Of Cross-Channel aviation pioneers the only one widely remembered is Bleriot, for his successful crossing from France to Britain in a monoplane of his own design and construction, but the authors have done a great job of recording the process, from balloons, to hovercraft, to electric aircraft. The first person to be recorded as doing something new is often the only one to be remembered but there are so many more we should know about. – Most Highly Recommended
NAME: Cross-Channel Aviation Pioneers, Blanchard and Bleriot, Vikings and Viscounts FILE: R3335 AUTHOR: Bruce Hales-Dutton PUBLISHER: Air World, Pen and Sword BINDING: hard back PRICE: £25.00 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: Aviation pioneers, early aircraft, risk, Channel, new heroes, female aviators, rapid development, fragile aircraft, hovercraft, balloons, airships, electric aircraft, man-powered flight, car-carrying aircraft, helicopters ISBN: 1-52677-559-X PAGES: 220, 8 pages of b&w images in a photo-plate section IMAGE: B3335.jpg BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/594y7tdv LINKS: DESCRIPTION: Of Cross-Channel aviation pioneers the only one widely remembered is Bleriot, for his successful crossing from France to Britain in a monoplane of his own design and construction, but the authors have done a great job of recording the process, from balloons, to hovercraft, to electric aircraft. The first person to be recorded as doing something new is often the only one to be remembered but there are so many more we should know about. – Most Highly Recommended
The English Channel does have some complex currents and, today, heavy marine traffic, but it is a very narrow strip of water. However, it was seen as a major challenge for early aviation pioneers. Initially, the only aircraft available was the balloon and reliable balloon flight had to wait for the hydrogen balloon to provide a reasonable level of reliability. By the time of the first crossing by hydrogen balloon, there was a fund of experience and much longer overland flights had been undertaken. The main challenge was that the balloon depended entirely on wind power. As in any body of narrow water, the Channel is subject to sudden wind changes, probably accounting for the delay from the first hydrogen balloon flight to the first Channel crossing. Hot air balloons had been around for a long time by then but they were very unreliable and short distance aircraft, not becoming suitable for longer flights until Liquid Petroleum Gas became readily available more than seventy years later. It was all the more significant that Blanchard managed a crossing from England on prevailing winds in January 1775. Some will dismiss this as an incomplete flight, because the heavy landing in a forest could be described as a crash, but it is a crossing that succeeded with both occupants surviving the flight, although they had been forced to dump every thing, including their clothes, over the side to stay airborne.
The dirigible, or airship, changed the situation because it allowed for controlled flight and long duration. The Channel no longer presented a major challenge to aviators, but fixed wing heavier than air machines had only moved on a little by 1909 from the first recorded controlled flights at Kitty Hawk by the Wright Brothers. Therefore, Bleriot’s crossing from France in a monoplane was amazing. It was almost a failure on several stages of the flight but it was completed with a controlled landing in England and survival of the pilot.
Bleriot was rapidly followed by other aviators making crossings in both directions, including by the daring Harriet Quimby. Harriet attracted much attention, not least by those who considered her clothing daring, but as the first woman aviator to make the crossing in 1912, hers was a considerable achievement. At that time, women were simply not expected to have interests beyond the home and very few qualified as engineers, which is one group from which many early aviators came.
Since those flights, there have been a succession of other cross-Channel aviation firsts and aviation produced new types of machine and the ability to carry passengers and freight. A captured German helicopter was used for the first helicopter crossing, passenger aircraft were used and included car-carrying ferry services. Then hovercraft made the crossing, followed by a regular passenger service by hovercraft. More recently a man-powered aircraft has made the crossing and in 2015 the first crossing by an electric powered aircraft was made.
The author has set out the history of first aviation crossings in a logical and easily read review. There is also a photo-plate section with some rare and interesting images.