Aero - továrna létadel (Aero - the aircraft factory) in Prague, has its roots in the period immediately following the creation of the independent Czechoslovak Republic in 1918. On January 11, 1919, a preliminary agreement establishing the new limited liability company was signed. The date of registration with the Companies Court - February 25, 1919 - can be considered as the founding date.
The new company, which focused on production of aircraft, aircraft parts and aircraft repairs, was soon followed by two other companies - the state owned Letov and the private Avia. However, Aero was the strongest of the three for a long time considering the size of workforce as well as the production output.
After repairs of a number of imported aircraft types started, a prototype of the first in-house type (Aero A-1) was built in the Brandenburg shape. An order from the Ministry of Defense for series production of this test-proven military prototype soon followed. The new introductory type was designed for pilot training - a typical product of much more distant future!
- 1919 Aero - továrna létadel (Aero – Aircraft Factory) founded in Prague
- 1919 A-1, first in-house designed military training aircraft
- 1921 A-10, first in-house designed civil airliner
More powerful training aircraft types followed, and after production had been moved to new facilities in the Prague district of Vysočany, the basis for a new family of reconnaissance, bomber and training biplanes was laid down by the Aero A-11 and A-12. Military pilots soon became famous for braking records and winning races in Aero aircraft. Aero, at that time a private enterprise owned by Dr. Vladimir Kabeš, became the main contractor for the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Public Works (civil aviation).
First foreign customers soon followed the suit, starting with Finland. Between the two world wars, Aero achieved a number of Czechoslovak firsts: the company built a prototype of the first indigenous fighter airplane, designed the first dedicated cabin transport aircraft, the first twin-engine aircraft, the first seaplane with indigenously designed floats, introduced a braced high-wing monoplane and also pioneered a practical design of a wooden cantilever wing structure. An important milestone was the first practical application of a flapped wing (in combination with automatic slat and roll control augmented by spoilers) in mid 1930s, and the use of retractable undercarriage on refined streamlined aircraft and hydraulically operated flaps before the World War II.
Significant manufacturing and technology advancements in all-metal structures came with the commencement of licensed manufacturing of the French Marcel Bloch and Soviet SB-2 twin-engine bombers in the second half of 1930s.
- 1923 A-11 family of successful military biplanes (bomber and reconnaissance)
- 1925 De Havilland DH-50 airliner produced under British license
- 1929 A-34 "Blackbird", first of sport and training light biplanes family
- 1932 A-100 family, military biplane (bomber and reconnaissance)
- 1937 MB-200 all-metal bomber produced under French license (Marcel Bloch)
- 1938 A-304 twin-engine low wing military aircraft
- 1938 A-300 twin-engine low wing bomber
The enhanced capabilities of the company were fully utilized and later developed during the German occupation, when Aero produced stressed-skin semi-monocoque structures with full jigging for reconnaissance and training missions (Focke-Wulf Fw 189 and Siebel Si 204).
- 1939 C4/C-104 (Bucker Bu-131 Jungmann) training and aerobatic biplane
- 1943 C-3 (Siebel Si-204D) twin-engine military aircraft
Prelude to Future
Immediately after the war ended, the nationalized Aero continued in the production and repairs of aircraft. Modified German aircraft types were manufactured for the Czechoslovak Air Force as well as civil aviation. Shortly after the war, a new remarkable indigenous type had been introduced - the high-performance, twin-engine, all-metal Aero 45 four-seater.
- 1947 Ae-45 twin-engine civil aircraft
In 1953, new facilities designed entirely for jet aircraft production were built in Vodochody and started operation in the same year. The production, in which several Czechoslovak aviation plants were involved, focused on a large-scale series production of MiG-15 aircraft built under a license and its derivatives. The supersonic MiG-19 and MiG-21 aircraft were manufactured by Aero through the 1960s and 1970s, paving the way in production capabilities to indigenous jet trainer programs - the L-29 Delfin and the L-39 Albatros.
