Engineer Louis Blériot's automobile headlight company made him a very wealthy man in the early 20th century, but his real passion was aviation: he built 12 aeroplanes in around 10 years. Unfortunately, their poor performances earned him the nickname "the falling man". But on 25 July 1909 he had a rendezvous with history. At 4:41 that morning, he took off from Sangatte (Pas-de-Calais) aboard his Blériot XI. Resembling a big, ungainly dragonfly skimming above the water's surface, the 310-kilogram, eight-metre long aircraft with a 7.20-metre wingspan and a three-cylinder fan-shaped Anzani engine sped towards the English coast at 60 km/h. The man and his machine flew from France to Great Britain in 32 minutes: at 5:13 that morning, "England was no longer an island". Blériot had just become the first person to cross the English Channel by plane.