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Cross-Channel Aviation Pioneers (Hardback)

Blanchard and Bleriot, Vikings and Viscounts

Aviation Military > Biographies P&S History > Explorers & Adventurers P&S History > Social History

By Bruce Hales-Dutton
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 232
Illustrations: 16 images in central plate section
ISBN: 9781526775597
Published: 2nd December 2020



History Hit!

An article written by the author for Dan Snow's History Hit'Who Were the Cross-Channel Aviation Pioneers?'

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On 25 July 1909, a dapper, moustachioed Frenchman flying a flimsy, diaphanous aeroplane changed the status of a great nation. ‘England is no longer an island,’ declared the Daily Mail. Lord Northcliffe, the newspaper’s proprietor, had put up the £1,000 prize for the first flight of the English Channel by the pilot of an aeroplane.

In securing the prize for one of aviation’s most celebrated firsts, Louis Blériot had beaten his Anglo-French rival Hubert Latham. Six days earlier, Latham had become the first airman to make a forced landing on water when the engine of his elegant Antoinette monoplane failed while he was attempted the crossing.

In this book the author explores the many and varied milestones in cross-channel flight, beginning back in July 1785 when John-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries made the first crossing, by balloon. Other flyers quickly followed Blériot so that Pierre Prier made the first non-stop London-Paris flight in April 1911 and Harriet Quimby became the first woman to fly the Channel a year later.

The book will chart other significant events in cross-Channel aviation such as the first mid-air collision between airliners flying between the UK and France, which led to a rudimentary system of air traffic control, the popularity of car ferry services in the 1950s and 1960s, and the coming of the jets.

Other big changes were on the way. In 1994 Eurostar rail passenger services from London using the Channel Tunnel were launched. In October 2001, following chronic air traffic delays during the late 1980s, the European Commission adopted proposals for a Single European Sky but it comes as no surprise to learn that during the second decade of the 21st century this has become bogged down in intra-European politics.

For readers interested in aviation firsts and lesser-known methods people use to cross the English Channel, this is a good book.

Air & Space Power History

Featured by

Royal Aeronautical Society

Of Cross-Channel aviation pioneers the only one widely remembered is Bleriot, for his successful crossing from France to Britain in a monoplane of his own design and construction, but the authors have done a great job of recording the process, from balloons, to hovercraft, to electric aircraft. The first person to be recorded as doing something new is often the only one to be remembered but there are so many more we should know about. – Most Highly Recommended

Read the full review here


This unsolicited book was a joy to read. Well researched and written with style.
Its title tells you what it contains: a history of cross-channel flights from 1785 (!) to 2019 together with potted histories of notable individuals and aircraft types.

Very informative. Highly recommended.

The de Havilland Moth Club Ltd

Featured in

Cross and Cockade

This 220 page hardback is a sometimes light hearted account of the many varied and record-setting flights across the English Channel since Louis Bleriot first achieved it in 1909. A highly entertaining read, it does include some rotary-wing successes, including the first Cierva Autogiro crossing, and the first helicopter crossing at the end of the Second World War. Alas it doesn’t include the speed record set up in 1980 – by the Aerospatiale Dauphin which is still held today.

Helicopter International

About Bruce Hales-Dutton

Newspaper and magazine journalist, government press officer and aviation industry public relations specialist, BRUCE HALES-DUTTON’s professional career encompassed all of these. He worked for the government department responsible for the aviation industry, a major international airports group and a highly-respected supplier of air traffic control services as well as Britain’s aviation industry regulator. During this time, he wrote texts for articles, news releases, brochures and leaflets, scripts for video programmes and speeches. Bruce was a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society and for many years a volunteer steward at Brooklands Museum. He passed away in November 2022.

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