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A History of Aeronautics by Marsh and Vivian

Crossed from France to England on a Bleriot monoplane


Latham

in his camp at Sangatte had been allowed to sleep through the calm of the early morning through a mistake on the part of a friend, and when his machine was turned out--in order that he might emulate Bleriot, although he no longer hoped to make the first flight, it took so long to get the machine ready and dragged up to its starting-point that there was a 25 mile an hour wind by the time everything was in readiness. Latham was anxious to make the start in spite of the wind, but the Directors of the Antoinette Company refused permission. It was not until two days later that the weather again became favourable, and then with a fresh machine, since the one on which he made his first attempt had been very badly damaged in being towed ashore, he made a circular trial flight of about 5 miles. In landing from this, a side gust of wind drove the nose of the machine against a small hillock, damaging both propeller blades and chassis, and it was not until evening that the damage was repaired.

French torpedo boats were set to mark the route, and Latham set out on his second attempt at six o'clock. Flying at a height of 200 feet, he headed over the torpedo boats for Dover and seemed certain of making the English coast, but a mile and a half out from Dover his engine failed him again, and he dropped to the water to be picked up by the steam pinnace of an English warship and put aboard the French destroyer Escopette.

There

is little to choose between the two aviators for courage in attempting what would have been considered a foolhardy feat a year or two before. Bleriot's state, with an abscess in the burnt foot which had to control the elevator of his machine, renders his success all the more remarkable. His machine was exhibited in London for a time, and was afterwards placed in the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, while a memorial in stone, copying his monoplane in form, was let into the turf at the point where he landed.

The second Channel crossing was not made until 1910, a year of new records. The altitude record had been lifted to over 10,000 feet, the duration record to 8 hours 12 minutes, and the distance for a single flight to 365 miles, while a speed of over 65 miles an hour had been achieved, when Jacques de Lesseps, son of the famous engineer of Suez Canal and Panama fame, crossed from France to England on a Bleriot monoplane. By this time flying had dropped so far from the marvellous that this second conquest of the Channel aroused but slight public interest in comparison with Bleriot's feat.

The total weight of Bleriot's machine in Cross Channel trim was 660 lbs., including the pilot and sufficient petrol for a three hours' run; at a speed of 37 miles an hour, it was capable of carrying about 5 lbs. per square foot of lifting surface. It was the three-cylinder 25 horse-power Anzani motor which drove the machine for the flight. Shortly after the flight had been accomplished, it was announced that the Bleriot firm would construct similar machines for sale at L400 apiece--a good commentary on the prices of those days.

On June the 2nd, 1910, the third Channel crossing was made by C. S. Rolls, who flew from Dover, got himself officially observed over French soil at Barraques, and then flew back without landing. He was the first to cross from the British side of the Channel and also was the first aviator who made the double journey. By that time, however, distance flights had so far increased as to reduce the value of the feat, and thenceforth the Channel crossing was no exceptional matter. The honour, second only to that of the Wright Brothers, remains with Bleriot.


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