Saturday, July 26, 2008

July 25th, 1909

"I am alone. I can see nothing at all. For ten minutes, I am lost."

Many people have been very pleased to see the white cliffs of Dover come into sight. Only one of them won a 1,000 pound prize by crash-landing just above them.

It's 99 years today since a small, determined Frenchman with a remarkable moustache and a badly burned foot managed to get lost and then re-find the right direction to cross the 20 odd miles between Britain and France. Unable to walk without crutches, and (the story goes) also saved by a passing rain shower cooling his overheating 30 hp Anzini engine, Louis undertook what is generally now recognised to be one of the great steps forward in aviation and world history.

Louis' original Channel conquering Bleriot at the Musée des Arts et Metiers, Paris.

Having been flown around the world in airliners that travel more than twelve times Louis' best speed, it seems superfluous to point out how much progress there has been in linking the world, here commenced with ending one form of Britain's splendid isolation. Just climbing up to see Bleriot's original aeroplane on a slightly bouncy gantry in the Museum was enough for your intrepid correspondent.

Rightly, Louis' achievements are recognised in aviation in numerous ways. His flight has been regularly recreated by various adventurers, not least the Salis' family who are aiming, next year, I understand, to undertake their third generation (grandfather, father, and sons) of Bleriot Channel crossings.

One of his achievements was what is now regarded as the standard flight controls, rudder bar for rudder control, stick for the other two dimensions. This is well shown in this original Bleriot cockpit in London's Science Museum.

The colour photos are not of Louis Bleriot's take off, but Michael Carlsen flying his Swedish built Bleriot at the recent Flying Legends show at Duxford.

"To fly from Paris or London to New York will be commonplace."
Louis Blériot

Today there is a plaque in a model of of Bleriot's monoplane at the landing place on Dover's cliffs - photo (and heading shot) by my contact Sigurjón Valsson.

Vive la France!

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