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25th of July 1907

Louis Blériot flew his tandem-wing Blériot VI "Libellule"(Dragonfly) on this day in aviation history in a series of flights, each reaching a longer distance in flight than the previous flight. Today, in 1907, he flew 490 feet, 150 meters.

The Blériot VI Libellule, tandem-wing aircraft

The Blériot VI was one of the experimental aircraft Louis Blériot designed and built together with his chief engineer, Louis Peyret. After building several Canard aircraft the Blé.riot VI had two identical sets of wings with a large dihedral.

The front wings had moveable tips which were independently operated (not connected to each other.), Some sources call them ailerons, others call them elevators. {was this the first use of Elevons as used on some aircraft like the Avro Vulcan, F.117 Nighthawk and Concorde?) The aircraft had no elevator, longitudinally control was achieved by moving the pilot seat back and forward.

Blériot VI in flight, note the rotated aileron

After each of the flights, Blériot changed the design (slightly) of his Libellule. From locking the moveable wingtips to the sliding seat for pitch control.

On the 6th of August 1907, a propellor blade broke of inflight at an altitude of 39 feet, a forced landing saved the life of Blériot but caused substantial damage to the aircraft. The aircraft was repaired and a stronger engine (50 hp (37 kW) V-16 Antoinette engine) was fitted, On the 17th of September, 6 weeks after the forced landing, Blériot took off again and the aircraft quickly climbed to an altitude of 82 feet (25 meters). This is when the engine failed and the aircraft nosed down. Quickly the end of the pitch control with the sliding seat was reached. With the aircraft still nosing down to earth, reportedly Blériot jumped out of his seat on the tail of the aircraft. This resulted in a near 3 point touchdown. Again Blériot walked away nearly unharmed, he only had some small cuts to his face, caused by the broken glass from his goggles.

Even though it was a failed flight, Blériot still set the record for the longest flight in France for the year 1907, 604 feet (184 meters) This was his last flight with the Blériot VI, the aviation pioneer went on to develop his next aircraft the Bleriot VII which would make its first flight in November 1907.

Some specifications of the Bleriot VI as flown on the 17th of November 1907

  • Crew: 1

  • Length: 7.00 m (23 ft 0 in)

  • Wingspan: 7.20 m (23 ft 7 in)

  • Wing area: 20 m2 (215 sq ft)

  • Powerplant: 1 × Antoinette V-16 , 37 kW (50 hp)

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