By Willie Bodenstein

French aviator, inventor and engineer Louis Charles Joseph BlEriot was born on 1 July 1872. BlEriot developed the first practical headlamp for trucks and established a profitable business manufacturing them, using much of the money he made to finance his attempts to build a successful aircraft.

On 8 June 1905 was a spectator at Voisin'sfirst trials of the floatplane glider Voisin had designed and built for Archdeacon. BlEriot was impressed and placed an order for a similar machine from Voisin. On 18 July Voisin made an attempt to fly the BlEriot II glider crashed into the water and nearly drowned. This did not deter BlEriot was not deterred and convinced Voisin to enter into a partnership and Voisin accepted the proposal, and the two men established the Ateliers d' Aviation Edouard Surcouf, BlEriot et Voisin. Active between 1905 and 1906, the company built two unsuccessful powered aircraft, the BlEriot III and the BlEriot IV.

in November 1906 the partnership was dissolved and BlEriot set up Recherches AEronautiques Louis BlEriot to carry out his experiments with aircraft.

The design of the BlEriot V had no resemblance to his earlier aircraft, which had all been biplanes. The V was a monoplane with a braced wooden box-girder fuselage covered with varnished silk. The wings, which could be folded upwards for transport and had no wire bracing, were made of wood covered with varnished paper. The main undercarriage consisted of a pair of bicycle wheels set close together under the wing.

A number of taxi runs led to damage to the undercarriage and propeller. On 5 April a further trial was made and after a 100 m (305 ft) run the machine briefly left the ground. Concerned about his ability to control the aircraft in the stiff breeze that was blowing, BlEriot cut the engine and landed, yet again damaging the undercarriage slightly. He had only flown around 6 m (20 ft), but nevertheless this was the first time one of his aircraft had successfully flown.

More trials followed, the last on 19 April when, traveling at a speed of around 50 kph (30 mph), the aircraft left the ground, BlEriot over-responded when the nose began to rise and the machine hit the ground nose-first and somersaulted. The machine was largely destroyed, but BlEriot was by great good fortune unhurt.

In 1909 he became world-famous for making the first flight across the English Channel in a heavier than air aircraft, winning a prize of £1,000.

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