RAF Museum 2009 Calendar Trailblazers
On 25 July 1909 Frenchman Louis Bleriot flew from Les Baraques in France to Dover in England, becoming the first man to fly an aeroplane across the English Channel, indeed the first to cross any major body of water. The event made headline news around the world and stunned the British authorities. Bleriots flight may have worried the British government, but its impact on aviation was beneficial. Most flights before had taken place within sight of an airfield and only a few brave souls ventured across country. Bleriot proved it was possible to use an aeroplane to fly from place to place. His prize was 1000, but soon newspapers and businessmen were offering larger prizes for longer flights. In addition air races took place over ever increasing distances. These new challenges were a major attraction to pioneer aviators.
Aviation developed rapidly in the early years but World War One accelerated the rate of development. Aircraft often became obsolete within months of their first flights, but that stopped the moment war ended. It did not take long, however, before people started looking for new adventures. In 1919, just a year after the war ended and 10 years after Bleriots flight, the trailblazers had crossed the Atlantic and flown from England to South Africa, India and Australia.
Over the next 20 years aviators sought to make long distance flights non-stop, or solo, or faster than anyone else could achieve. To meet their demands companies built aircraft which had longer range and higher speeds. Not only did the performance of aircraft improve, but so too did their reliability. The aviators navigational skills improved as did the facilities available to them. In just 20 years trailblazers were replaced by the public as airlines began flying fare-paying passengers over similar routes.
Few, except the rich, could afford the luxury of air travel before war returned in 1939. There was another leap in technology during World War Two. On this occasion, however, developments continued as World War Two was replaced by the Cold War; East and West sought technological superiority over the other. It did mean, however, that the trailblazer was gone except for a few exceptions.
When passengers fly to destinations around the world few consider the achievements of the trailblazers, those men and women who accepted the challenge to be the first, the fastest or the furthest. This calendar celebrates the achievements of some of them who became famous around the world; mostly in the 20 years after Bleriots channel crossing, and is inspired by the recent Trailblazers temporary exhibition at the RAF Museum, London