- 1953 Aero moved from Prague to new facilities in Vodochody
- 1954 Maiden flight of first MiG-15 jet fighter built under Soviet license (3,405 aircraft delivered 1954-1962)
- 1958 Maiden flight of MiG-19 Farmer supersonic fighter built by Aero under Soviet license (103 aircraft delivered 1958-1962)
Indigenous Jet Trainers
In the second half of the 1950s, the need for jet trainer aircraft became more and more urgent. Concentrated efforts in developing an optimized airframe and indigenous jet engine within the Czechoslovak aircraft industry resulted in the maiden flight of the L-29 in 1959.
The definitive step on Aero's way to mass production of jet trainers took place in Summer 1961 near Moscow: the L-29 Delfin won comparative testing of three different prototypes and was declared the most suitable trainer in Eastern Bloc countries. Production and deliveries continued smoothly for the ten following years, after which the second generation, a more powerful and more efficient L-39 had been developed. Production of the L-39 occupied Aero's workshops and assembly halls during 1970s and 1980s. A number of air forces around the world still utilize the excellent tutoring quality of this affordable airplane. The L-39 Albatros family expanded considerably in the course of time, forming a perfect basis for further development.
- 1959 Maiden flight of L-29 Delfin (Dolphin), first in-house designed jet trainer (3,500 aircraft delivered 1963-1974)
- 1962 Maiden flight of MiG-21 Fishbed supersonic fighter built by Aero under Soviet license (194 aircraft delivered 1962-1972)
- 1968 Maiden flight of L-39 Albatros in-house designed jet trainer (more than 2,900 aircraft delivered 1971-1999)
Modern Combat and Training System
The advent of 1990s brought incorporation of Western avionics and standards as well as the use of more powerful American engines and global equipment, and with it a start of a new chapter in the life of the company.
The L-59 Super Albatros combines design characteristics and experience of the L-39 Albatros family with a new powerful engine, advanced avionics (including head-up display), improved airframe and other systems. The first flight of the L-59 was carried out in 1986 and produced in a number of 80 units.
The L-159 Combat & Training System includes the L-159 advanced training and light combat aircraft, integrated logistic support, mission planning and debriefing and ground based training system.
- 1986 Maiden flight of L-39MS in-house jet trainer, for export designated L-59 Super Albatros (60 aircraft delivered 1992-1996)
- 1997 Maiden flight of L-159 advanced light combat aircraft (72 aircraft delivered to Czech Air Force)
In the 1990s, Aero commenced works on the multi-purpose aircraft type L270, which was intended to replace the Antonov An-2 forming the base of the fleet of utility aircraft of the countries of former Eastern block.
Further development of the project was however limited and conditioned by workload of the employees of technical section and insufficiency of financial means allocated for this project.
In the second half of 1990s, Aero started to seek a partner for further continuation of the L270 project. This search was successfully crowned in the year 1997 by establishing the Ibis Aerospace Limited (IBIS) joint venture and by signature of the joint venture contract with the company Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) from Taiwan, both parties participating with 50%. The L270 aircraft was renamed the Ae 270.
Successful maiden flight of the aircraft was performed in summer 2000. In the year 2005, the Ae 270 achieved the EASA Type Certificate and in 2006 the Type Certificate from the FAA.
- 1997 Joint Venture established between Aero and AIDC Taiwan for the Ae 270 aircraft development and production
- 2000 First production L-159 delivered to Czech Air Force
- 2000 Maiden flight of Ae 270 civil utility aircraft
New Cooperation Programs
Since 2000, Aero started cooperation with several world aircraft manufacturers as a Tier 1 or Tier 2 supplier. Already in 2000, the company got involved in production of Sikorski S-76 helicopter - Aero produces fully assembled and equipped helicopter airframes ready for installation of dynamic parts. Since then, Aero gained several contracts for production of various assemblies and sub-assemblies. In 2007, central european investment group Penta became the sole shareholder of Aero.
