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Flight of fancy over Channel

July 26, 2009|Associated Press

CALAIS, FRANCE — A French pilot Saturday recreated the first flight across the English Channel in a monoplane like the one that Louis Bleriot flew in 1909, complete with a wooden propeller, bicycle wheels and an engine about as powerful as a lawn mower.

Edmond Salis took off from Bleriot Beach, near Calais on France's northern coast, at 9:13 a.m. and arrived in Dover 40 minutes later. That's just slightly longer than Bleriot's flight, which took 38 minutes in his July 25, 1909, crossing.

"The takeoff was a bit delicate because there were crosswinds at Bleriot Beach," Salis said on I-Tele television, decked out in a leather aviator jacket and hat and a flowing white scarf. "Once I was in the air, I could already see the English coast. Listen, the closer the English coast came, the more I enjoyed it."

Before the flight, Salis dismissed any fears about flying the wooden and canvas craft, which dates to 1934.

"It's still an adventure. It is an old engine, it is an old motor, but it is well maintained, it works well, so there is no reason that any problem would happen," the 39-year-old said.

Bleriot made the original flight six years after the Wright brothers flew their plane near Kitty Hawk, N.C., and during a decade in which pioneers in Europe and North America were developing the rudiments of airplane technology and expanding its limits.

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