winds had grounded Blériot and his rivals: Hubert Latham, who flew an Antoinette monoplane, and Count de Lambert, who brought two Wright biplanes. On 25 July, when the wind had dropped in the morning and the skies had cleared, Blériot took off at sunrise.