Louis Blériot, the man who conquered the channel
This engineer and great aviation pioneer developed previously the first practical headlamp for cars which became a successful business. In 1901 he studied a small unmanned ornithopter, but really started with aeroplanes from April 1905. Seeing Gabriel Voisin's experiments with a floatplane glider partnered with him, until the failure of the Blériot III/IV. At that time Blériot departed and created his own his own company named "Recherches Aéronautique Louis Blériot" a privately funded research establishment with engineers and designers. Blériot's involvement therefore in various designs is more difficult to point out. The Bleriot serie grow more successful each year, culminating with the famous Type XI, the first to fly across the English Channel (1909).
Blériot's media success
If he needed a world's media coup to boost his company, Blériot bet his chances on the type XI and crossed the Channel based on the new 1,000 pounds Daily Mail prize as none tried to fly over it in 1908. But he was not alone in this endeavour, Hubert Latham, Charles de Lambert and Arthur Seymour also attempted it. The event already attracted crowds, about 10,000 each side of the Channel at Calais and Dover while the event was to be broad-casted through Marconi's radio. He took off at 4:41 AM (sunrise) and flew at 45 mph (72 km/h) and an altitude of about 250 ft (76 m), guided by nearby destroyer Escopette, fault of a compass. He flew however a large part without any visbility until spotting grey line of the English coast, revealed on his left; He veered course and ultimately spotted a flag waver, Charles Fontaine correspondant from newspaper Le Matin which previously had selected a sloping land called Northfall Meadow near Dover castle. Blériot gained instant celibrity, and attracted much publicity for his company, followed by, understandably more and more orders. Having previously being indebted, Blériot sold dozens copies of the Type XI by the end of the year securing orders from 100 aircraft at around 10,000 francs apiece.
Prior to 1914
Blériot would later narrowly misses the first Gordon Bennett Trophy, but participated at meetings in reims and later Budapest, Brescia and Bucarest, making the first appearance of any aircraft there. His chance turned at the 1910 aviation meeting in Istanbul where he crashed and was hospitalized for weeks. He attempted, due to his fame in UK, to create British flying schools at Brooklands, in Surrey and at Hendon Aerodrome, while creating the Blériot Manufacturing Aircraft Company Ltd but secured few orders as his model was seen as largely outdated. In France he also established a school at Etampes near Rouen, and another at Pau (southern France). By 1914 his company has turned about 900 aircraft, variations of the Type XI. His competitors were Voisin and Farman. However despite a heterogeneous collection of aircraft were produced, none came close to the Type XI. The army was soon interested and he designed the Blériot XXXVI by 1912, a two-seat military monoplane. During the war he also developed three prototypes of the Blériot 67, 73 and 74 Four-engined bomber.
However his Blériot XIs entered military service in Italy and France in 1910, the latter flew these in North Africa in 1911 and in Mexico. The British Royal Flying Corps received some in 1912. And in 1914, eight French, six British and six Italian squadrons operated Blériots for observation and training. When used as light bombers they could carry up to 25 kg bomb loads. In 1913 however on the industry side, he made a very important move by acquiring the the assets of the Déperdussin company. The company boss has been indeed arrested on fraud charges. The new company backed by Blériot would became the staple of French wartime fighter production, as SPAD. The company Blériot-SPAD would produced after the war and until his death in 1936 a wide array of fighters and other aircrafts both for the military and civilian markets. Still an engineer at heart and fascinated by speed, Blériot would also participate in the design of cyclecars and sidecars.
The famous Blériot XII, flew by a Swiss pilot, Oskar Bider, at Bern in 1913
The Blériot series
This list only comprises military planes. It should be noted that the whole Blériot serie started in 1901 with an unmanned ornithopter powered by a carbonic acid engine. Until the emblematic Bleriot model XI
, prototypes testing various airframes configurations were tested, some existed only on paper. Of the Blériot XII
only apparently three were made, the following XIII was a single five-seat pusher configuration biplane, and the Bleriot XIV
a two-seat monoplane. No production record for these. One of their follow-up was the Blériot XXIV Limousine
, first dedicated transport passenger plane, with an enclosed cabin. The Blériot XXIII
of 1911 was a Racing monoplane.
The model Bleriot XXI
participated in the 1912 British Military Aeroplane Competition. Other models in 1912 and 1913 followed, the last being the Blériot XXXVII
(1913), a derivative of the Blériot XXXVI Bis
observation plane flew by Jules Védrines. There was no war production to speak of, only paper projects. Manpower and machines went on producing SPADs instead. See the SPAD section.