The airplane built by Aurel Vlaicu was taken out to the field for the first time on June 12, 1910, and after a first failed take-off attempt on June 16, the next day, on June 17, 1910, Vlaicu succeeded for the first time to fly the vehicle he had built himself.
His aircraft picked up speed and after rolling about 40 meters on the ground, the entire attendance saw it rising 3 – 4 meters in the air, gliding some 50 meters and then smoothly descending again. The friends who participated in the event hugged Vlaicu and would enthusiastically relate their witnessing the flight, engineer Constantin C. Gheorghiu writes in the book “Aurel Vlaicu – a forerunner of Romanian aviation” (Technical Publishing House, 1960).
The next day, the newspapers of the time ran the sensational news of the flight performed by the first Romanian plane invented, built and piloted by a Romanian. Vlaicu celebrated the success of his first flight in a festive setting with a group of close friends. News of Vlaicu’s feat spread quickly throughout the city. The next afternoon, when he arrived at the testing field, Vlaicu was surprised to see that a crowd of curious people – children included – had gathered there since morning.
Towards the evening, when he took the airplane out of the hangar, the field was packed full. Vlaicu sat at the steering wheel and after warming up the engine, the airplane took off in a storm. After rolling about 40 meters, the flying machine’s front wheels lifted in the air and almost simultaneously the rear wheel also took off the ground. The plane flew over the field at an ever-increasing speed as the people applauded. At the other end of the field Vlaicu stopped the engine and the airplane descended smoothly, the cited book writes.
In his desire to build a better, lighter and faster aircraft than those already existing abroad the inventor encountered financial shortages. Aurel Vlaicu’s father mortgaged his land to provide him with money, but this was still not enough. In Bucharest, Aurel Vlaicu hit against the government’s refusal to fund his invention. Despite that, a group of intellectuals, including Octavian Goga, Alexandru Vlahuta and Spiru Haret, offered the young man support and unwavering trust in his intelligence and talent.
Supported by the ASTRA Association, Vlaicu designed and built at the Bucharest Army Arsenal the monoplanes Vlaicu I (1910) and Vlaicu II (1911), which he taught himself to fly to a level of mastery that allowed him to surpass many aces of air aerobatics.
At the June 1912 international air competition in Aspern, near Vienna, flying on Vlaicu II, he won the First Prize for launching a projectile to target and the Second Prize for precision landing, according to www.angelfire.com. Between 1910 and 1912 he ran test and show flights with this plane in Romania (Bucharest, Blaj, Sibiu, Brasov, Iasi, Ploiesti, Lugoj, Orastie, Alba Iulia, Targu Mures).
Engineer and pilot Aurel Vlaicu was born in Bintiti (a village that today bears his name – Aurel Vlaicu), in Hunedoara County, on November 6/19, 1882, to Dumitru Vlaicu – a wealthy peasant, and his wife Ana. After completing primary school in the village and secondary education in Orastie and Sibiu, he took his baccalaureate in 1902, informs the “Dictionary of the Members of the Romanian Academy” (Encyclopedic Publishing House/Romanian Academy Publishing House, 2003). He enrolled at the Budapest Polytechnic School, which he attended between 1902 – 1903. He then attended advanced technical courses in Vienna and Munich. In 1907 he graduated from the Munich Polytechnic and received his engineering degree. In 1908 he worked for a short time as an engineer at the Opel Automobile Factory in Russelheim – Germany, and achieved his first successes during this stint, having two of his inventions patented.
Between 1912 – 1913 he designed the Vlaicu III, the world’s first metal-built aircraft with an aerodynamic shape, which he never came to build, as he crashed with the Vlaicu II near Campina, on August 31/ September 13, 1913 while attempting to cross the Carpathians. The causes of the deadly plane crash have not been cleared to this day. On October 28, 1948 Aurel Vlaicu was elected posthumous honorary member of the Romanian Academy.