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EAA Recreates Prize-Winning 1909 Blériot XI... While You Watch!

Will It Fly On the 100th Anniversary?

by ANN Correspondent Jeff Pierson

Will it fly in 2009... and just how high? Some say it will be finished "when it is finished" and just fly in ground effect. Others suggest that the 100 year anniversary -- two years from now -- is an alluring goal, and 22 miles (40 km) over water is a proper re-enactment.

Re-creation has just begun at Airventure. This week you can see daily propeller carving...with a chain-saw! The electric chain saw did not exist in 1909, but volunteer Jerry Thornhill wields one with great aplomb, launching chips as he shapes the custom propeller for EAA's Blériot project. Five plies of mahogany, totaling 4 ¼ inches (11 cm) thick, are hewn into a propeller about 7 feet long (215 cm).

Parts of this airplane will hit Mach 0.437 -- the propeller tips, as they swing at a leisurely 1400 rpm. Jerry has been carving props for 30 years, and once produced a nine-footer in one week under duress, but at his tent workshop he carves when an audience appears, anytime between 9 am and 3 pm.

Two steps away in the same shop, another woodworker conjures clouds of finer sawdust. The fuselage will consist of "about 32 pieces", says volunteer Gordy Selke. He has just begun shaping them, carving the vertical crosspieces with a spindle sander.

About sixty paces north in the wingbuilding area, volunteers Ken and Helene Terrio have already lovingly finished ten of the twenty four ribs needed for the Blériot wing. Pieces of the remaining ribs have been sawn and sanded, so visit now to see the gluing and clamping.

The project foreman, A & P Gary Beuttner, says the copper fuel tank has been finished. Gary works part-time for EAA on such projects. A 25 hp Anzani engine arrived in parts carried to Oshkosh from France last year, in the personal luggage of the French donors. It will be assembled by Ted Mosman, who conjures such bits into motive power at the Kermit Weeks Hangar.

About that overwater re-enactment... Blériot's grandson Louis got wet on the 90 year anniversary only two minutes after departure.

This week is the opportunity for Airventure attendees to see history in the re-making. You can bet this story has just begun...

FMI: www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/Bleriot/imag-nf.html

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