Traian Vuia

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Traian Vuia
Traian Vuia portrait.png
Born (1872-08-17)August 17, 1872
Surducul-Mic, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Traian Vuia, Romania)
Died September 3, 1950(1950-09-03) (aged 78)
Bucharest, Romania
Nationality Romanian
Occupation Inventor
Known for Early flying machine

Traian Vuia or Trajan Vuia (Romanian pronunciation: [traˈjan ˈvuja]; August 17, 1872 – September 3, 1950) was a Romanian inventor and aviation pioneer who designed, built and tested a tractor configuration monoplane. He said his first airborne test traveled about 11 metres (36 feet) on March 18, 1906.[1] Though unsuccessful in sustained flight, Vuia's invention influenced Louis Blériot in designing monoplanes.[2] Later, Vuia also designed helicopters.

A French citizen since 1918, Vuia was also a great patriot, leading the Romanians (especially Transylvanians) of France in the resistance during World War I and World War II.[3] He returned to Romania in 1950.

Education and early career[edit]

Vuia was born to Romanian parents Simion Popescu and Ana Vuia living in Surducul-Mic, a village in the Banat region, Austro-Hungarian Empire, today in Romania; the place is now called Traian Vuia. After graduating from high school in Lugoj, in 1892, he enrolled in the School of Mechanics at the Polytechnic University of Budapest where he received his engineering diploma. He then joined the Faculty of Law in Budapest, Hungary, where he earned a Ph.D. in law in May 1901 with the thesis "Military and Industry, State and Contract regime".[4]

He returned to Lugoj, where he studied the problem of human flight and designed his first flying machine, which he called the "airplane-car". He attempted to build the machine, but due to financial constraints decided to go to Paris in July 1902, hoping to find someone interested in financing his project, possibly balloon enthusiasts. He met with considerable skepticism from people who believed that a heavier-than-air machine could not fly. He then visited Victor Tatin, a well-known theoretician and experimenter who had built an aircraft model which flew in 1879.

Tatin was interested in the project, but doubted that Vuia had a suitable engine or that his aircraft would be stable. Vuia then presented his plan to the Académie des Sciences in Paris on February 16, 1903, but was rejected with the comment: "The problem of flight with a machine which weighs more than air can not be solved and it is only a dream."[5]

Undeterred, Vuia applied for a French patent on May 15, 1903, and obtained the patent No. 332106 for his flying machine.[6][3] He began to build his first flying machine in the winter of 1902–3. Overcoming more financial difficulties, he also started construction of an engine of his own design for which he was granted different patents, starting with 1904.[3][7]

Flying experiments[edit]

Traian Vuia in his Vuia I flying machine in 1906

By December 1905 Vuia had finished construction of his first airplane, the "Traian Vuia I" a high-wing monoplane powered by a carbonic acid gas engine.[8] The frame was steelwork by Hockenjos and Schmitt and the wings were pivoted to control ascent and descent. The 25 hp engine had to be adapted by Vuia himself as the engine he wanted was not available.[9] The liquid carbon dioxide was vaporized in a Serpollet boiler; the fuel supply gave a running duration of about three minutes. Vuia chose a site in Montesson, near Paris, for testing. At first he used the machine without the wings mounted so he could gather experience controlling it on the ground. The wings were put on in March and on March 18, 1906, it lifted off briefly. After accelerating for about 50 m (160 ft), the plane left the ground and flew at about 1 m (3 ft 3 in) high for a distance of about 12 m (39 ft) but then the engine cut out and it came down. Caught by the wind it was damaged against a tree.[10][11] The British aviation historian Charles Harvard Gibbs-Smith described this aircraft as "the first man-carrying monoplane of basically modern configuration", yet "unsuccessful" because it was incapable of sustained flight.[12]

The French journal L'Aérophile emphasized that Vuia's machine had the capability to take off from a flat surface only by on-board means without outside assistance, such as an incline, rails, or catapult.[13] At the time Europe was aware but skeptical of the efforts of the Wright brothers who on December 17, 1903, had flown their Wright Flyer from level ground using a rail only to guide the wheeled truck that their Flyer rested on until take off was achieved. The Wrights had made sustained and controlled flights in a complete circuit by September 1904.[14]

The main characteristics of Vuia's first airplane:[15]

  • Span : 8.70 m (28.7 ft)
  • Length : 5.65 m (18.6 ft)
  • Height : 2.90 m (9.5 ft)
  • Lifting surface : 20 sq.m (217 sq.ft)
  • Engine (using carbonic acid as fuel) : 20 HP at 450 rpm
  • Thrust at fixed point : 45 kgf (99.2 lbf)
  • Total weight : 195kg (430 lb) + Vuia’s 56kg (124 lb) = 251kg (554 lb)
A postcard of Vuia and his 1907 airplane Vuia II

