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Igo went to school at Leipzig, where he came in contact with the works of Otto Lilienthal. His main interest was in aviation, the problems of bird flight. With his father, a factory-owner, he built a laboratory for developing aeroplanes. After the death of Lilienthal his father acquired some advanced gliders. After reading the books of Prof. Ahlborn about flying seeds, in 1903 he developed his first gliders (called Zanonia) inspired by the flying seed of Zanonia macrocarpa. He worked together with Franz Xaver Wels and Karl Illner, two men who would become very important for future development and flying. In 1906 Karl Illner was the first Austrian to fly an Austrian-built glider.
The next stop of Igo Etrich was Vienna, where he had his second laboratory in the Wiener Prater at the Rotunde. In 1907 he built his Etrich I, the Praterspatz (Prater park Sparrow ) there. Due to the low power (24 hp) of the motor and the limited space for flying, the aircraft was unsuccessful.
In 1909 the first airfield of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was founded in Wiener Neustadt. Etrich rented two hangars (or aircraft-sheds, as they were called then) and continued to develop his design, the Taube (Dove). Meanwhile his co-developer Franz Xaver Wels visited Paris to study the aircraft of the Wright Brothers and split with Etrich over the question of whether to build a monoplane or a biplane.
In 1910 his Etrich II, or Etrich Taube made its maiden flight. In an early flight, Etrich nearly broke his back when his Taube crashed. From then on, Karl Illner made all of Etrich's test flights. Etrich continued to refine the Taube so as to meet the specifications of the military, which included the requirement that an aircraft had to be able to land on a freshly plowed field.
Later he moved to Germany, founding Brandenburgische Flugzeugwerke which would later become Hansa-Brandenburg after he sold it to Camillo Castiglioni in 1914. From Liebau he took his chief designer with him - Ernst Heinkel.
Another aircraft designer, Edmund Rumpler, modified the design of the Taube slightly, claimed to be the developer and refused to pay licensing fees to Etrich. With the advent of World War I, Etrich made the design for his Taube freely available and dropped his lawsuit.
After World War I, Etrich moved to the newly founded Czechoslovakia, and built the Sport-Taube. It was claimed to be faster with its 40 hp engine than the Czechoslovak military planes of the time. The authorities claimed he built the plane for smuggling and impounded his plane. The Etrich Limousine, a closed-cockpit monoplane, and the Wells/Etrich Zanonia glider are exhibited in the National Technical Museum in Prague.
The Etrich II can be seen at the "Technisches Museum" in Vienna, Austria. The Sport-Taube can be seen at the "Technischen Museum Prague" .
Igo Etrich has recently been selected as a main motif for a euro collectors' coin, the Austrian Aviation commemorative coin, minted on February 28, 2007. This reverse side of the coin shows the “Etrich-Taube” as well as the “Zanonia” glider and a waving Igo Etrich sitting in the open cockpit of a plane.
- Igo Etrich: "Die Taube - Memoiren eines Luftfahrt Pioniers"