Bleriot XI

Civilian Use

Like a celebrity product endorsement of today, Louis Blériot’s historic flight over the English channel made the Blériot XI the high-tech object of desire for European elite. Overnight it became the ultimate sporting aircraft of the day, and its image was elevated to the status of an icon of cutting-edge style. Like today’s sports stars and their gear, the Blériot XI was featured in advertisements and posters for numerous products.

The Blériot XI, designed by Raymond Saulnier, was a distinctive design for its day, being a monoplane (single wing) as opposed to the more common biplane (two wings). With the reduced drag of only one wing, it had potential for greater speed, more manoeuvrability, and lower weight than most of its contemporaries. The basic design was modified and improved many times over the years it was in production, and it was either copied or licensed for production in many European countries and in North and South America.

Military Use

In 1910, the Blériot XI was selected for service by the French and Italian military making it the first aircraft designated for war use. A year later it was the first aircraft actually used in war when it was flown by the Italian air force during the Italo-Turkish war of 1911. At the start of World War I, the French air force contained eight squadrons of Blériots and the Royal Flying Corps flew several in France with the expeditionary force. A total of 132 Blériot XI were built in five versions.

Blériot XI Specifications:

  • Country: France
  • Manufacturer: Blériot
  • Designation: XI
  • Type: Sport
  • Production Dates: 1908 to 1914
  • Length: 23'-0"
  • Wingspan: 25'-9"
  • Height: 7'-6"
  • Empty Weight: 500 lbs
  • Gross Weight: 660 lbs
  • Maximum Speed: 45+ mph
  • Maximum Range: 50 miles
  • Maximum Altitude: 5,000 ft
  • Number of Crew: 1
  • Engine: Anzani 25 hp, 50-horsepower Gnôme rotary engine

A plane of this type was the first aircraft to cross the English Channel. Later models of the Bleriot monoplane were used for reconnaissance work early in World War I.

Bleriot monoplane flying at the airshow at Belmont Park, Long Island, NY, 1910.