The Blériot XI was a French, single-seat aircraft, which was developed by the aviation pioneer Louis Blériot and was considered one of the cornerstones of French aviation thanks to several records.
Development and construction:
Louis Blériot had been working on the development of airplanes since 1898, investing not only all of his time but also all of his fortune on this project. Starting with the Blériot I, he and other designers kept developing new prototypes and test aircraft, always incorporating the latest technical developments into the aircraft.
The development of the Blériot XI, in which the designer Raymond Saulnier was also involved, began in 1908 and was mainly based on the already successful Blériot VIII was covered with fabric where the pilot was sitting. As with its predecessor, the engine was mounted directly on the front of the aircraft, with the undercarriage consisting of two bicycle tires underneath. A smaller wheel was attached to the rear of the aircraft to improve stability during landing.
In December 1908, the Blériot XI was presented to the public for the first time at the Paris Air Show. At that time there was still a 35 HP 7-cylinder R.E.P. Motor with a four-blade paddle propeller installed. In addition, an additional stabilizing fin was installed in the front area of the aircraft. During the first flight on January 23, 1909, however, it became apparent that the built-in engine was too unreliable and that the additional stabilizing fin was of no use either. The engine was then exchanged for a 25hp Anzani 3-cylinder engine with a fan configuration, which was developed by the well-known motorcycle racer Alessandro Anzani, who had recently started manufacturing aircraft engines. The additional stabilizing fin has also been removed. The four-bladed paddle propeller was exchanged for a two-bladed Scimitar propeller from Chauvière Intégrale made of laminated walnut, which resulted in a significant improvement.
After a short break and the beginning of the development of the Blériot XII, Louis Blériot devoted himself again to the Blériot XI. After a few modifications, the first record was set with this aircraft, when it achieved a continuous flight of 36 minutes and 55 seconds on June 26, 1909. The next record was set on July 13, when the aircraft won the first Prix du Voyage competition from Etampes to Orléans with a length of 42 kilometers.
Louis Blériot achieved the greatest success with the Blériot XI on July 25, 1909 when he crossed the English Channel and won the Cross Channel Prize of the British Daily Mail. He prevailed against his opponents Hubert Latham and Graf de Lambert, who competed against him with an Antoinette monoplane and a Wright biplane. The flight from Calais to Dover took 36.5 minutes. The aircraft was slightly damaged on landing, but Louis Blériot was uninjured. Although the plane itself was repaired, it was then exhibited first in the Selfridges department store in London, then in the offices of the French newspaper Le Matin and finally in the Musee des Arts et Metiers in Paris.
After crossing the English Channel, the demand for the Blériot XI increased sharply. Other records such as the lap record of 8 minutes and 4.4 seconds at the flight week in Reims on August 24, 1909 or the crossing of the Spanish Pyrenees on January 24, 1913 meant that the production of the aircraft had to be expanded to include subcontractors.
From 1910, the military began to take an interest in the aircraft. These were initially used as reconnaissance aircraft in France and Italy. The first military deployment was eventually carried out by Italy, while deploying in North Africa and Libya in the fight against the Ottoman Empire. Later the XI-2 variant was built under license both in Italy and in England.
In addition to the Blériot XI, various variants were also developed, but they did not go into series production:
- XI-BG: Two-seater with the wing mounted above the pilot, designed as a reconnaissance aircraft with a better field of vision for the observer
- XI-3: Three-seater with a 88 kW (120 hp) engine
- XI-E1: Single seat trainer aircraft
- XI-2bis: Version with two seats next to each other
- XI-R1: Was only used for rolling exercises
Use in the First World War:
At the beginning of World War I, France, Italy and England all had Blériot XI and Blériot XI-2 aircraft. These were mainly used as reconnaissance aircraft, as the visibility of the pilots and observers was very good in contrast to other aircraft of the time.
A few planes were also used as early bombers, with the crew dropping small bombs and flying arrows.
In early 1915, the last Blériot XI aircraft were finally withdrawn from the fronts and replaced by new and more modern aircraft.
|Weight:||320 kilograms empty|
|Engine:||Anzani 3-cylinder engine with 18,4 kW (25 hp)|
|Maximum speed:||75,6 kilometers per hour|
|Weight:||349 kilograms empty|
|Engine:||Gnome 7B rotary engine with 52 kW (70 hp)|
|Maximum speed:||106 kilometers per hour|
|Range:||3 hours and 30 minutes|