Channel Armada to Mark Centenary of Louis Bleriot Monoplane Flight

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CALAIS, France, July 25 (AFP) – An armada of microlight planes will fly from Calais to Dover Saturday as France and Britain mark 100 years since aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot became the first man to fly across the Channel.The Frenchman's crossing at daybreak on July 25, 1909, was the culmination of a six-year race to perfect a viable flying machine, that began in 1903 with the first flight by US pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright.Bleriot's 37-minute flight between Les Barraques near Calais and the Dover cliffs, on a cloth-and-wood monoplane or single-winged aircraft, convinced a sceptical public that aviation had a future.On Saturday, a restored original of his flying machine, the 25-horsepower Bleriot XI, and three replica models will fly across the Channel in a historic recreation of his feat.Some 300 French, British and Belgian pilots are to join the tribute to the aviator, flying in waves over the Channel on board microlight aircraft, seen as the closest modern equivalent to Bleriot's plane.And France and Britain's air display teams will stage a joint fly-past above the cliffs of Dover, where organizers expect a crowd of at least 10,000 to join the weekend of celebrations.''Bleriot's crossing of the Channel was a turning page in aviation history,'' said his grandson, also named Louis Bleriot, who helped organize the two days of air pageants and fireworks on both sides of the Channel. …