Romania boasts an over 100 year-long tradition in producing aircraft and steps have recently been taken to revitalise the line industry
Romania boasts an over 100 year-long tradition in producing aircraft. Even before WWI, Romanian engineer Aurel Vlaicu had created several prototypes of early flying machines. He managed to come to prominence at a top international contest in Aspern, Austria, where he competed alongside the then leader of French aviation, the world-famous Roland Garros.
It was also before WWI that another pioneer of aviation, Romanian Henri Coanda had built the first aircraft without propellers. The type of aircraft created by Coanda then inspired the creators of jet technology, which is still in use.
In 1925, the first Romanian aircraft manufacturer was set up in Brasov, central Romania. It was called “Industria Aeronautică Română” (The Romanian Aeronautics Industry”, IAR in brief, which was also known as “Întreprinderea Aeronautică Română” (The Romanian Aeronautics Enterprise”). The first serial of aircraft was completed in 1928, based on some French patents.
The first aircraft bearing the name of IAR left the factory in 1930. It was the prototype of a fighter, after the model designed by Romanian engineer Elie Carafoli jointly with the French engineer Lucien Virnoux. The adopted manufacturing formula as well as its flying qualities placed it among the best aircraft in the world, in the respective category, at that time.
Then, the new models went into series production. The factory in Brasov became one of the most appreciated such manufacturers in Europe. The industrial enterprise in Brasov came to a close at the end of WWII and the factory was turned into a tractor manufacturer.
It was in the 1960’s that the authorities decided to resume the production of aircraft in the area of Brasov, more precisely in the town of Ghimbav, but on a smaller scale.
After the 1990’s, the factory in Ghimbav produced IAR 330 Puma and IAR 316B Alouette helicopters, under the French licence of “Sud Aviation”, a company which later became “Aerospatiale”, then “Eurocopter” and now “Airbus Helicopters”. The factory near Brasov later ceased to produce aircraft, focusing its activity on military helicopter maintenance and upgrading. The Ghimbav platform has however remained a significant landmark of the European aeronautics industry, with major players on the world market showing great interest in the production capacities there.
A high level French-Romanian delegation has recently visited the Ghimbav platform and considered, among others, revitalising and boosting cooperation with the Airbus European company.
Following a recent visit to the area, the French ambassador to Romania, Michelle Ramis, has said: “This platform, which is the result of 46 years of cooperation between Airbus and Romania, proves that we can build together strong industrial capabilities, which can stand out in the world, because we see that helicopters belonging to many armies in the world come here for reconfiguration and upgrading”.
In the military field, the Romanian authorities seem to have had a penchant for purchasing military equipment from or by the intermediary of American companies, a fact that some European managers are rather discontented with.
Following its commitments to NATO, Romania has pledged to spend 2% of the GDP on defence every year. A large amount of this sum of money is earmarked for the modernisation of the Army. The line authorities say however that the upgrading of military capabilities will not be based only on imports of military equipment but also on the domestic production.
During his visit to the Ghimbav platform, the Speaker of the Romanian Senate, Călin Popescu Tăriceanu, said: “I would very much like to be successful in our endeavour to revitalise the Romanian industry… We have extraordinary facilities and I believe that the Romanian Army cannot but take into consideration these industrial capabilities which can provide the Army with the equipment it needs to successfully accomplish its missions as efficiently as possible.”