Blériot XI for the Aviation Fair Squadron

On 8th February, the Aviation Fair Squadron (Letka Aviatické pouti) acquired its fourth aeroplane, a replica of the Blériot XI monoplane from the pioneer years of aviation. The aircraft is being based, just like the other aeroplanes of the Squadron, at Kunětice airfield and soon will be a part of aircraft collection displayed within the prepared Exhibition of Pardubice aviation (Expozice pardubického létání).

´The Blériot we acquired is not a historical example but a newly built replica that was created by Václav Vondrášek, approximately fifteen years ago, with compliance to technical documentation from the era. It represents a classic version of the Blériot XI – that means the same type of aircraft that, in autumn of 1909, was bought in France by engineer Jan Kašpar from Pardubice. In April of the following year, he performed a few flights with the aeroplane, thus becoming the first Czech to fly over the Czech territory´, said Aviation Fair Squadron leader, Jan Rudzinskyj.

The original Blériot XI aeroplane performed its maiden flight on 23rd January 1909. The aircraft was a development of previous Blériot´s design, Blériot VIII, and was largely designed by another French aviation pioneer, Raymond Saulnier.

The model XI turned out to be one of the most successful monoplanes of its era. Louis Blériot used the aeroplane to set several aviation records of flight duration and distance, won the first Prix du Voyage of the French aero club for flying from Etampes to Orléans.

In July of 1909, Blériot crossed the English Channel from Calais to Dover. That feat was not only a significant milestone in aviation history but also triggered a great demand for the Blériot XI aeroplanes. Approximately one hundred examples were built and acquired by aviation pioneers from all over the world.

Among those pioneers there was also the aforementioned Jan Kašpar, the Czech engineer with great passion for aviation. Initially, Kašpar made an attempt to build his own aeroplane, but it turned out to be unable to take-off. Motivated by the Blériot´s Channel crossing, Kašpar bought an example of the model XI with construction number 76, and equipped the aeroplane with Anzani engine.

On 16th April 1910, Kašpar performed his first flight with the Blériot XI. That date is commonly being recognized as the beginning of the Czech aviation, as he was the first pilot of the Czech nationality. Until the end of the year, Kašpar performed several public flying displays, and his fleet was extended with two more aeroplanes.

In 1911, Jan Kašpar focused on long-haul flights (according to contemporary criteria). Firstly, he flew from Pardubice to Chrudim, covering the distance of approximately ten kilometres in 24 minutes and 23 seconds. On 13th May 1911, Kašpar successfully made a flight from Pardubice to Velká Chuchle (now a part of Prague). This time the distance was significantly longer – 121 kilometres – and it took the Czech aviation pioneer 92 minutes to reach his destination. At that time, it was the longest flight in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In December of the same year, Kašpar performed the first long-haul passenger flight over the Czech territory. Carrying a Czech journalist onboard, Kašpar flew from Mělník to Velká Chuchle in 42 minutes.

´The acquired aircraft did not fly yet, because – mostly due to lack of suitable engine – it was not finished by its creator who, in the meantime, switched his effort to other projects. It is our goal to complete the Blériot and bring the aeroplane to an airworthy condition´, added Rudzinskyj. ´For now, the aircraft will be assembled and then displayed during open-door days of the Exhibition of Pardubice aviation we are currently preparing. That exhibition is being arranged at Kunětice airfield and should be opened later this year. However, due to capacity reasons, the exhibition will be, for the time being, available to public only during the pre-announced open days´.

The upcoming Aviation Fair air show in Pardubice will be one of the opportunities the Aviation Fair Squadron is going to present its three airworthy replicas to general public. The 32nd edition of the show will take place on 1st and 2nd June 2024.

More information about the show is available here, in our article issued just a few days ago.

All photos courtesy of the Aviation Fair Squadron / Letka Aviatické pouti