Blériot – Flight into the Xxth Century by Louis Blériot, grandson of the original aviation pioneer www. austinmacauley.com £39.99. Paperback, 243 pages, mixed colour and B & W illustration throughout
What Louis did next
As far as most Britons are concerned, Blériot popped up in 1909 for his famed Channel crossing then seemingly disappeared from the scene. Everybody recalls the Blériot XI monoplane that set the pattern for the modern aeroplane — and many Pilot readers will know that Louis produced the famous SPAD fighters of WWI — but who can name or picture any of the subsequent aeroplanes built by Blériot’s factory, up until nationalisation and then founder’s death in 1936? Have you any idea what Blériot’s pre-channel flight models I to X even looked like?
Happily, Louis’s grandson has written this splendid, comprehensively illustrated tribute to the great engineering genius and pilot. Beautifully laid out – the page design is in places quite superb — it takes the reader briefly through the acetylene lamp business from which, in pre-electric bulb days Blériot made his fortune to the aviation story, which started with an ornithopter — the Blériot I. Models II to VI were, respectively: a floatplane with a biplane wing cellule, a machine with tandem ovoid-ring wings, a model combining the two different wings, a canard monoplane pusher and a tandem-wing monoplane. The experiments homed in on the familiar single monoplane wing tractor configuration with the VII of 1907.
After the 1914-18 war, Blériot went on to produce almost any form of aeroplane imaginable, from trainers to airliners and flying boats, and the model numbers racked up into the hundreds. This fascinating variety of machines is illustrated by period black and white photos, and the odd page from the company’s colour brochures. There’s the odd wobble in translation of the original French language copy — no easy task, as we know from our own experience — and £40 might seem like a high price for a paperback, but take it from us: this is a handsome, enjoyable and informative book that is well worth the money. PW
Learning to fly like Bunnie Bremner did!
Rather more entertaining (with the odd honourable exception) than most modern training manuals, this commemorative edition reflects the state of the art in 1917, when it was first published. Covering not just how to fly an aeroplane (as Pilot insists on calling it, even in 2016) but why it flies, how it is built and rigged (during the 1914-18 era, at least) and tips on maintenance, the book is interesting in that it shows how much was known at the time.
Much of the technical description and piloting advice is as valid now as it was one hundred years ago, although there are one or two dubious assertions and diagrams (the ‘normal’ airflow around a wing looks fully stalled to me!) No one today is going to base their flight training on How to Fly a Plane, but it is still worth studying, not just as a historical document but one from which you might still learn a thing or two. PW