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The Bleriot XI aircraft reproduction at the College Park Aviation Museum

1912 Bleriot XI

Louis Blèriot designed and built the original Blèriot Type XI, which was the first heavier-than-air craft to be flown across the English Channel. The monoplane was tested for the U.S. Army at College Park in 1912 by Bernetta Miller.

Although the U.S. military ended up not purchasing the Bleriot, the early monoplane was out of College Park Airfield by early civilian company The National Aeroplane Company.


Year: 1912 (reproduction)

Capacity: One pilot

Empty weight: 720 pounds

Wingspan: a range, from 24 feet, 11 inches to 32 feet, 5 inches

Maximum speed: 47 mph

Engine: 25-30 horsepower Anzani

Propellers: 2-bladed wooden propeller

One of the earliest monoplanes

As one of the earliest and possibly the most successful of its type, Louis Bleriot's Bleriot XI monoplane became a bestseller plane and an important validation of the potential of aircraft and aviation to unite the world and become a military weapon. 

The origins of the Cub are found in Rochester, New York in the 1920s when brothers C. Gilbert Taylor and Gordon Taylor designed the A-2 Chummy. In 1928, after Gordon Tayler died in a crash, Pennsylvania oilman William T. Piper convinced Gilbert to move to Bradford, PA to redesign the nearly $4000 Chummy into a low-cost airplane that became the Cub. By 1930, the company was bankrupt, and Piper bought the whole company for $761. However, he kept Taylor as president. In 1935, Piper brought in another designer, Walter Jamoueau, to improve the Cub based on owner comments. This angered Taylor and he left the company to found the Taylorcraft Aircraft Company in Ohio.
In 1937, the Taylor Cub became the Piper Cub. Despite the name change, they were the same airplane: a stable, slow, easy-to-fly airplane. Over 20,000 Cubs were built from 1936-1947 for civilian and military use. 

Unlike the Wright B and the Curtiss Jenny, the Blèriot is a monoplane (one set of wings) configuration. By showing the viability of his one wing design, Blèriot encouraged other builders to follow in his footsteps. Today’s airplanes share the same basic design as Blèriot’s creation. 

The design was a single-seat, single-engine setup that used wing-warping for lateral control (roll). It had a partially covered box fuselage, with a small all-moving rudder mounted slightly above a horizontal tail, whose tips functioned like elevators. The engine was set directly in front of the wing, attached to a front propeller. Two front wheels and a smaller tailwheel could slide up and down the steel tube sprung on elastic cords to help with shock absorption upon landing.   

There are two instances of the Bleriot XI at College Park. First, when the National Aviation Company established operations at College Park Airport, it became the authorized agent for the manufacture and sale of Bleriot aircraft in the Washington, DC region.  Instead of designing aircraft, NACO gave flight lessons in Curtiss, Bleriot, and Wright aeroplanes and repaired them as well.

Bleriots were also the type of plane used by the Moisant School at Mineola (Long Island, NY) one of America's earliest flying schools. In an effort to sell Blèriots to the U.S. Army, the Moisant Company sent Bernetta Miller to showcase the aeroplane’s capabilities to officials at the field. The Army was not convinced of the monoplane’s safety, and it opted not to purchase any Blèriots.  

Bernetta Miller was the fifth woman in the United States to earn her pilot’s license on September 16, 1912. She trained at the Moisant School in New York, who chose her to demonstrate the Moisant-Bleriot monoplane to the U.S. Army at College Park a few weeks later on October 7, 1912.  

“Of course,” she said later, “I had no illusions as to why I was sent to College Park to demonstrate the monoplane to the U.S. government officials who were exclusively devoted to the idea of the biplane… [It was] on the basis of the idea that if a mere woman could learn to fly one, so surely could a man." 

Despite her successful flights, the Army was not convinced of the monoplane’s safety, and it opted not to purchase any Blèriots. Fighting against social pressure discouraging women from flying and suffering from financial difficulties, Miller gave up aviation in 1913.  

The National Aviation Company was formed to give instruction in Wright, Curtiss, and Bleriot aircraft. Shown here in front of NACO's hangar is a Bleriot XI (ca. 1911-1912.) Also seen is the Rex Smith Aeroplane Company hangar, another civilian company at the airfield. 

Credit: College Park Aviation Museum

Our Bleriot XI: A reproduction

Completed in 2002, this reproduction Blèriot XI monoplane was built in the College Park Aviation Museum’s own restoration shop. It was crafted by volunteers under the direction of restoration shop manager John Liebl, from the 1912 drawings originally published by John Rozendaal. 

More visitor information

The Airmail exhibit featuring a Curtiss Jenny aircraft

Plan your visit

Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-4pm

Closed Mondays and holidays

A kids activity table at an event at the museum

About the museum

College Park Airport is the world's oldest continuously-operating airport, open since 1909. 

The College Park Aviation Museum preserves and shares the exciting history of the airport, this "Field of Firsts."

A tour group surrounds their tour guide in the museum gallery

Tours and Groups

The museum offers guided tours for schools and groups of 10 or more.

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