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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedWarping wings and time
By Randy Dufault

EAA's Bleriot XI is a faithful reproduction built from original drawings.

Eric Presten's Bleriot XI replica uses wing warping for lateral control.

By the end of 1911 Louis Bleriot had delivered more than 500 examples of his Model XI monoplane, making it one of the most popular pre-World War I aircraft types.

But given the craft's now obsolete system of warping the wings for lateral control, one has to wonder how many flying hours all those airplanes were able to accumulate.

"The wing warping is almost useless on this thing," said Eric Presten, owner of a Bleriot XI replica that is here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2010.

"You have to be at cruise speed before it becomes really active. And active means I can get all the way to 20 degrees of bank before the dihedral overpowers the wing warping.

"Ailerons are the solution. There's a reason Boeing uses them on all those airliner thingies they make up in Seattle."

Presten's replica, on display near the VAA Red Barn, is one of two examples of the Bleriot XI type here this year.

Although faithful in appearance to the original, Presten's bird is constructed completely of modern materials and is powered by a modern engine-a stark contrast to EAA's nearly completed reproduction airplane.

The EAA Bleriot, destined for flights at Pioneer Airport, is a faithful example of the original, including a 1910 three-cylinder radial Anzani Fan (W-3) powerplant.

"This airplane was built to original drawings, at least the ones we could obtain," EAA's Gary Buettner said.

According to Buettner the build was difficult. All of the metal components had to be fabricated from scratch, and the wood, all of it ash, is notably difficult to work with.

The engine, built in 1910 and rebuilt by EAA volunteers, was located in France and carried to Oshkosh-in pieces-as hand luggage.

It may be only one of five examples of the type known to exist. Daily runs during the past two conventions gave AirVenture attendees an opportunity to experience the unique sounds and smells that were a part of early aviation.

Construction of the EAA Bleriot began with building the wing ribs at the 2006 convention. Efforts continued over the next three years both from EAA staff and volunteers from The Aeroplane Factory.

The airplane is now, according to Buettner, 99.9 percent complete.

"All we have to do is check it over, safety wire everything, paint the engine mount, and complete a few other details," Buettner said.

Each AirVenture since the project began became an opportunity to make significant progress on the reproduction.

That tradition continues this year.

"About three days into the convention we finished the wings and got them mounted," Buettner said. "We built the instrument panel, and we put on the engine controls.

"That doesn't sound like much, but there's a lot of work involved."

The EAA bird, located in Workshop Tent 2, is expected to fly yet this fall.

In stark contrast to the long duration of the EAA build, Presten's replica was completed, first part to first flight, in 26 days. It broke ground for the first time June 12, 2009.

The plane now has 11 hours on the airframe, a total time that may seem like very little for a year-old airplane.

"Eleven hours of wing warping is a lot," Presten said. "But, the only really good reason to fly this is to fly it in front of people that want to see it fly.

"There are lots of opportunities to do that, but if there is any detectible air motion at all, I won't fly it.

"It's all about the wing warping. That's the big limitation."

Watch a video of the EAA Bleriot construction update from May 2010.

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