Old Rhinebeck’s 1909 Blériot XI – Restoration Update Spring 2023

Photo by Warren W. Disbrow
Aircorps Art Dec 2019

In a follow-up to Monday’s article featuring the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome’s quest to acquire an extraordinarily rare, six-cylinder Anzani radial engine comes news about the museum’s progress with returning their original, 1909 Blériot Type XI monoplane (powered by a 3-cyl. Anzani) to airworthy condition. When it flies in the coming months, it will regain its title as the oldest flying machine in North America!

The Blériot Type XI, as most readers should be well aware, gained its place in history when French aviation pioneer, Louis Blériot piloted one across the English Channel on July 25th, 1909, a feat never before accomplished by a powered, fixed-wing aircraft.

Given the antiquity of its design and the primitive nature of the technology then available, the Blériot XI is naturally a delicate, low-performance machine. Describing their example, the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome noted: “Flying at the Aerodrome almost every weekend of the air show season, the maximum altitude that our Blériot has achieved is approximately 60 feet. Blériot Serial No. 56 is the oldest flying aircraft in the Americas and second in the world only to the Shuttleworth Collection’s Blériot XI, in Bedfordshire, England, which was manufactured just three weeks earlier.”

“Our Bleriot is thought to have crashed at an air meet in Saugus, Massachusetts during 1910. H.H. Coburn noticed the aeroplane in a junkyard while bicycling to and from work, procured it, and passed it along to Bill Champlin of Laconia, New Hampshire. Champlin, became aware of Cole Palen via a newspaper advertisement Cole posted seeking old aircraft. He gave the Bleriot to Cole in 1952 and by 1954, it was restored to flying condition at an airport in Stormville, New York. In 1955 it was featured in the June issue of Mechanix Illustrated, generating early publicity for Cole before he established the Aerodrome.”

The museum’s Blériot XI began its rebuild in January, 2022, with the wings, elevator and rudder coming off for recovering. One of the organization‘s volunteers, Brian Coughlin, is leading this effort, making repairs to the structure where necessary and recovering the components with new fabric. The images below describe some of the progress as it stands presently.

Refurbishing some of the Blériot XI’s flying surfaces in the workshop at Old Rhinebeck. (image via Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome)




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