1909 Blériot Type XI (French)
Europeans read of the Wright Brothers successful conquest of the mysteries of flight in the USA in 1903, and built their own aircraft. The announcer at Old Rhinebeck, ( Jim Hare) is fantastic. If you can remember what he says, you get a very enthusiastic lesson in the history of aviation and of Old Rhinebeck.
My friend T. Carr, loaned me a book called "Contact!" by H.S. Villard, in which I learned that the XI was the first aircraft to fly over the English Channel in July of 1909 from Calais, France to Dover, England. The plane took 38 minutes to cross the 22 miles, and aviation took off. Louis Blériot was very accident prone and he made the channel trip with his crutches strapped to his fuselage. In order to make this momentous trip, it took 10 earlier versions of Blériots, and many crashes to achieve his goal of making a reliable aircraft. The Model XI became his most sought after aircraft, and can be seen skimming over the grass at Old Rhinebeck.
The Anzani engine was a modified design of a two cylinder"V" shaped version that Mr. Anzani made for his motorcycles. The three cylinder "Y" version had an over- heating problem, which Anzani's mechanic cured by drilling 14 holes in the cylinder walls to relieve the heat of combustion. The idea worked, but the engine became an oil burner, necessitating Blériot to pump castor oil every three minutes on that fateful flight over the Channel. A blue plume of smoke was the result of this modification. You can see this trademark smoke in my photograph.
The Europeans were much more active in early aviation than we were in America.
We started the whole thing at Kitty Hawk, but the Europeans had far more
foresight into the future of aviation and developed aircraft that were
eventually far superior to ours by WWI. This is especially true of the
This is about as high as I have seen this aircraft go. The conditions were perfect on the 26th of September--no wind and I would say that this old timer was about 30 feet off the runway. The bit of blue on the left is a building used for the Sunday show. This photo clearly shows the pilot with his hands on the two sticks. The pilot's left hand controls the wing warp and the right hand controls the elevator. The pilot's foot controls the rudder. This is a pretty plane and I believe the wood on the fuselage is mahogany. The plane is powered by a 50 HP Franklin engine.
It is hard to believe that anything that looks like this can fly, but it can. I took this photo in 1997, but I saw it again in 1998 and it had a really good flight. The only problem was that I video-taped it and did not get a still photograph. This US aircraft is powered by the original 1911-- 80 HP Hall Scott engine.