Classic History Books

William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

The dimensions of this aeroplane were:

Length 32 feet Greatest width 39 feet Weight with one passenger 465 pounds. Speed 30 miles an hour

A modern aeroplane with airman and passenger frequently weighs over 1 ton, and reaches a speed of
over 60 miles an hour.

It is interesting to note that Santos Dumont, in 1913 - that is, only seven years after his flight in an
aeroplane at Bagatelle made him world-famous - announced his intention of again taking an active part in

aviation. His purpose was to make use of aeroplanes merely for pleasure, much as one might purchase a

motor-car for the same object.

Could the intrepid Brazilian in his wildest dreams have foreseen the rapid advance of the last eight years?
In 1906 no one had flown in Europe; by 1914 hundreds of machines were in being, in which the pilots

were no longer subject to the wind's caprices, but could fly almost where and when they would.

Frenchmen have honoured, and rightly honoured, this gallant and picturesque figure in the annals of
aviation, for in 1913 a magnificent monument was unveiled in France to commemorate his pioneer work.


CHAPTER XXVIII. M. Bleriot and the Monoplane

If the Wright brothers can lay claim to the title of "Fathers of the Biplane", then it is certain that M.
Bleriot, the gallant French airman, can be styled the "Father of the Monoplane."

For five years - 1906 to 1910 - Louis Bleriot's name was on everybody's lips in connection with his
wonderful records in flying and skilful feats of airmanship. Perhaps the flight which brought him greatest

renown was that accomplished in July, 1909, when he was the first man to cross the English Channel by

aeroplane. This attempt had been forestalled, although unsuccessfully, by Hubert Latham, a daring

aviator who is best known in Lancashire by his flight in 1909 at Blackpool in a wind which blew at the

rate of nearly 40 miles an hour - a performance which struck everyone with wonder in these early days of


Latham attempted, on an Antoinette monoplane, to carry off the prize of L1000 offered by the proprietors
of the Daily Mail. On the first occasion he fell in mid-Channel, owing to the failure of his motor, and was

rescued by a torpedo-boat. His machine was so badly damaged during the salving operations that another

had to be sent from Paris, and with this he made a second attempt, which was also unsuccessful.

Meanwhile M. Bleriot had arrived on the scene; and on 25th July he crossed the Channel from Calais to

Dover in thirty-seven minutes and was awarded the L1000 prize.

Bleriot's fame was now firmly established, and on his return to France he received a magnificent
welcome. The monoplane at once leaped into favour, and the famous "bird man" had henceforth to

confine his efforts to the building of machines and the organization of flying events. He has since

established a large factory in France and inaugurated a flying school at Pau.

All the time that the Wrights were experimenting with their glider and biplane in America, and the
Voisin brothers were constructing biplanes in France, Bleriot had been giving earnest attention to the

production of a real "bird" machine, provided with one pair of FLAPPING wings. We know now that

such an aeroplane is not likely to be of practical use, but with quiet persistence Bleriot kept to his task,

and succeeded in evolving the famous Antoinette monoplane, which more closely resembles a bird than

does any other form of air-craft.


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