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Model of a 1911 Bleriot Airplane Used to Instruct WWI Pilots How to Fly

Updated: 4 days ago

One-of-a-kind early flight training model up for auction at Donley Auctions

Union, IL (May 13, 2024): Donley Auctions is proud to announce the upcoming auction of a truly unique piece of aviation history: a one-of-a-kind model of a Bleriot XI used to instruct the very first aviators.

Built by Fuad Jerwan, this remarkable model boasts a 6-foot wingspan and features a working electric motor to spin the propeller and movable control surfaces. It offers a lifelike representation of the pioneering aircraft. 

Fuad's brother, Shakir Jerwan, Chief Pilot and Instructor at the Moisant School of Aviation, Garden City, New York, utilized this model beginning in late 1911 to deliver lectures on the "Art of Flying."  Shakir's presentations incorporated stereopticon slides alongside the meticulously crafted model, providing aspiring aviators with valuable insights into the nascent field of flight.

In remarkable condition for its age, the model retains most of its original wing, tail, and rudder fabric.  The wood propeller and electric motor remain in place, though untested.  Measuring 5 feet long with a wingspan of 6 feet, this exceptional piece represents not only a significant historical artifact but potentially the very first model ever employed as a flight training aid.  It may even be the earliest surviving aeronautical training model in existence.

"This model presents a truly unique opportunity for collectors and aviation enthusiasts," said Randy Donley, auctioneer and owner of Donley Auctions. "Shakir Jerwan’s use of this model for educating some of the world's first pilots, including WWI pilots, is a fascinating piece of aviation history."

The auction will begin at 10 am CT on Sunday, May 19, at Donley Auctions in Union, Illinois.  For more information on the auction or the Bleriot XI model, please contact Donley Auctions at 815-923-7000 or visit their website at


Background: Shakir Saliba Jerwan (1881-1942), was born in Beirut, Lebanon. In 1904, Jerwan & his brother, Fuad (Fred), sons of the 1st ordained Protestant minister in Lebanon, emigrated to the United States and became citizens in 1910.

Jerwan was trained to fly on a Bleriot monoplane at the Moisant School of Aviation, Mineola, NY in the Summer of 1911. This was the 1st Class at the Moisant School of Aviation. Among his classmates was Harriet Quimby, the 1st licensed woman pilot in the USA. Unfortunately, she was the 1st woman to die in an airplane when her Bleriot two-seat tandem pitched forward and she and her passenger, father of the meet promoter, fell to their deaths at the 3rd Harvard Boston Aero Meet, July 1, 1912. 

Shakir Jerkin earned his pilot’s license, (#54) in August 1911. His brother Fuad, who was deaf, was working as a mechanic at the Moisant school. 

Fuad built this model of a Bleriot XI with a 6 ft wingspan, an electric motor to spin the propeller, and movable control surfaces. In late fall 1911, Shakir started lecturing on the “Art of Flying” using this lifelike model and stereopticon slides to illustrate his lecture.

Their instructor, Frenchman Andre Houpert, left aviation after having taught the 1911 class at Moisant. Moisant hired Shakir Jerwan as Chief Pilot and Instructor at the Moisant School of Aviation, Garden City, New York, and he served there through the seasons 1912-14. He was also appointed technical officer on the staff of the First Aero Squadron of Volunteers of the United States. 

Shakir Jerwan continued as Chief Pilot/Instructor until around 1915 when he left for the warmer climes of Guatemala and helped organize their Air Force. 

Upon returning to the United States, he left aviation and became a hotelier running the Inn at Cornwall on the Hudson.

Shakir's brother Fuad (Fred) had graduated from the Clarke Institute for the Deaf in Northampton, MA (now known as the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech). He had retained the model when Shakir moved to Guatemala. When the Clarke Institute was celebrating its 50th anniversary in 1919, he brought it there for a display featuring the accomplishments of its graduates. The model remained in storage until the school sent material to auction when re-purposing some buildings.

The model is in overall remarkable condition with most of the wing, tail, and rudder fabric intact. The wood propeller and electric motor are in place but untested. It measures 5 ft long with a wingspan of 6 ft. This is probably one of the first models used as a training aid and may be the earliest surviving aeronautical training model in existence!

The model airplane will be lot #2177a on Sunday, May 19, 2024 at Donley Auctions in Union, IL.  Don’t miss this chance to own an important piece of aviation history.

Find out more about Shakir S. Jerwan by viewing his scrapbooks featuring photos, letters, and more on the Smithsonian website at and


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