Blériot – Flight into the Xxth Cen­tury by Louis Blériot, grand­son of the orig­i­nal avi­a­tion pi­o­neer www. austin­ £39.99. Pa­per­back, 243 pages, mixed colour and B & W il­lus­tra­tion through­out

Pilot - - BOOKS & GEAR -

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

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