Aurel Vlaicu

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Aurel Vlaicu
Aurel Vlaicu

(1882-11-19)19 November 1882
Binținți, Austria-Hungary (now part of Geoagiu, Romania)
Died13 September 1913(1913-09-13) (aged 30)
Cause of deathplane crash[1]
Resting placeBellu cemetery, Bucharest
44°24′13.79″N 26°5′59.11″E / 44.4038306°N 26.0997528°E / 44.4038306; 26.0997528
Alma materBudapest University of Technology and Economics
Technische Universität München
Occupation(s)Engineer, inventor, aviator
Known forPioneer of Romanian and world aviation
Parent(s)Dumitru Vlaicu (father)[2]
Ana (mother)

Aurel Vlaicu (Romanian pronunciation: [a.uˈrel ˈvlajku] ; 19 November 1882 – 13 September 1913) was a Romanian engineer, inventor, airplane constructor and early pilot.[3][4]

Early years and education[edit]

Aurel Vlaicu glider in flight, June–July 1909

Aurel Vlaicu was born in the village of Binținți in Transylvania, Austria-Hungary. In 1925, by then part of Romania, it was renamed Aurel Vlaicu, and is now part of Geoagiu town. He attended a Calvinist high school in Orăștie (renamed Aurel Vlaicu High School in his honor in 1919) and took his baccalaureate in Sibiu in 1902. He was a high school colleague of Petru Groza, and in Sibiu became friends with Octavian Goga. Vlaicu furthered his studies at Technical University of Budapest and Technische Hochschule München in Germany, earning his engineer's diploma in 1907.[5]

Between 1907 and 1908 Vlaicu served in the Austro-Hungarian Navy, and on September 1, 1908, he took an engineer's position with the Opel car factory in Rüsselsheim.[6]

Aviation career[edit]

A Vlaicu I airplane at October 1910 military exercises
F.A.I. pilot license of Aurel Vlaicu
Giovanni Magnani, Aurel Vlaicu, Ion Ciulu (Vlaicu's mechanic) and a friend in front of A Vlaicu II airplane

Vlaicu left Opel in March 1909 and returned to Binţinţi, where, together with his brother, Ion, he built a glider which first flew in the summer of 1909.[7] In October 1909, on the advice of Octavian Goga, he moved to the Kingdom of Romania, where with help from Romanian-Transylvanian expatriates, he obtained financial support to build his first powered airplane, following a number of demonstration flights with rubber-powered models in front of Romanian government officials and journalists.[8]

On November 1, 1909, he began the construction of his first powered airplane, the A. Vlaicu Nr. I at the Army Arsenal in Bucharest with funding from the Romanian Ministry of War and on a 300 lei monthly stipend from the Minister of Public Education. A. Vlaicu Nr. I flew for the first time on June 17, 1910, over Cotroceni airfield.[9]

On September 28, 1910, as a part of the fall military exercises, Vlaicu flew his airplane from Slatina to Piatra Olt carrying a message, an early instance of an airplane being used for military purposes.[10]

The construction of A. Vlaicu Nr. II was started in December 1910 on a budget of 16,000 lei and first flew in April 1911. Between 23 and 30 June 1912 Vlaicu competed with it at the International Flight Week in Aspern-Vienna (Die internationale Flugwoche in Wien),[11] against 42 other aviators, including Roland Garros. Vlaicu won prizes totaling 7,500 Austro-Hungarian krone for precision landing, projectile throwing and tight flying around a pole. On this occasion, he was issued the FAI pilot license number 52. On return from Aspern he flew demonstration flights throughout Transylvania.[4]

A. Vlaicu Nr. III was a two-seat monoplane having a fully cowled 80 hp (60 kW) Gnome Gamma engine.[citation needed] Built on contract for the Marconi Company for experiments with aerial radio, at the time of Vlaicu's death it was only partially finished. It was completed by his friends and several short test flights were made during 1914 by military pilot Petre Macavei. Further tests were hindered by the unusual controls. In 1916, during the German occupation of Bucharest, the aircraft was seized and shipped to Germany, and it was last seen in 1942 at an aviation exhibition in Berlin by Romanian military officers, though no mention of it is made in references on the Berlin exhibition.[12][13]

