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The Blériot Type XI Prototype

23 January 2023

On this day in 1909, the Blériot Type XI Prototype took to the skies after significant improvements to the earlier models, which helped it to secure its position in the aviation history books as one of the most influential aircraft ever designed.

The modifications made to the prototype were an instant success, with the revision of the tail control surfaces and the replacement of its 25hp seven cylinder air cooled engine and four blade propeller with a lighter, 24hp Anzani engine and ‘Chauviere’ two blade propeller.

During the next 7 months, the Blériot Type XI would go to on to make many ground breaking flights, including, establishing a new European flying duration record of 36 minutes, 55 seconds over a distance of 25 miles on the 26th June, and the first cross Channel flight that was completed on the 25th July 1909 by Louis Blériot.

The cross Channel flight brought the excitement of air travel to the masses, with the well-publicised success (£1,000 Daily Mail prize) paving the way for many future monoplane designs as well as influencing many of the pioneers of aviation that were to follow.

The Collection’s Blériot was used by the Blériot Flying School at Hendon in 1910 and is similar to the famous aircraft flown by Louis Blériot when undertaking his world record Channel crossing attempt on the morning of the 25th July.

After being privately owned and stored for a length of time following WW1, Richard Shuttleworth acquired the aircraft from A E Grimmer of Ampthill in 1935, rebuilding it as his first historic aeroplane project.

Today the Shuttleworth Collection’s Blériot is the oldest flying aeroplane and aero-engine combination anywhere in the world and can still be seen taking to the air during our annual air show season.