Saturday, July 25, 2009


It was no small feat for Frenchman Louis Bleriot to complete the first crossing of the English Channel. Heavier-than-air flight itself was less than six years old, and yet the fledgeling aviation industry was advancing in leaps and bounds, or perhaps more accurately, hops, crashes and short flights.

Bleriot completed the 22.7-mile (36.6 km) flight from Calais, France, to Dover, UK, in just 37 minutes, flying at around 40 mph (64 km/h). It might have been quicker but he got lost for a while, when cloudy weather left him without any landmarks to navigate by. His monoplane, the Bleriot XI, was incredibly modern in design - its engine position and controls are similar to the ones seen today, in many of the microlight planes that are flying across the English Channel to mark his flight.

For plastic modellers, there aren’t too many choices around - in fact, this whole era is crying out for an enterprising firm to produce a whole range of pioneer planes; only the Wright Flyer has been modelled in serious numbers.

Still, Easy Built Models produces a handsome balsa wood and tissue paper kit to 1:20 scale, to make a detailed replica with a wingspan of 420 mm (16.5 in). This would make a superb project, and one that uses traditional materials wholly in keeping with the Bleriot XI itself. It’s currently out of stock, but new supplies should be available soon.

Fiddlers Green has a paper model of the Bleriot IX, at the very reasonable price of £2.42 GBP ($3.95 USD).

Visit Easy Built Models here.

Visit Fiddlers Green here.

Top picture by F Cabrol.