Aurel Vlaicu was born in the village of Binţinţi (now Aurel Vlaicu) near Geoagiu, Transylvania. He attended Calvinist High School in Orăştie (renamed "Liceul Aurel Vlaicu" in his honour in 1919) and took his Baccalaureate in Sibiu in 1902. He furthered his studies at Technical University of Budapest and Technische Hochschule München in Germany, earning his engineer's diploma in 1907.
After working at Opel car factory in Rüsselsheim, he returned to Binţinţi and built a glider he flew in the summer of 1909. Later that year he moved to Bucharest in the Kingdom of Romania, where he began the construction of Vlaicu Nr. I airplane that flew for the first time on June 17, 1910 over Cotroceni airfield.
With his Vlaicu Nr. II, built in 1911, Vlaicu won several prizes summing 7,500 Austro-Hungarian krone (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.
Aurel Vlaicu died on September 13, 1913 near Câmpina while attempting to be the first to cross in flight the Carpathian Mountains in Vlaicu II. He was expected to participate in the ASTRA (Asociaţia Transilvană pentru Literatura Română şi Cultura Poporului Român) festivities in Orastie, near Binţinţi. His body was buried five days later in Bellu cemetery, in Bucharest.
During his short career, Vlaicu built three original, arrow-shaped airplanes. All his planes had flight controls in front, two coaxial propellers, NACA-like ring around the engine, and tricycle-landing gear with independent suspension and brakes.
At the time of his death, a two-seated monoplane Vlaicu Nr. III, contracted by Marconi Company for experiments with aerial wireless radio, was only partially built. After Vlaicu’s death, the plane was completed by his friends Giovanni Magnani and Constantin Silişteanu, and several short experimental flights were made during 1914. Further tests were hindered by the unusual controls of the aeroplane which no other pilot was familiar with. In 1916, during the German occupation of Bucharest, Vlaicu III was seized and shipped to Germany. The airplane was last seen in a 1942 aviation exhibition in Berlin.
Vlaicu was posthumously elected to the Romanian Academy in 1948.
The second largest airport in Romania Aurel Vlaicu International Airport, and a YR-ASA registered TAROM Airbus A318-111 are named for him. A museum was established in his home village. 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 its Gnome rotary engine.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Aurel Vlaicu|
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