Vlaicu airplanes design[edit]

Model of Vlaicu's 1909 wooden glider
A Vlaicu III airplane - view from above

During his short career, Aurel Vlaicu designed and built one glider[citation needed] and three airplanes of his own design.[14]

He perfected his design on rubber band powered models he began experimenting with while a student in Munich.[citation needed]

Vlaicu's three powered airplanes had one central aluminium tubing, the flight controls in front, two counter-rotating propellers, one mounted ahead of the nacelle, and the other to the rear of the wing up high, partially counteracting each other's torque. They employ tricycle-landing gears with independent trailing arm suspension, had brakes on the rear wheel, and were equipped with Gnome rotary engines.[citation needed]

His airplanes lacked ailerons, relying on just rudder and elevators for control, via a steering wheel mounted on a tiller. The wheel controlled the elevators while sideways motion of the tiller controlled the rudder. The wheel could be temporarily locked with the help of two dowels. The low center of gravity provided by the parasol wing allowed for the lateral stability that this type of control system requires.[citation needed]


Vlaicu in his coffin
Vlaicu's tombstone in Bellu Cemetery

Aurel Vlaicu died on September 13, 1913, near Câmpina, on the outskirts of Bănești commune crashing his now aged A. Vlaicu Nr. II while attempting to be the first to fly across the Carpathian Mountains. He was expected to participate in the ASTRA festivities in Orăștie, near Binţinţi.[citation needed]

He was buried on September 17, 1913, in Bellu Cemetery, in Bucharest. At his funeral he was awarded the Military Virtue Medal. In 1948, he was posthumously elected to the Romanian Academy.[15]

The cause of Vlaicu's crash remains unknown. Vlaicu's friends Giovanni Magnani and Constantin Silisteanu dismissed claims of sabotage, the two being among the first to inspect the wreckage as they were following him in an automobile. The most plausible cause of Vlaicu's death was that the airplane stalled while landing with the engine off (as it was common practice at the time, landings were made with the engine off, however this made it difficult for the pilot to abort a misjudged landing).[citation needed]


Aurel Vlaicu on the 50 lei bill
Erroneous commemorative mug

17 June, the day of Aurel Vlaicu's first powered flight, is celebrated as The National Aviation Day of Romania.[16]

His name is listed second on the Romanian Airmen Heroes Memorial in Bucharest, after Gheorghe Caranda and before his friend and fellow pilot, Gheorghe Negel, who died in an aircraft crash one month after Vlaicu, on October 11, 1913.[17]

A museum was established in his home village, now named Aurel Vlaicu.[18] and a monument was erected near Bănești where he crashed his plane.

The second largest airport in Romania, a TAROM Airbus A318-111[19] and the Aurel Vlaicu University, a public university founded in 1991 in Arad are all named after him.

The 50 Romanian lei banknote has a portrait of Vlaicu on the obverse, and on the reverse a drawing of one of his airplanes and a cross-section of the airplane's engine.

A commemorative 50 bani coin was issued by the Romanian National Bank in 2010.[20]

A Bucharest Metro train station, Aurel Vlaicu metro station is named in memory of him.

His life was the subject of the novels "Maistorasul Aurel, ucenicul lui Dumnezeu: Cronica vremii si vietii lui Vlaicu" by Victor Ion Popa (published in 1939)[21] and "Flăcăul din Binţinţi" by Constantin Ghiban (published in 1953),[22] and of a movie by Mircea Drăgan (released in 1978).[23]

