Bleriot XI


As its designation suggests, the XI followed a number of mostly monoplane developments by Frenchman Louis Bleriot, and is the best known of his designs. First built at the end of 1908, the design to modern eyes is conventional with a tractor mounted engine, shoulder mounted wings, and rudder and elevator at the rear. The control surfaces are not quite conventional as the rudder is 'all moving' and roll control was implemented by wing warping. Constructed at Neuilly outside Paris, the aircraft was displayed at the Exposition de la Locomotion Aerienne in December 1908, and the first flight followed at Issy-les-Moulineux on January 29, 1909.

After several changes (including replacing the original 28hp R.E.P. with a 25hp Anzani engine, introducing a new propeller and removing a forward vertical stabiliser), the aircraft recommenced flying on May 27, 1909. The aircraft achieved a European endurance record with a flight of just under 37 minutes on June 26. On July 13 Bleriot made a prize-winning cross country flight of 44 minutes, albeit with one stop. On July 25, 1909 Bleriot achieved his most famous flight from Les Baraques (near Calais) to Dover, covering the 38km (23.5 miles) in just over 37 minutes. He was fortunate not to suffer the fate of Hubert Latham who had ditched his Antoinette IV in the English channel after engine failure only 6 days earlier. A shower had cooled the Anzani engine which was showing signs of overheating. This may have been the longest run by an Anzani up to that time.

The publicity generated by the successful channel crossing generated a huge number of orders for the aircraft type. As well as Bleriot's own construction, he sub-contracted orders, and the type was also license built in Britain, Italy, and Sweden. A number of other pilots set records in the type, and they were frequently seen at competitions up to the outbreak of World War I. Development of the type saw the Anzani replaced by a 70hp Gnome rotary, and an increase in wingspan. This was designated the XI-2.

As well as civil operators who used the aircraft for training and touring, the aircraft attracted military interest. Combat use was first by Italy in 1911-12, but the type was also in French and British service when war broke out in August 1914. Initially in use for reconnaisance and artillery spotting, the XI-BG (for Bleriot Gouin) was a parasol wing intended for better visibility. A three seater, the XI-3 was also developed. The type was relegated to training by mid-1915 as other types were rapidly developed. For this purpose there was the XI-E1 single seat trainer, the XI-2bis with side by side seating, and the XI-R1 (or rouler) ground trainer. The latter lacked some wing covering preventing it from becoming airborne, and was nicknamed Pingouin (Penguin)

A number of Bleriot XIs have reached New Zealand skies.

Although no genuine example of the Bleriot XI resides permanently in New Zealand, the type is commemorated by a replica. The XI-2 representing 'Britannia' (as described above) was constructed by David Comrie in Dunedin specifically for the RNZAF Museum. The replica hangs in the Atrium of Air Force World at the former Wigram airbase in Christchurch, and carries figures representing Joe Hammond and his unauthorised female passenger. (Illustrated below).

Last Update:- 25 September, 2001

Technical Data

Data is for the XI-2


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