|PHOTO BY MARIO ROSALES
Time is costly in any endeavor, particularly when the project requires great skill and extensive experience.
Several years ago EAA decided to construct a true replica of Louis Bleriot’s Model XI monoplane. The project had a very limited budget, leaving the expertise and time of EAA volunteers as the only option.
Saturday at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2011, Adam Smith, EAA vice president of membership, and Sean Elliot, EAA vice president of government and industry relations, recognized a team of those volunteers, in front of the results of their labors—the recently completed, recently flown, reproduction Bleriot XI.
“There was no money, and there was no deadline,” Smith said before presenting a commemorative plaque to each volunteer.
“And I hope you all agree with my observation that you did it right. With all of your involvement, in so many different ways, you brought to life a true piece of living history.”
Jim Overdahl, a volunteer who had a hand in much of the craft’s intricate woodwork, found the project to be tedious but fulfilling.
“When it was just a pile of sticks it didn’t look so good,” Overdahl said. “But then half the fuselage would come together and you could see some progress.”
Precious little documentation of the Bleriot design existed when the project started.
“I think they took a picture [of the airplane] and made the drawings later,” Overdahl said. “Everything was in German and French…it just took a lot of time to figure it out.”
Progress on the Bleriot was easy to follow during the five-year project with some of its construction in full view of AirVenture attendees. Starting with assembly of wing ribs at the 2006 convention, the project culminated in a flight down Pioneer Airport’s Runway 31 on June 4 of this year.
Sporting yellow wings and a large number 13, EAA’s replica represents an original Bleriot owned by Earl Ovington, a colorful character who believed the traditionally unlucky number to be his personal good-luck talisman.
Assembled in Queens, New York, Ovington’s Bleriot originated in France as a kit. According to Smith the New York assembly operation likely was the first true aircraft factory in the United States.
Ovington and his airplane are celebrated for flying the first airmail delivery in the United States, from Garden City, Long Island, New York, on September 23, 1911.
After flying 3 miles to Mineola, New York, Ovington dropped a mailbag with 640 letters and 1,280 postcards to postal officials waiting below.
After participating in the centennial celebration of airmail service here at AirVenture, the EAA Bleriot returns to its permanent display in Pioneer Airport’s Vette Hangar.
Individuals and organizations recognized for their contribution to the EAA Bleriot IX replica project: