Designed and built by Frenchman Louis Bleriot (1872-1936), the Bleriot XI is best known for being the first aeroplane to cross the English Channel piloted by Bleriot himself on 25 July 1909. This achievement gave Bleriot the opportunity to take advantage of his fame to successfully market the Bleriot XI design until 1914. About 800 Bleriot XI machines were built near Paris between 1909 and 1914. It become the world's first mass-produced aeroplane combining an externally braced monoplane wing and front mounted (tractor) engine. Many other designers at this time preferred biplanes and rear mounted (pusher) engines. The Bleriot XI was widely used in competition flying before the First World War and was licence-built in the UK by Humber in Coventry. The first Bleriot XI in Australia arrived in November 1909 along with a Wright Model A biplane imported by L.A. Adamson, Colin Defries attempted to fly the Bleriot at Victoria Park Racecourse in Sydney in December 1909 but it crashed shortly after leaving the ground. The aircraft was later displayed in Melbourne at the premises of the Melbourne Motor Garage Company in Spencer Street to raise money for the search for the steamship 'Waratah' which disappeared off South Africa in July 1909. A second Bleriot XI was imported in February 1910 by F.H Jones of South Australia. On 17 March 1910 Fred Custance was reported to have made a flight near Adelaide lasting five minutes in this machine but this was not officially recognized as the first controlled powered flight in Australia due to the lack of witnesses.
Later in 1910 a third Bleriot XI arrived. Frenchman Gaston Cugnet had been sent to Australia by Louis Bleriot to assess the possibility of establishing a local agency. After an unsuccessful attempt to fly at Altona in Victoria, a second flight at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in December 1910 ended in failure as the aircraft crash landed on tennis courts next to the arena. In 1914 Maurice Guillaux imported a specially modified Bleriot XI 'looper' in which he performed the first loop seen in Australia before an estimated 60,000 people at Victoria Park Racecourse in Sydney. He then used the aircraft to fly the first official air mail service between Melbourne and Sydney on 18 July 1914. This aircraft is now held in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.