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HISTORY OF ROMANIAN AVIATION AND SPACE INDUSTRY

 

Pioneers

The first Romanian pioneer of aviation was inventor Traian Vuia, who designed, built and tested a tractor configuration monoplane, in 1906, was the first to demonstrate that a flying machine could rise into the air by running upon wheels on an ordinary road.

On the space conquest side, Hermann Oberth, Romanian born and educated scientist, independently arrived at the concept of the multistage rocket and significantly contributed to the early development of rocketry and space flight. One of his students at the Reich Institution of Chemical Technology, in Germany, Wernher von Braun, later became the instrumental in the development of NASA’s space program during the Space Race.

The official beginning of Romanian aviation, is in 1910, when engineer and inventor Aurel Vlaicu achieved the first flight in Romanian aviation history using a powered airplane totally designed and constructed by him

A Vlaicu I airplane

Later on, Henri Coandă, Romanian inventor, aerodynamics pioneer and discoverer of the Coandă effect in fluid dynamics, built and flew an experimental aircraft, the Coandă-1910, as the world’s first jet

Coanda-1910

The Romanian aviation developed strongly especially between 1920 and 1940, following the continuous world progress in this field. Influenced by the political and economic environment, Romania strengthened its defense industry during this period. On the 25-th of June 1925, King Ferdinand promulgated the “Law on industrial enterprises related to the national defense”, which stipulated in art. 1, clause 2, “the setting up of the Romanian Aeronautical Industry” with a view to “aircraft manufacturing”. This is the official birth certificate of the Romanian Aeronautical Industry.

   

World War II

The period between the two World Wars was characterized by the development of the  production of aircraft and engines manufactured domestically, under license or to their own design by domestic defense companies,

One of the best known and appreciated aircraft was the IAR-80 fighter, of full metal construction, with successful aerodynamics and fitted with retractable landing gear, variable pitch propeller, flaps with hydraulic actuation, and cockpit with oxygen installation for high altitude flying. Both the aircraft and its engine were fully designed and manufactured in Romania, ranking the 4-th among the fighter aircraft around the world at that time.

IAR-80 fighter

 

Post war period

Destroyed partially at the end of World War II, or directed towards other fields of activity, the Romanian Aeronautical Industry started its difficult recovery after 1949, by providing aircraft maintenance and repair.

The real development of the aeronautical industry, including R&D, started after 1968. From 1968 to 1989, major R&D and manufacturing programs were initiated for aircraft, engines and aeronautical equipment and huge investments were made in order to set up new facilities or develop the existing ones in Bucharest, Brasov, Bacau and Craiova, based on western licenses. At that time eight enterprises and two research institutes were operating, coordinated by a state-owned holding – the National Centre of the Romanian Aeronautical Industry – and staffed with about 35,000 employees, of which 2,500 were working in research institutes.

According to the strategy of the time, the following were initiated:

  • fighter aircraft programs for military aviation, such as IAR-93 manufactured in co-operation with the former Yugoslavia (ceased after 1989);
  • the IAR-99 trainer aircraft program, designed domestically, meant for military aviation (the manufacturing of the upgraded IAR-99 SOIM continues currently);
  • the engine programs for IAR-93 and IAR-99, under Rolls Royce license;
  • the civil and fighter helicopter programs (IAR-316 Allouette and IAR-330 PUMA), manufactured under Eurocopter license (for the PUMA helicopter, licenses were acquired both for the platform and for the engine and mechanic assemblies);
  • the BN-2 light transport aircraft program, manufactured according to Britten-Norman project;
  • the BAC 1-11 regional airliner, under BAE license both for the platform and for the engines;
  • the IAK-52 light trainer aircraft program, under Russian license;
  • the agricultural aircraft program, designed domestically;
  • the gliders and motorgliders program designed domestically;
  • the programs for airborne instruments and avionics, ejection seats, hydraulic and pneumatic components, and cast and forged parts for aircraft and engines;
  • the IAR-93, IAR-99, IAR-330 flight simulators program

IAR 93 Hawk

During that period, the Romanian Aeronautical Industry manufactured about 80 types of aircraft, 30 types of gliders and motorgliders and 3 types of helicopters, in all about 3,200 aircraft and 2,000 engines and aircraft mechanical assemblies

  

Re-organisation

After 1989, the former state enterprises became commercial companies mainly state-owned at first, but with most of them being privatized in the meantime. Taking into consideration that both the domestic and the foreign orders for aeronautical products and services decreased dramatically and that certain programs were stopped or reconsidered, the companies in this field resized their personnel number; at present they employ about 7,000 qualified people fully skilled for aircraft research, design and development, aircraft manufacturing, general assembling, integration of modern avionics and systems, maintenance, overhaul and repair works, upgrade programs, flight test and certification, customer support.

Starting with 1996, new programs (including modernization programs) for services equipment with modern armament systems were initiated, of which the most important are:

  • the upgrade of the MiG-21 LANCER aircraft
  • the upgrade of the IAR-330 PUMA helicopter with the SOCAT system
  • the conversion of the IAR-330 PUMA helicopter into a naval helicopter
  • the modernization of the PUMA helicopter
  • the friend-or-foe identification system, IFF
  • the production and upgrade of the IAR-99 SOIM  advanced trainer aircraft
  • the maintenance of helicopters, of their engines and mechanical assemblies
  • the aircraft and aircraft engines maintenance
  • the manufacturing of aircraft and engine components

IAR 330 PUMA Socat

Present days

At present, the Romanian Aeronautical Industry consists of companies whose main mission is to accomplish the ongoing restructuring process in order to draw out the value of the entire existing potential – human, technical, technological, and know-how. The achievement of the restructuring process, together with the advantages offered by Romania’s NATO membership will allow the integration of the Romanian Aeronautical Industry into the globalised structures of the world aerospace industry and facilitate the domestic aeronautical companies access to external markets. At the same time, the focus on the issues dealing with the defense against terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass-destruction and border control also involves the use of the aeronautical industry capacities as potential bases for the maintenance of the NATO member countries aviation technique.

   

Structure

  • Aeronautical industry
    • Major a/c and helicopter companies: AEROSTAR, ROMAERO, Avioane Craiova, IAR Brasov, Airbus Helicopters;
    • Aeroengines: Small/Medium engines components and Repair & Overhaul
  • Research organizations:
    • State-owned national research establishments (COMOTI, INCAS)
    • Private research companies (INAS, STRAERO)
    • Agencies and NGOs (IAROM, ROSA, OPIAR)
  • Universities/Academia
    • University Politehnica Bucharest (Aerospace Engineering Dep.)
    • Romanian Academy – Institute for Applied Math.
    • „Henri Coanda” Air Force Academy.
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