Having the Bleriot XI in my virtual hangar, this was an obvious flight to recreate.
Bleriot departed from a farm near Les Baraques just west of Calais. I’m sure the actual field he used has now been swallowed up by the town, but there is a suitable one just south, so I set off from there (slew mode really helped). Bleriot took off just after sunrise (4:41am) on July 25th 1909. The weather was not perfect with low ceilings and restricted visibility and I tried to emulate this within the sim but I suspect my weather was somewhat better than Bleriot had to deal with.
Here is the departure field next to Les Baraques.
Looks like a nice long field…
Takeoff is always a bit of a challenge in the Bleriot XI, but I was able to slip the surly bonds without bending anything…
Slowly climbing to a safe altitude…
Lined up on the lake I used as a heading reference to point me in the right direction for Dover.
At the same time, I looked off to the right to get a general idea of where the Sun should be in relation to the wing… Without a compass, this was the only way I could think of that would help keep me somewhere close to being on course while out over the sea… On a clear day this would not be an issue as you can see Dover from Calais. Not today though!
Out over the Channel I go!
With nothing in sight on the horizon, I tried to keep a steady heading, and puttered along at about 40mph.
Land Ho! There is no mistaking those white cliffs! but it does seem I have drifted quite a distance to the East…
A little closer now, and I can see Dover in the distance…
St Margaret’s Bay off to the right. I just need to follow the cliffs to Dover.
Coming up on the port and Dover Castle is straight ahead.
Bleriot’s actual landing site is now a wooded area, so I picked a field nearby to set down.
Safely on the ground and shut down!
Google Maps view of the departure point…
My planned route and a guess as to the actual route I flew.
Depiction of Bleriot’s course as shown in the Wing42 manual. He had to make a turn to get out of some weather, but it looks like we ended up catching sight of the cliffs at about the same point.
It was a fun challenge. As I was sat comfortably at home in front of my PC, I couldn’t help but think about Bleriot’s courage. Frankly, I would never willingly fly a real Bleriot XI and definitely not over the sea, out of sight of land with no compass or other instrumentation that we take for granted these days. Next, I will have to try to cross the Alps, following the footsteps of Jorge Chávez (hopefully with a happier outcome).