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100 years since aviation pioneer Aurel Vlaicu’s first flight

The Romanian Association for Aeronautics History and Propaganda (ARPIA) yesterday staged a celebration to mark 100 years since the first flight operated by legendary pilot and airplane engineer Aurel Vlaicu, on board the airplane ‘Vlaicu I.’


The ceremony was attended by Defence Ministry officials, along with representatives of the City Hall and District 6 mayor’s office, Air Forces Staff members and ARPIA representatives. The event was held at AFI Palace Cotroceni and the area surrounding the presidential palace, where Vlaicu took off for the first time.


The ceremony including the unveiling of two commemorative plaques and of two replicas of Vlaicu’s airplanes, and a demonstration flight by IAR 99 planes, a Hercules C 27 Spartan military jet, three IAR 330 SOCAT helicopters and a YAC 52 group, flown by celebrated local air acrobats, according to Mediafax news agency. Air Forces General Chief of Staff Ion Aurel Stanciu said during the events that forgetting about Vlaicu would equal forgetting about aviation people’s purpose, since it was him who put Romania among aeronautics elites. In turn, Defence Ministry State Secretary Mihail Vasile-Ozun said Vlaicu set an example and gave trust to Romanians, as his first flight paved the way for two over renowned Romanian aviators: Traian Vuia and Henri Coanda.


The event was also attended by a former aviator, Ruxanda Agache, who flew alone for the first time in 1948, now having over 8,200 hours of flight and 26,000 landings, including 17 emergency ones. At 83, Agache came to lay a bunch of flowers at Aurel Vlaicu’s commemorative plaque and saluted all aircraft that flew over the area.


A replica of the 1909 Aurel Vlaicu glider and a replica of Vlaicu II airplane were exhibited in the main hall of AFI Palace Cotroceni. The airplane replica, built by pilot engineer Constantin Savu, is fully functional, having a 105 HP engine, and last year, it won bronze in an aeronautic contest.


Vlaicu was born in 1882, in a village that now bears his name. He furthered his studies at Technical University of Budapest and Technische Hochschule Munchen in Germany, earning his engineer’s diploma in 1907. After working at Opel car factory in Russelsheim, he returned to his native village and built a glider he flew in the summer of 1909. Later that year, he moved to Bucharest, where he began the construction of Vlaicu I airplane; it flew for the first time on June 17, 1910.


With his Vlaicu II model, built in 1911, Vlaicu won several prizes (for precise landing, projectile throwing and tight flying around a pole) in 1912 at Aspern Air Show near Vienna, where he competed against 42 other aviators of the day, including Roland Garros. He died in 1913 while attempting to cross in flight the Carpathian Mountains in his aged Vlaicu II airplane. He is buried at the Bellu cemetery, in Bucharest.

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