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EAA’s Replica 1909 Bleriot XI Nears Completion

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Photo by Bonnie Kratz

January 21, 2010EAA staff and volunteers from The Aeroplane Factory have been hard at work for more than three years building a replica 1909 Bleriot XI monoplane, the same model Louis Bleriot designed, built, and flew over the English Channel more than 100 years ago. Now the finish line is in sight, and it’s looking more and more like AirVenture 2010 attendees will have a chance to see the completed replica spring to life.

“The airframe and wings are built and ready for fabric covering, and we have some machine shops working on other specific parts,” said John Hopkins, EAA manager of aircraft maintenance. “Getting the engine installed is the biggest job remaining, and we’re in the process of trying to figure out the best way to do that. Otherwise, I’m confident we’ll have it running during convention this year.”

The engine is an original three-cylinder radial Anzani Fan (W-3), built in 1910 and re-built by EAA volunteers. During the past two conventions AirVenture attendees have watched the Anzani fire up during daily engine runs in the EAA Workshops area while volunteers worked on the project in a nearby tent.

If all goes as planned, visitors could see the airplane operate at AirVenture. “I would like to think we would have it ready to fly at Convention,” Hopkins said. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed and see how close we can come to that goal.”

On July 25, 1909, Bleriot, also an air racing pioneer, made the world’s first successful powered flight across the English Channel, from near Calais, France, to Dover, England. For the feat he won the £1,000 challenge from the London Daily Mail newspaper - almost 18 years before Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight from New York to Paris.

Gary Buettner, a Charles Taylor Master mechanic, has served as EAA’s Bleriot project leader. Aeroplane volunteers worked from an original set of plans, which has provided its own set of unique challenges. In Sport Aviation last July, Buettner commented that the original drawings were written in German using many uncommon words. The drawings also had no information about control surface movements or the dimensions of certain parts, requiring volunteers to figure them out using prints and photos to look for consistencies. (Read the story about the Bleriot in the July 2009 digital edition of Sport Aviation.)

Also see a video of volunteers working on the project at AirVenture 2009 here. See a video of the engine run-up at here.

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