Louis Blériot started out with as the proprietor of a business manufacturing headlamps for automobiles in Paris, but his real enthusiasm was an even newer transport innovation, the aeroplane. Profits from his business afforded him the time and finance to experiment with aviation. His first flying machines were ornithopters, with flapping wings. But after a series of scrapes, he was on his twelfth prototype by mid-1909, and had managed 50 minutes of continuous flight. The British newspaper, the Daily Mail, had offered a prize of £1,000 for the first manned flight across the English Channel, and Blériot determined to claim it. Setting up at Calais, large crowds gathered, with Marconi supplying radio-links. After days waiting for suitable weather, he set off on the afternoon of 25 July, landing 36 minutes 30 seconds later in Northfall Meadow, near Dover Castle. Despite a heavy landing, he was unhurt.
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