- 2000 Production of S-76 helicopter for Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation launched
- 2000 Production of Boeing 757 passenger door polished skins launched
- 2001 Production of F/A-18 gun bay door for Boeing St. Louis launched
- 2001 Production of Boeing 767 fixed leading edges kits started for BAE SYSTEMS (today Spirit AeroSystems)
- 2002 Maiden flight of L-159B advanced trainer
- 2004 Delivery of L-159 aircraft to Czech Air Force completed
- 2004 Boeing ceased to be strategic partner of Aero
- 2005 Ae 270 achieved EASA Type Certificate
- 2005 Aero signed a long-term agreement on Czech Air Force L-159 fleet follow-on support
- 2006 Ae 270 achieved FAA Type Certificate
- 2007 Private equity group Penta became a sole shareholder of Aero
- 2007 Advanced light combat aircraft L-159T1 delivered to Czech Air Force
- 2007 Production of centre-wing box for C-27J Spartan for Alenia Aeronautica launched
- 2008 Production of Embraer 170/190 door subassemblies for Latecoere launched
- 2008 Signed contract for delivery of JAS-39 Gripen pylons for Saab
Risk-sharing partnership with global OEMs
The combination of historical experience and focus on the design led to signing very important risk-sharing contracts.
In 2009, Aero has signed its historically first international risk-sharing project with Belgian company SONACA to design, develop and produce fixed leading edge of new and innovative Bombardier CSeries aircraft.
Two years later, during LAAD in Rio de Janeiro, Aero could announce another major succes - it has signed a contract with Embraer, world 3rd biggest aircraft manufacturer. Aero and Embraer became partners in design, development and production of new multipurpose military transport aircraft KC-390.
Aero is responsible for developing and production of fixed leading edge and for production of all cabin doors, cargo ramp and rear fuselage. This means Aero takes a part on a great part of this aircraft. Thanks to these two contracts, Aero entered the first class in aviation.
- 2009 Contract with SONACA for design and production of FLE for CSeries signed
- 2010 Aero signed contract for manufacturing UH-60M Black Hawk cockpits for Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation
- 2011 Start of partnership of Aero and Embraer in design, development and production of new multipurpose military transport aircraft KC-390
- 2011 The first cockpit of UH-60M Black Hawk delivered to Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.
- 2011 Contract with Messier-Bugatti-Dowty extended of main landidng gears for Airbus A320
- 2012 New composite shop of 5400 m2 opened
- 2012 Aero signed contract for delivery of cockpits for Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk to PZL Mielec and started the production already the same year
- 2013 New contract with Alenia Aermacchi for production of fuselage panels for Airbus A321
Relaunch of production of proprietary aircraft
In 2014, Aero decided to launch development of a new jet trainer. The new aircraft builds on a tradition of the most successfull training jet aircraft in the world, L-39 Albatros, so the new project was named L-39NG.
Besides design and development of the brand new aircraft, Aero started integration of Williams engine to the airframe of existing L-39 aircraft. That can allow current operators of L-39s to extend service life of their aircraft. The integration went smoothly and already in September 2015, demonstrator of reengined L-39 successfully performed its maiden flight.
In 2014, Aero also signed two contracts for deliveries of L-159 aircraft to US company Draken International, provider of military training, and to Iraqi air force. As a part of contract with Iraq, Aero restored production of L-159 aircraft and also restarted marketing of the aircraft.
- 2014 Aero announced start of development of L-39NG
- 2014 Aero signed contract with Draken International for delivery of L-159 aircraft
- 2014 Aero signed contract with Ministry of Defence of Iraq for delivery of L-159s
- 2014 Aero started development of landing gear for Tecnam P2012 aircraft
- 2015 Demonstrator of reengined L-39 performed first flight
- 2015 Aero started deliveries of L-159 to Iraq and to Draken International
- 2016 Aero launched production of composite parts and small assemblies for Airbus A400M and A350 for MT Aerospace
- 2016 Contract for design and production of frame shell structures for P2F conversion for ST Aerospace