After his March 1906 takeoff, Vuia made several more powered short flights later that year and in 1907.[5] In August 1906 he built a modified version of his flying machine, the "Vuia I bis." None of these were successful in achieving sustained flight, so Vuia abandoned them.[16]

In 1907, Vuia built his "Vuia II" airplane, with an Antoinette 25 horsepower (19 kilowatts) internal combustion engine, which was later exhibited at the first Aeronautical Salon in Paris.[4]

Charles Dollfus, former curator of the Air Museum in Paris, wrote that aviation pioneer Alberto Santos Dumont's use of wheels on his aircraft was influenced by Dumont's having seen Vuia's flight attempts.[11]


Vuia made his first flight on March 18, 1906, in the presence of his mechanic and two close friends. Accounts of this test, published at the time, and of his later airborne tests, till August 19, 1906, are based on letters he wrote to L’Aérophile, the official journal of the Aéro Club of France.[9] Vuia performed the first known public demonstration of his airplane on October 8, 1906 when he made four-meter flight in front of two French officials.[17] Another journal of the period, Flight, credited him with a five meters flight on October 8, 1906, as the earliest entry in a list of his tests shown in a table of "the performances which have been made by the most prominent aviators of the last few years".[18]

Later career[edit]

Vuia helicopter 1918

Between 1918 and 1921 Vuia built two experimental helicopters on the Juvisy and Issy-les-Moulineaux aerodromes.[19][11]

He is buried at the Bellu cemetery in Bucharest, Romania.[20]


Another invention by Vuia was a steam generator with internal combustion that generates very high pressure – more than 100 atm (10 MPa) – that is still used today in thermal power stations. Traian Vuia and one of his partners, Emmanuel Yvonneau, patented several types of gas generators.[4][21]

On May 27, 1946, Vuia was named an Honorary Member of the Romanian Academy.[22]

Timişoara International Airport Traian Vuia (TSR), Romania's third largest airport, carries his name.


See also[edit]



  1. ^ Mola, Roger A (August 2009), "The Birthplaces of Aviation. It didn't all happen at Kitty Hawk", Air & Space Magazine  .
  2. ^ Gibbs-Smith, Charles Harvard (1965). The world's first aeroplane flights (1903–1908) and earlier attempts to fly. Her Majesty's Stationery Office. p. 31. 
  3. ^ a b c Traian Vuia - a Century of Aviation
  4. ^ a b c "Traia Vuia History", Early Aviators, retrieved October 14, 2010 .
  5. ^ a b "Traian Vuia". Hargrave: The Pioneers. Centre for Telecommunications and Information Engineering, Monash University. Retrieved June 29, 2010. 
  6. ^ Aéroplane automobile (French Patent), Espace net, FR332106 .
  7. ^ Romanian Aviation Pioneers
  8. ^ "Ten Years Ago", Flight (excerpts from the Auto, Flight’s precursor and sister journal) (Flightglobal), 19 October 1916: 908 .
  9. ^ a b Orna 1956, p. 365.
  10. ^ Orna 1956, p. 366.
  11. ^ a b c Hadirca, Dan. "Traian Vuia". Century of Aviation. Romanian Academy Library. Retrieved March 18, 2012. 
  12. ^ Gibbs-Smith, Charles Harvard (3 April 1959). "Hops and Flights" Flight. p. 469
  13. ^ "L'Aéroplane sur Roues de M. Vuia" [Mr Vuia’s aircraft on wheels], L'Aérophile (in French) 14, February 1906: 53–54 .
  14. ^ Gibbs-Smith 1970, pp. 100–2.
  15. ^ Trajan Vuia – the Romanian inventor who first flew a powered airplane in 1906 at
  16. ^ Gibbs-Smith 1970, p. 144.
  17. ^ "L'Aéroplane Vuia" [The Vuia aircraft], L'Aérophile (in French) 14, October 1906: 242–43 
  18. ^ "Progress of Mechanical Flight", Flight, 2 January 1909: 12 
  19. ^ Patent (PDF), US: Google, 1423636 .
  20. ^ Catillon, Marcel (1997). Mémorial aéronautique: qui était qui? [Aeronautical memorial: who was who?] (in French). Nouvelles Editions Latines. p. 160. ISBN 2-7233-0529-5. 
  21. ^ Steam generator patent
  22. ^ Member list, Romanian Academy .


External links[edit]