A turning point in history
It was 100 years ago that Frenchman Louis Blériot became the first man to fly across the Channel in a heavier-than-air aircraft, on 25 July 1909. The mustachioed aviation enthusiast and inventor was one of three pilots to respond to a public challenge to become the first man to achieve the feat. The British newspaper magnate Lord Northcliffe had offered a prize of £1,000 (equivalent to £115,000 in 2018) to the first person to make the flight in either direction.
On 25 July, when the wind had dropped in the morning and the skies had cleared, Blériot took off at sunrise. Flying without the aid of a compass, he deviated to the east of his intended course, but, nonetheless, spotted the English coast to his left. Battling turbulent wind conditions, Blériot made a heavy “pancake” landing, whereas his two competitors – Hubert Lartham, a Franco-British sportsman, and Charles de Lambert, a Russian aristocrat– both failed leaving Mr Blériot, 37, to claim the title and the money.
Incidentally, Blériot nearly collapsed the undercarriage and shattered one blade of the propeller, but he was unhurt. The flight had taken 36.5 minutes and had made Blériot a celebrity, instantly resulting in many orders for copies of his aircraft. The aircraft, which never flew again, was hurriedly repaired and put on display at Selfridges department store in London. It was later displayed outside the offices of the French newspaper Le Matin and eventually bought by the Musee des Arts et Metiers in Paris.
This is one of the most famous accomplishments of the pioneer era of aviation, and not only won Blériot a lasting place in history but also assured the future of his aircraft manufacturing business. Blériot was subsequently produced in France (by the Blériot factory), Italy
поскольку серийный выпуск самолёта и его модификаций был налажен во Франции (фирма «Блерио»), Италии (by Società Italiana Transaero) and Russia (by Dux and Shchetinin factories). Over the next decade the world has seen some 100 Blériot XI aircrafts. The two restores copies of this model are the world’s oldest vehicles capable to make a flight.