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Sunday, July 26, 1998 Published at 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK

World: Europe

Flight re-enactment fails to reach beach

Those magnificent men: Louis Bleriot junior emerges from the crash

An attempt by the grandson of Louis Bleriot to recreate the famous aviator's pioneering cross-Channel flight ended ignominiously less than two minutes after take-off.

See pictures of the crash landing. Report by Helen Callaghan
The 54-year-old banker, also called Louis Bleriot, was flying one of his grandfather's three remaining planes.

He was forced to ditch in a lake near Calais, breaking the plane's right wing. He was unhurt.

[ image: A sinking feeling for Bleriot]
A sinking feeling for Bleriot
M. Bleriot, who has been flying for 10 years, had planned to land on the white cliffs of Dover.

It would have been a repeat of the historic flight which made his pioneering ancestor the first man to fly across the English Channel 89 years ago.

The engine of the flimsy Type XI had been restored and M. Bleriot said he was feeling confident.

"No-one wants to swim in the Channel," his spokesman had said.

He had planned to land in a field near Dover Castle, near to where his grandfather crashlanded in 1909.

[ image: Pioneering aviator Louis Bleriot]
Pioneering aviator Louis Bleriot
But his own crashlanding came more abruptly than anticipated.

Ironically, the same plane failed a previous cross-channel attempt nine years earlier.

But at least that time pilot Gloria Pullen managed to reach the sea.

M. Bleriot had been hoping to make the flight again next year as part of the 90th anniversary celebrations of the record flight.

Sunday's ill-fated flight was intended as a trial run.

'Not very well'

A spokesman at the airport said: "He had to ditch into a lake a few hundreds yards from here, but he is safe.

[ image: The plane used in the latest attempt]
The plane used in the latest attempt
"The airplane is not very well, though. Its right wing is broken, but it is on the water."

The original crossing was made after the Daily Mail's proprietor Lord Northcliffe offered a 1,000 prize.

The veteran aviator is said to have turned up in a Calais field asking "Which way to Dover?" before he took off.

The cavalier inventor

  • The original Louis Bleriot was a car headlamp maker who turned inventor.

  • Lord Northcliffe, proprietor of the Daily Mail, had offered a 1,000 prize to anyone who flew the Channel.

  • On 25 July 1909, the Frenchman took his monoplane to a field in Calais with the help of a white horse which towed it along.

  • He unloaded it and asked: "Which way is Dover?" A number of hands pointed to the sea and he set off.

  • He crashlanded in Northfall Meadow on the famous white cliffs of Dover 37 minutes later at 5.12am.

  • He was immediately surrounded by a crowd including a policeman, soldiers, a customs officer and reporters.

  • The wooden plane, held together with piano wire, was classified as a yacht by the customs officer.

  • Bleriot had 50 accidents while trying to build a plane which would fly. His 11th attempt caught fire and burned his foot.

  • Despite being left on crutches, he flew the Channel and proved all the sceptics wrong.

  • The engine had 25 horsepower and a three-cylinder engine. He took a chance, knowing the engine had only kept him in the air for half the required time during his trials.

  • As he crossed the cliffs, he turned off his engine at 65ft and crashed to the ground.

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