Monday, May 4, 2009

'Early bird' takes flight

A 1909 Bleriot XI pioneer aircraft will make a brief appearance at the Rhinebeck Aerodrome Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Yes, that's 1909. The Bleriot is the oldest original airplane flying in the United States, according to the aerodrome.

The Louis Bleriot-designed plane was the first aircraft to be mass produced and was among the most popular of the original pioneer aircraft types.

This particular Bleriot was donated to Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome by Bill Champlin of Laconia, N.H., in 1955, the aerodrome said in a prepared statement. It was restored by the Aerodrome’s late founder, Cole Palen, who had to rebuild about 75 percent of the damaged airplane. It is powered by a 35 horse power Anzani engine.

The Bleriot will resume its flight demonstrations when air shows begin on June 13.

“We have a lot of pre-season work to do because we are celebrating the 100th birthday of the Bleriot, Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome’s 50th anniversary and participating as a sponsor in the Hudson River Valley Quadricentennial celebration this year,” said Hugh Schoelzel, president of Old Rhinebeck Air Show.

The museum is scheduled to open at noon on June 6 with an open house. It won't be a normal show, but pilots and mechanics will be testing and flying antique airplanes; staff members and volunteers will be available to answer questions; and there will be biplane rides for purchase, Schoelzel said. Admission will be free.