YESTERDAY WE MET Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe, “the Oil King of Europe” and pioneer aviation enthusiast. Today we learn of his commissioning Louis Blériot to build a flying limousine—in 1911.
Automotive wits said that enclosed limousines of the day were different from more sporting motorcars: One should be able to walk through a limousine whilst wearing a top hat.
By contrast, aeroplanes of the day were spindly constructions, largely of wood and fabric. Their operators and any intrepid passengers sat out in the open, thought necessary for pilots to sense aeronautic conditions. Motorcar chauffeurs also appreciated/suffered the elements in this way.
Enclosed Aeroplanes. Early enclosed aeroplanes were rare indeed. Wikipedia notes, “On 1 May 1912 the Avro Type F became the first aircraft in the world with a completely enclosed cabin for the pilot as an integral part of the design.”
It wasn’t until a year later, May 26, 1913, in far-off St. Petersburg, Russia, that Igor Sikorsky flew a fully enclosed passenger craft, the Bolshoi Baltisky. The aeroplane had four engines, a balcony out front, an enclosed flight deck with dual controls, and accommodations for eight passengers.
So, what to make of Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe’s 1911 commission for a flying limo?
Blériot’s Type XIII. Built only one year after Blériot crossed the English Channel in his Type XI, his 1910 Type XIII served to be something of a prototype for the Deutsch de la Meurthe commission. The Type XIII had a high wing, mounted on which were rudimentary ailerons for roll and a pusher rotary engine. There was an elevator up front for pitch control, a fixed horizontal stabilizer at the rear, booms connecting these elements, and little else.
Wikipedia notes, “On 2 February 1911 Léon Lemartin broke a world record by flying the Type XIII with eight passengers. Later, he succeeded in flying the aircraft with as many as twelve other people on board. Flights carrying large numbers of people were in vogue in France at the time….”
The Type XXIV. Blériot fulfilled the Deutsch de la Meurthe commission with his Type XXIV’s amidships installation of an enclosed cabin. Other modifications included a return to Blériot-traditional wing warping in lieu of ailerons and elliptical wing tips similar to those of the Type XI.
The cabin was the product of Rothchild coachbuilding company, with mica windows for its occupants. Proper limousine fashion, the pilot/chauffeur sat up front of the enclosed compartment, his only protection being a conical shield attached to the front riggings. He did have a speaker-tube connection with cabin occupants, though.
Like the Type XIII, the Type XXIV was originally powered by a 100-hp Gnome twin-bank 14-cylinder rotary. This was replaced later with a similar Gnome producing 140 hp.
Wikipedia notes, “With the 140-hp Gnome fitted, it was successfully flown at Étampes [about 35 miles southwest of Paris], carrying up to 300 kg (660 lb) of ballast in place of passengers.” Inexplicably, it was apparently more difficult to find volunteers to ride within an aeroplane, rather than cling to its spindly framework.
Tomorrow in Part 3, I build a GMax Blériot Type XXIV, no straightforward task with conflicting data, overstressed software, and copyright-protected fleur-de-lis. ds