The oldest airplanes still flying today are old - really old - like almost the first aircraft to ever fly. They are thought to be two Blériot XI French aircraft. One can go and see these aircraft at museums today and maybe even get to see them fly. Or if one would like some real fun, one can even fly fighter jets in the United States and in Europe.
The Wright Brother's first heavier-than-air aircraft only flew at the end of 1903, and the design of the Bleriot XI dates from 1909. If one would like to visit this historic location, visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina.
What To Know About The Revolutionary Bleriot XI
Dating from the pioneer era of aviation, the first Bleriot XI was built by Louis Bleriot in 1909. It was the first aircraft to fly across the English Channel and is considered one of the major achievements of the early development of aviation. They are made of slats of wood tied together with fabric and tightened with wire cable. The pilot's seat was a wicker stool.
In the wake of this monumental achievement, the English newspaper The Daily Express ran an article headlined "Britain is no longer an Island". After this accomplishment orders poured in from all around for 103 more planes. It is thought of as the first "commercial" aircraft.
- Prize: Bleriot Won £1,000 From The Daily Mail (A Lot of Money Then)
- Crossing: He Crossed the English Channel From Calais To Dover
- Duration: 36.5 Minutes
It was produced in both single-seat and two-seat variants and was powered by different engines. It was widely used for training and competition purposes.
- Maximum speed: 75.6 km/h (47.0 mph, 40.8 kn)
- Service ceiling: 1,000 m (3,300 ft)
- Empty weight: 230 kg (507 lb)
The Bleriot XI proved to be a very successful aircraft and went one to see military use many militaries around the world. There were a number of serious accidents with these aircraft, that threatened their production at different times as well as a temporary ban by the French army on monoplanes. But in the end, it was one of the most successful aircraft of the pioneer era.
One of these restored and air-worthy aircraft still flies in Hudson Valley, New York while the other is in the United Kingdom. In addition, there are many of the aircraft on display in museums around the world - many are originals while others are replicas.
The First Bleriot To Cross The English Channel
The original Bleriot XI aircraft was damaged in the landing and never flew again. It was, however, hurriedly repaired and put on display at Selfridges department store in London. Later it was purchased by the French Musee des Arts et Metiers and put on display in Paris. Incredibly, one can still see this original legendary aircraft on display there today.
- Museum: Musee des Arts et Metiers
- Location: Paris, France
- Entry Fee: €8 ($9)
- Tuesday to Sunday: 10 am to 6 pm.
- Late-night: Friday until 9:00 pm.
- Closed: on Mondays, January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th.
While the American and British aircraft are in flying condition, it's not something they do all that often (for understandable reasons). They are normally made to only "hop" for short distances to enthrall the cherrying crowds.
The British Air Worthy Bleriot XI
The airworthy Bleriot XI in Britain is at the Shuttleworth Collection in Bedfordshire in England. It was first built in 1909 and has the British civil registration G-AA. It is older than its American counterpart (and so it is the oldest airworthy aircraft in the world).
The Shuttleworth Collection is an aeronautical and automotive museum and is regarded as one of the most prestigious and is the oldest in the world due to the variety of old and well-preserved aircraft.
- Engine: A Three-Cylinder "W form" Anzani engine
- Registration: G-AA
- Admission Fee: £16.00-£18.00 ($20.00 - $24.00)
Summer Opening Hours:
- 14th Feb 2022 – 30th Oct 2022: 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
- The last entry: At 4.30 pm
Winter Opening Hours:
- 1st Nov 2021 – 13th Feb 2022: 10.00 am – 4.00 pm
- The last entry: At 3:30 pm
The American Airworthy Bleriot XI
One can find the American Bleriot XI at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Red Hook, New York. The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is a living museum in Rhinebeck, New York, and owns many superb examples of Pioneer Era airworthy aircraft as well as from World War I and the Golden Age of Aviation between the World Wars periods.
Don't miss their Air Shows where they show off their vintage aircraft. They are held every Saturday and Sunday, June 18-Oct 16. One can even book open cockpit rides in old biplanes from the 20s and 30. These rides start at 10.00 am and run to twilight.
There is also a snack stand open at noon.
- Engine: A 120°-angle Regular "radial" Anzani Three-Cylinder Engine
- Registration: N60094
Opening Hours: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
- Children (Ages 5 and under) Free
- Youth (Ages 6-17) - $8
- Adults (Ages 18-64) - $12