Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Edwardian Era Real Deal and Replica Flying Machines of New Zealand - Bleriots

There is quite a bit of history around Bleriot Monoplanes in New Zealand, from three original machines to several more modern replicas.  A good potted history of the original machines by Philip Treweek can be found at: http://www.kiwiaircraftimages.com/bleriot.html

From Philip Treweek's excellent notes the first Bleriot XI to be imported into New Zealand arrived in Wellington in April 1912 for Mr James D Walsh but was never flown successfully at that time. It ended up with the Canterbury Aviation Company at Sockburn in 1917 where is was flown by by the likes of Bert Mercer.  It was scrapped in 1920.

The second Bleriot XI to be imported was in 1913 with American pilot Arthur "Wizard" Stone who flew at the Auckland Showgrounds on 19/4/13 but the flight only lasted around 400 yards and the aircraft and pilot were "roughed up" by the disgruntled crowd.  However, a few days later, on 24/4/13, two successful flights were flown from Alexandra Park , the first sustained flight in New Zealand. It flew again at Hamilton but was badly damaged at Napier on 3/6/13 and did not fly here again.

The third Bleriot XI to appear in New Zealand was a 2 seat Bleriot XI-2 model that was presented to the New Zealand Government by the Imperial Air Fleet Committee.  This aircraft had flown successfully in Europe and the aircraft was christened "Brittania" at Hendon in London on 22/5/13 after which the former New Zealand Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward was taken for a short flight.  The aircraft was then shipped to New Zealand arriving at Wellington on 29/9/13 and was our first military aircraft.  It was shipped to Auckland and made its first flight here on 17/1/14 from the Epsom Showgrounds, flown by New Zealand's first military pilot, Joe Hammond.  On 24/1/14 another flight was made by Joe Hammond and a passenger.  However rather than taking one of the local dignitaries for a flight, Joe Hammon'd passenger was Miss Esmee McLennan who was an Australian and a member of the touring Royal Pantomime Company.  This dis not go down well with said dignitaries and Joe Hammond was fired!  The aircraft then sat idle as there was no pilot for it, and it was shipped back to England in October 1914 following the outbreak of war.

The original Britannia in Auckland in January 1914.  Joe Hammond is at the right in the rear, with goggles.  The Name Britannia is on the front of the engine cowling.

A nice replica of the Brittania is on display in the foyer of the RNZAF Museum at Wigram.  It was constructed in 1985 by dave Comrie of Dunedin (who also built the EAA Acro Sport II ZK-VWT and the Sindlinger Hurricane ZK-VYX).

In this photo you can just see a small part of a figure of Miss Esmee McLennan behind the trailing edge of the wing, seated behind the figure of Joe Hammond.

The next Bleroit to appear here was actually a Thulin A which is a Bleriot XI that was license built by the Swedish company AB Enoch Thulins Aeroplanfabrik in 1918.  This example was discovered by Mikael Carlson in a barn in Sweden in the late 1989 and restored by him for a first flight after many years in 1991.  Mikael Carlson bought his Thulin A to Warbirds Over Wanaka at Easter 2000 where it flew successfully.  The aircraft was powered by a 50 HP Gnome-Omega rotary engine.

The Thulin A over Wanaka.  Mikael Carlson flew this aircraft across the English Channel in 1999 on the 90th anniversary of Louis Bleriot's original channel crossing.

Mikael Carlson now has 2 original Thulin As in his collection.  There is a neat video of one of them flying HERE but I am not sure if it is the one that came to Wanaka.

Up at Omaka the folks at Classic Fighters have built some really neat replicas including this taxiable replica of a 2 seat Bleriot, that breaks in the middle for effect!  It is photo'd here at the 2017 Classic Fighters airshow at Omaka, on 15/4/17.

And this brings us to our latest Bleriot XI which is Gert Van Kruiningen's Airdrome Aeroplanes full size replica ZK-BXI2 (c/n BLE-003).  It is powered by a vintage 5 cylinder Velie M5 radial engine which looks the part.  It is also photo'd at the 2017 Classic Fighters airshow, piloted by Evan Belworthy.  It did manage lift off but only just.

Here it is at the 2019 Classic Fighters airshow, flying more successfully.  A very nice replica.

1 comment:

  1. The breakable Bleriot predates Classic Fighters by several decades - from memory it was built by Marlborough Aero Club members for a 1968 pageant. Hopefully another reader/contributor will be along with more photos and info of its history, including a period as a plane-in-a-shed.