Louis Bleriot rose at 2:30 in the morning in July 25, 1909, and, found that the conditions were favorable for his flight that day. He ordered the torpedo boat destroyer Escopette, which had been placed at his disposal by the French Government, to start. Then he went to the garage at Sangatte and found that the motor of his Bleriot XI monoplane worked well.
He proposed to fly across the English Channel.
[ad#ad-1]He made a trial flight around Calais, found all in working order, and waited for the sun to come up, a condition of the Daily Mail prize rules. At 4:30, daylight had come, but it was impossible to see the coast. A light breeze from the southwest was blowing the air clear, however; and everything was prepared.
He was dressed in a warm, wool-lined khaki jacket over tweed clothes and beneath his engineer’s suit of blue cotton overalls. A close-fitting cap was fastened over his head. He had neither eaten nor drunk anything since he rose. He thought only of the flight and his determination to accomplish it.
At 4:35, his friend Le Blance gives the “All Ready” signal, and in an instant Bleriot is in the air, the engine making 1,200 revolutions, almost its maximum, so that it may get over some telegraph wires along the edge of the cliff. Once over the cliff, he reduces speed and flies steadily toward the coast of England. After several minutes, he leaves sight of land. With nothing to guide him but the machine’s own direction, he continued on.
He was slightly swept off course, but soon caught sight of Dover Castle, rather than Goodwin Sands, as he had intended. 23 minutes after his take-off, he landed on English soil, in Northfall Meadow, a rather bumpy landing, breaking his propeller in the process. But he had stolen a march on his rivals and surprised the city of Dover, including the disappointed photographers who were unable to record the event.
It was only 21 miles across the Channel, but Bleriot’s flight was deemed “the most important event in the history of the aeroplane” by the NY Times editorial board, which noted that “If a man can fly over twenty-one miles of sea, he can fly over 3,000 miles. It all depends on the comparatively simple machinery of his flying machine. The crossing of the English Channel by Louis Bleriot is the most important event in the history of the aeroplane. … In a heavier-than-air flying machine, steerable and completely under the operator’s control, Bleriot has crossed the historic water between England and France, actually flying from one country to another. He has flown further than this twenty-one miles from Calais to Dover before. But flight over level plains within easy landing distance from the ground is a very different thing from crossing the ‘perilous narrow ocean which parts asunder’ France and Great Britain.”