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Curator's Choice Video Collection

Cradle of Aviation Museum Historian and Curator, Josh Stoff, curates interesting short YouTube videos and provides commentary.

Virtual Museum Home > Curator's Choice > The Bleriot Takes to the Air!

The Bleriot Takes to the Air!

YouTube Channel: Mike Clouse, posted August 20, 2015

The French Bleriot XI was the most produced aircraft of the pioneer era. It was a ‘tractor’ (engine in the front) monoplane with an open box-girder fuselage.

When Louis Bleriot flew the English Channel in one on July 25, 1909, it became one of the most famous accomplishments of the Pioneer Era of aviation.

In the years prior to World War One Bleriots were mainly used for competition and training purposes. Early models of the Bleriot were powered by a small three-cylinder 25hp Anzani engine, as seen here. On Long Island, French Bleriots were operated by the Moisant Aviation School on the Hempstead Plains. It was in this exact type that America’s first licensed woman pilot, Harriet Quimby, learned to fly on Long Island.

The oldest aircraft in the Cradle’s collection, and one of the oldest in America, is Bleriot XI #153 in the Hempstead Plains Gallery. This aircraft, originally bought by Rodman Wanamaker, was also the first aircraft ever imported into the United States. A ‘sister ship’ of the Cradle’s Bleriot, #56, is actually still being flown at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Dutchess County, NY, and it is also the oldest flyable aircraft in the world.

So have a look at the remarkably frail Bleriot and imagine flying across 21 miles of open ocean in one. The engine is so small and of such low horsepower that you can almost hear each of its three cylinders firing. The pioneers of aviation truly were a brave lot – but they gave us the sky.