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Aurel Vlaicu

builder of the first Romanian airplane

Aurel Vlaicu

Aurel Vlaicu was born in Bintini, outside Orastie, Romania on November 19, 1882, the first child born into a peasant family. After completing his basic education at the Orastie high school, he studied engineering, first in Budapest and then at the University of Munchen in Germany, from which he received his degree in 1907. He then spent about a year working as an engineer at the Opel Engine Factory in Russelsheim, Germany.

In 1909, Vlaicu moved back to Bintini, where he built a glider that he used to conduct several flight tests. He then moved to Bucharest, where he built an airplane model. His flight tests with the model so impressed government officials that he was able to secure permission to build a full-scale airplane at the Army Arsenal Factory. He flew the "Vlaicu I," without any modifications to his design, in 1910.

Having successfully flown the first Romanian-built airplane, Vlaicu began working on "Vlaicu II" in 1911. On August 11 of that year he flew his new plane a distance of 3.7 miles at an altitude of 164 feet. On August 27 he flew in front of 20,000 people on Liberty Plain, in Blaj, during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Romanian Literature and Culture Association, after which he "barnstormed" several major Romanian towns. During his tour, Vlaicu achieved an altitude of 3,281 feet and a range speed of 56 miles per hour. At the 1912 International Contest in Aspern, Austria, he won first prize for hitting a designated target from an altitude of 984 feet with a projectile and second prize for the most accurate landing.

In 1913, Vlaicu began buildimg "Vlaicu III," an all-metal airplane with which he intended to become the first person to fly an airplane over the Carpathian Mountains. Upon learning that another man was also planning to make the attempt, Vlaicu decided not to wait and took off from Bucharest in "Vlaicu II." On September 13, he was flying over the village of Banesti when his wings broke and the plane crashed, killing him on impact.

Vlaicu's untimely death shocked his friends, many of whom saw to it that "Vlaicu III" was completed. In 1918 the high school in Orastie was named in his honor.

Early Aviators

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This page was last updated on 11/18/2017.