A Bleriot XI first flew on 23 January 1909 at Issy-les-Moulineux, France, powered by a 21.5kW REP engine driving a four-blade propeller. The fuselage was built of ash with supporting struts and wire ties. The shoulder-mounted wooden monoplane wing incorporated wing-warping for lateral control. Two large bicycle wheels made up the undercarriage, connected to a pair of steel tubes braced by wooden beams. The undercarriage was compliment by either a skid or a third wheel set just aft of amidships.
While the forward portion of the fuselage was covered over in cloth, the aft portion was completely exposed, showcasing the internal basic skeletal strut-and-cable arrangement and directly (though unintentionally) leading to improved lateral stability through added drag. The empennage was detailed by a single cloth-covered vertical tail plane acting as the rudder (though no vertical stabilizer was present) and a horizontal plane containing the stabilizer and elevator set alongside the bottom of the rear fuselage. The main wings were high-mounted on the cloth-covered portion of the fuselage body and featured a distinct airfoil - thicker at the leading edge and relatively thin at the trailing edge - utilizing "wing-warping" instead of ailerons to achieve roll. General construction was of oak and poplar with cloth covering.
During April and May of 1909 the aircraft was refined and fitted with a 16.4-18.6kW Anzani 3 engine and Chauviere two-blade propeller. The central fin that had been fitted was removed and the rudder was enlarged and deepened, and the 'elevons' at the ends of the tailplane were arranged to function solely as elevators.
The Bleriot XI was the first aircraft to fly the English Channel, carrying Louis Bleriot between Calais and Dover on 25 July 1909. The actual aircraft used is preserved in the Paris Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers. The crossing gave the design considerable commercial impetus.
Bleriot’s cross channel XI
The flight was part of a 1,000 pound prize as put forth through a competition arranged by the London Daily Mail. Matching up against two other would-be winners, Louis Bleriot and his XI took to the skies on July 13th, 1909 and spanned some 36 minutes and 55 seconds, setting the new European endurance record with a distance of 36.6 kilometers from Les Barraques, France to Dover, England. One competitor, Hubert Latham was forced into the sea after developing engine troubles while a test flight for the third entrant, Charles de Lambert, ended in a crash with injuries sustained. Bleriot landed his XI and earn the 1,000 pound prize, though foul weather played a role in the rough landing that caused damage to the propeller and undercarriage. Nevertheless, Bleriot's legacy was sealed as "The Man Who Crossed the Channel".
Powered by a 25 hp Anzani, the single seat craft was capable of around 46 mph.
The aircraft was showcased at the December 1909 Exposition de la Locomotion Aerienne show in Paris.
The design was stretched to provide seating for two as the Xl-2 model, powered by a 70 hp Gnome rotary piston engine. The Vickers 22 was a licence built Bleriot XI-2.
Military service for the Bleriot XI began sometime in 1910 when the aircraft was accepted into the ranks of the French and Italian air services. One became the first aeroplane to be used in a war, when Capitano Piazza of Italy made a reconnaissance sortie over Turkish troops at Azizia on 22 October 1911. The first bombs to be dropped from an aeroplane were released from a Type XI on 1 November 1911. The British began operation of their Bleriot XIs in 1912. By the time of World War 1, the Bleriot still retained some military value and was thusly pressed into service in their two-seat forms serving primarily as observation and trainer aircraft. As technology naturally progressed during wartime, the need for Bleriots became less and less to the point that the system was fully relegated to the training role.
About 100 were built.
Engine: One 25 hp, 18kW Anzani.