An Original Blériot Type XI with the Harris Mts behind.
The Blériot XI was the first of Louis Blériot's aircraft designs to be wholly successful. He proved exactly how successful a machine it was by several cross-country flights before thinking about attempting to cross the channel. Soon after 04:30 on Sunday 25 July 1909 Louis Blériot took off from the French coast and forty minutes later he crash-landed near Dover Castle, to become the first person to cross the English Channel in an aeroplane.
Following this success, Bleriot's monoplanes sold well and many flying schools adopted them as standard trainers. They were used in races and competitions and even in military roles. A Blériot with the more powerful 50hp Gnome Omega rotary engine was used for the first aerial post from Hendon to Windsor in September 1911. Today, the Blériot is still popular as many Blériot replicas are flying, some powered by original engines, others powered by more modern engines.
The type also represents a significant portion of early New Zealand aviation history. In 1913, an American, Arthur ‘Wizard’ Stone, arrived in Auckland with his Blériot XI. On the 19th April a large crowd at the Auckland Domain witnessed his first flight (albeit brief) when he flew a short distance before undertaking a forced-landing. Not discouraged, he made further flights the same month from Epsom’s Alexandra Park (one covering nineteen kilometres). Stone and his Blériot had made the first long, sustained and truly practical flight in New Zealand. On the 3rd June the aircraft was written off by a fence on the boundary of Napier’s racecourse.
The Blériot XI imported exclusively for Warbirds over Wanaka is an original licence-built machine built in 1918. Owned by Swedish pilot Mikael Carlson, it was rebuilt in the early 1990’s and is one of only three left flying in the world. Powered by a 70-hp Gnome Omega rotary, it cruises at a sedate 42 knots. In 1999, Carlson recreated history when he flew the aircraft across the English Channel - 90 years after his predecessor.
With thanks and acknowldgement to Warbirds Over Wanaka 2000.
1919 Bleriot XIMikael CarlsonWarbirds over Wanaka 2006