In 2010 a museum in Deva ordered several hundreds mugs to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Vlaicu's first powered flight. The mug designers used a pictured uploaded to Wikipedia showing another Romanian aviation pioneer, Traian Vuia, which was wrongly labelled as Aurel Vlaicu (Wikipedia upload picture name Aurel Vlaicu avionul).[24][25] As of May 2018, the incorrect picture is still used on several websites.[26][27][28][29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gheorghiu, Constantin C. (1960). Aurel Vlaicu, Un precursor al aviatiei romanesti [Aurel Vlaicu, A precursor of Romanian Aviation] (in Romanian) (1st ed.).
  2. ^ Parlog, Nicu (19 July 2010). "Aurel Vlaicu – Icar deasupra Carpatilor". (in Romanian).
  3. ^ Ralph S. Cooper, D.V.M. "Aurel Vlaicu". Retrieved 2014-02-07.
  4. ^ a b Gheorghiu, 1960
  5. ^ Gheorghiu, 1960, p.21-27
  6. ^ "Aurel Vlaicu a lucrat pentru Opel – Documente oficiale (Aurel Vlaicu Worked for Opel)" (in Romanian). Archived from the original on 2015-01-10. Retrieved 2015-01-10.
  7. ^ Gheorghiu, 1960, p.33-47
  8. ^ Gheorghiu, 1960, p.47-55
  9. ^ "Aviation timeline 1910". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-01-10.
  10. ^ Gheorghiu, 1960, p.101
  11. ^ "Wiener Bilder, 30. Juni 1912". Retrieved 2015-01-10.
  12. ^ Steinle, 1985, pp.110-114
  13. ^ Gheorghiu, 1960, p.299
  14. ^ "Espacenet - Bibliographic data | Great Britain Patent GB191026658". Retrieved 2015-01-10.
  15. ^ "Membrii Academiei Romane - Membri post-mortem". Archived from the original on 2017-07-01. Retrieved 2015-01-10.
  16. ^ Taylor, 1989, p.33
  17. ^ "Names carved on the Romanian Air Heroes memorial" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-01-10.
  18. ^ "Casa natală "Aurel Vlaicu" din satul Aurel Vlaicu - Direcţia judeţeană pentru Cultură, Culte şi Patrimoniul Cultural Naţional Hunedoara (Aurel Vlaicu's Memorial House)". Archived from the original on 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2015-01-10.
  19. ^ "Photograph of TAROM Airbus A318 named after Aurel Vlaicu". 2 January 2010. Retrieved 2015-01-10.
  20. ^ Banca Naţională a României - Monede şi bancnote în circulaţie
  21. ^ Victor Ion Popa Maistorasul aurel, ucenicul lui dumnezeu : cronica vremii si vietii lui vlaicu; Fundatia pentru literatura si arta "Regele Carol 2", Bucuresti, 1939.
  22. ^ Constantin Ghiban (1953) "Flacăul din Binţinţi" Editura Militara a Ministerului Fortelor Armte ale R.P.R.
  23. ^ Aurel Vlaicu movie (1978) on YouTube
  24. ^ "Deva: Căni pe care scrie "Aurel Vlaicu" şi apare fotografia lui Traian Vuia, retrase de la vânzare - FOTO".
  25. ^ ""Alte roți, aceeași freză". Un muzeu din Deva a făcut căni comemorative Aurel Vlaicu, imprimate din greșeală cu Traian Vuia". 22 February 2013.
  26. ^ "Aurel Vlaicu – Icar deasupra Carpatilor". 18 July 2010.
  27. ^ "Librarie online - Carti, eBooks, Jocuri, Muzica, Filme". Archived from the original on 2018-07-06. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  28. ^ "EPMagazine: Aurel Vlaicu Icarus above the Carpathians".
  29. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Aurel Vlaicu". YouTube.


  • Gheorghiu, Constantin C. (1960). Aurel Vlaicu, un precursor al aviaţiei româneşti. Bucharest: Editura Tehnică. [1]
  • Hundertmark, Michael; Steinle, Holger (1985). Phoenix aus der Asche - Die Deutsche Luftfahrt Sammlung Berlin. Berlin: Silberstreif Verlag. ISBN 978-3924091026.
  • Taylor, Michael J.H. (1989). The Aerospace Chronology. London, UK: Tri-Service Press. ISBN 978-1854880031.

External links[edit]