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104 years since the flight of Aurel Vlaicu with his first plane

on 17 June 2014

104 years ago, on 17 June 1910, on the Cotroceni field, the engineer Aurel Vlaicu took off the ground aboard the first airplane designed, built and piloted in Romania: "Vlaicu 1", built with the support of the Romanian Royal House and the Army at the Army Arsenal’s workshops. Our first "national plane," which raised to a height of only 3-4 meters over a distance of 50 meters, placed Romania immediately after the United States and France in the limited category of states on whose territory an original device, built and piloted by a citizen of that country flew.

Still excited by the immensity of his success, a year later Vlaicu testified that:
"But the greatest joy I felt was when I flew for the first time at Cotroceni. I didn’t exceed 4 meters high. Yet neither the Alps seemed to me taller than the height at which I lifted myself. Because four meters were for me a record that was confirming my device. I flew and this was the most important thing. I kept myself in the air. I had accomplished undoubtful steps further."

The patent was registered under the name "Arrow-shaped body flew device", and a year later he built a second plane, the famous "Vlaicu II", which bought him international confirmation in 1912, when he won no less than five prizes (1 first prize and 4 second prizes) at the air rally in Aspern, Austria.

On 13 September 1913, the young pilot took off from Bucharest on board of Vlaicu II, having the intention to cross the Carpathians, to participate at the ASTRA festivities, in Orastie. The plane collapsed for still unknown reasons nowadays, but the assumption is that the pilot might have suffered a heart attack.

Even if the upward slope of his successes was interrupted by this tragic event, Vlaicu left behind original contributions to the aviation field, being remembered today as a pioneer of the Romanian and world aviation but also a remarkable engineer and inventor. Among his inventions are the wing with variable profile during flight, depending on the angle of flight and device speed, the high stability of the plane and the plane tilt without ailerons, among the first landing system in the world with independent wheels and the almost fully aerodynamic shape and aluminum construction of the A. Vlaicu III fuselage (built after the death of Aurel Vlaicu by C. Silişteanu and G. Magnani, following the Romanian aviator's plans).

Image credit: Foaia Națională

In the image below, Aurel Vlaicu's invention honoured at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum - Washington DC, USA. Credit: ROSA