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Bleriot XI Trainer / Reconnaissance Monoplane (1909)

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 9/12/2014

The Bleriot provided many firsts for aspiring pilots of the early 1900s, seeing time as a trainer in the early stages of World War 1.

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The Bleriot XI was one of the first notable monoplanes to achieve any level of fame. Primitive by today's standards, the system became a standard all its own in the early 1900s. The type served in a limited capacity during the opening salvos of World War 1 and would achieve fame by crossing the English Channel under the direct control of Bleriot himself. The aircraft will forever be remembered for its stable design and its use of "wing-warping" to control roll. At any rate, the Bleriot XI served to cement the legacy of Louis Bleriot in the realm of aviation history.

Design of the Bleriot XI is credited to Louis Bleriot (7/1/1872 - 8/2/1936) and Raymond Saulnier. Saulnier went on to make his own name in the aviation business under the banner of Morane-Saulnier. Bleriot was an engineer by education and credited with the invention of the automobile headlight. Using funds from his successful headlight business venture, he began producing his own working studies of the concept of towed glider flights and began to forge his love of aviation in the process. After a short partnership with Gabriel Voisin (another aircraft engineer whose name preceded some World War 1 fighter design designations all their own), Bleriot took to start his own aviation firm, at first producing the unsuccessful Bleriot V. The Bleriot V became Louis Bleriot's first design to achieve sustained flight.

The VII, complete with its covered-over fuselage, soon followed and proved more in line with front mounted aircraft designs to come. The aircraft was primitive to the core, appearing as something out of a child's imaginary airplane built out of cardboard boxes. The fuselage was a near-perfect rectangular shape while the main wings were low-mounted with noticeable dihedral (upward angle from root to tip). Additional, this design carried a more conventional empennage (tail section) with a single low-fitted vertical tail fin and large area horizontal stabilizers with tailplane elevons. The pilot sat in an open-air cockpit directly behind the engine in the forward fuselage. The engine powered a four-blade paddle-type propeller with broad tapered blades. Power was supplied through a single Antoinette 50-horsepower 8-cylinder water-cooled piston engine. Cruising speed was listed at 50 miles per hour. Bleriot and his VII made a total of six flights before the machine was lost to accident in December of 1907.

The Bleriot IX was an experimental monoplane design fitting an Antoinette engine of 100 horsepower and an off-shoot of the VII but with tandem horizontal tail surfaces. This design succeeded in making a few short "hops" about the ground though never achieving sustained flight. The Bleriot X was another of Louis Bleriot's concept attempts and followed more the design path of the American Wright brothers featuring a "pusher" type propeller/engine arrangement and biplane wings. Construction of this design was never completed. However, the early attempts (and those all-important subsequent failures) proved to secure the foundation needed to produce the first serviceable monoplane in the Beriot XI, achieving first flight on January 23rd, 1909. The system was showcased at the December 1909 Exposition de la Locomotion Aerienne show in Paris.

Louis Bleriot helped to put his creation to the test by completing the first flight across the English Channel. The flight was part of a 1,000 pound prize as put forth through a competition arranged by the London Daily Mail. Matching up against two other would-be winners, Louis Bleriot and his XI took to the skies on July 13th, 1909 and spanned some 36 minutes and 55 seconds, setting the new European endurance record with a distance of 36.6 kilometers from Les Barraques, France to Dover, England. One competitor, Hubert Latham was forced into the sea after developing engine troubles while a test flight for the third entrant, Charles de Lambert, ended in a crash with injuries sustained. Bleriot landed his XI and earn the 1,000 pound prize, though foul weather played a role in the rough landing that caused damage to the propeller and undercarriage. Nevertheless, Bleriot's legacy was sealed as "The Man Who Crossed the Channel" for the rest of history.


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Specifications for the
Bleriot XI
Trainer / Reconnaissance Monoplane


Focus Model: Bleriot XI
Country of Origin: France
Manufacturer: Louis Bleriot - France
Initial Year of Service: 1909
Production: 850


Crew: 1


Length: 25.00ft (7.62m)
Width: 25.56ft (7.79m)
Height: 8.83ft (2.69m)
Weight (Empty): 507lbs (230kg)
Weight (MTOW): 0lbs (0kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Anzani 3-cylinder fan-type engine OR 1 x 120-degree cylinder angle true radial engine of 22- to 25-horsepower.


Maximum Speed: 47mph (75kmh; 40kts)
Maximum Range: 0miles (0km)
Service Ceiling: 0ft (0m; 0.0miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet per minute (0m/min)


Hardpoints: 0
Armament Suite:
None.


Variants:
Bleriot V - First Bleriot design to achieve flight.


Bleriot VII - Front-mounted Antoinette 8-cylinder water-cooled engine of 50 horsepower powering a four-blade paddle-style propeller system; monoplane; tailplane elevons; completed six flights but lost to accident in 1907.

Bleriot IX - Based on the VII but utilized tandem horizontal tail surfaces.

Bleriot X - Experimental Airframe based on Wright Brothers design; biplane; never completed.

Bleriot XI (mod) - Developmental Racer

Bleriot XI Militaire - Single-Seat Military Model; fitted with Gnome engine of 50 horsepower.

Bleriot XI Artillerie - Single-Seat Military Model; charged with artilery observation.

Bleriot XI-2 - Tandem two-seat model; utilized in training and touring roles; fitted with 1 x Gnome 7B series rotary piston engine of 70 horsepower.

Bleriot XI-2 bis "cote-a-cote" - Similar to XI-2 but increase in overall size; two-seat side-by-side model.

Bleriot XI-2 Hyrdoaeroplane - Floatplane Model; increased wing surface area.

Bleriot XI-2 Artillerie - Artillery Spotter; fitted with 1 x Gnome rotary piston engine of 70 horsepower.

Bleriot XI-2 Genie - Militarized XI; designed from the outset for ease of portability allowing assembly in under 30 minutes.

Bleriot XI-2 BG - Twin-Seat Parasol (high wing mount) Variant.

Bleriot XI-3 - Three-Seat Monoplane fitting crew in tandem arrangement; fitted with 1 x Gnome engine of 140 horsepower.

Bleriot XI E1 - Single-Seat Trainer

Bleriot XI R1 "Rouler" - Ground Trainer; clipped wings ensured the aircraft would not become fully airborne but instead "hopped" along the ground, training pilots in rudder controls.


Operators:
Argentina; Australia; Belgium; Bulgaria; Chile; Denmark; France; Greece; Guatemala; Italy; Japan; Mexico; Norway; New Zealand; Romania; Imperial Russia; Serbia; Sweden; Switzerland; Ottoman Empire; United Kingdom