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Bleriot XI (replica)

1909, Brooklands Aircraft Factory, On long term display

The well-known series of monoplanes built by Louis Blériot commenced with the Blériot II of 1905, although the first machine to fly successfully was the Blériot VI in September 1907.

The Model XI first appeared in January 1909 and achieved lasting fame as the first aeroplane to fly the English Channel. It pioneered the standard layout for single-engined monoplane aircraft which has generally lasted up to the present day. The undercarriage comprised two main wheels and a tail-wheel or skid. Wings were braced with cables, and banking the machine in flight was achieved by warping the wing-tips.

Many Blériot XIs and later variants were produced and used extensively by the Royal Flying Corps and the French Armee de l'Air during the first half of World War One (WWI) initially for reconnaissance and then training purposes. Single and two-seater versions were built.

The type has close associations with pioneer aviators at Brooklands and in 1911 a Frenchman named Conneau flew a Bleriot to victory in the Daily Mail Round Britain Air Race which started and finished at Brooklands. The Blériot company also had a flying school and factory at Brooklands which manufactured many examples of this very successful design and built other military types in nearby Addlestone in WWI.

This Blériot XI was built by Mike Beach of Twickenham as virtually an exact flying replica of the original design and was flown briefly by Mike at Booker Airfield after completion. It appeared at many airshows and exhibitions and won the ‘Airtours Trophy’ in 1982 as best replica aircraft in the UK. Acquired by Brooklands Museum in 1989, it is maintained in ground-running order.