Aero Vodochody celebrates 100 years
The history of Aero started on the 25th of February 1919, just months after the foundation of independent Czechoslovakia. During its ten decades, Aero has produced around 11 thousand aircraft. Most of them have two things in common – they were military and dedicated to training. Those characteristics are relevant also to the new L-39NG, which made its first flight in December 2018.
From the very beginning, Aero focused on the development and production of aircraft and aircraft parts, as well as aircraft repairs. Already in 1919, Aero launched its first in-house produced aircraft, the Aero A-1. Soon, the Ministry of Defence ordered mass production of the aircraft, designed for military pilot training.
During 1920’s and 1930’s, the company expanded both in production and in product scale. Starting from a family of reconnaissance, bomber and training biplanes A-11 and A-12, followed by advanced bombers and trainers, civil transport aircraft used among others by the freshly founded Czechoslovak State Airlines, to several types of aircraft produced under foreign license. Czechoslovak military pilots soon became famous for breaking records and winning races in aircraft made in Aero.
The enhanced capabilities of the company were fully utilised and later developed during the German occupation, when Aero produced Focke-Wulf Fw 189 and Siebel Si 204 for the Luftwaffe. Immediately after the war ended, the nationalised Aero continued in the production and repairs of aircraft and manufactured modified German aircraft types 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.
In 1953, jet age started for Aero. The company moved to Vodochody, north of Prague, where it built the plant designed for serial production of jet aircraft starting with MiG-15 built under license for the Soviet union and its satellites. In the following decades, Aero also produced MiG-19 and MiG-21. But already in 1950’s, Aero designed its first jet trainer – L-29 Delfin, which made its first flight in April 1959. Two years later, the L-29 won comparative testing of three different prototypes and was declared the most suitable trainer for Eastern Bloc countries. In the next ten years, Aero produced over 3,600 L-29s. But at the same time, the company already worked on the next generation jet aircraft – the legendary L-39 Albatros.
More powerful and more efficient than its predecessor, the L-39 Albatros conducted its maiden flight in November 1968. During the70’s and 80’s, Aero produced 2,900 L-39 aircraft, from which over 2,000 were delivered to the USSR. In total, Albatrosses served with 45 military and at least 15 civil operators. Thanks to its great maneuverability and easy handling, the aircraft is also popular among aerobatic teams. Today, there are still hundreds of L-39s flying all over the world. The L-39 was followed by an advanced version the L-59 Super Albatros and in the late 90’s, the company introduced a new light attack jet L-159 ALCA. Originally manufactured in the amount of 72 aircraft for the Czech Air Force, the L-159 now serves also in the Iraqi Air Force and in US training with the company Draken International. In 2017, Aero relaunched marketing of this aircraft and introduced a new version F/A-259 Striker. The Striker combines robustness and effectiveness of its successful predecessor, with the latest advances in avionics and aircraft systems technology made by Israeli company IAI, the world leader in defense systems technologies.
Since 2000, Aero is also participating in many international projects, both as a pure manufacturer, for example in production of Black Hawk helicopters and in now terminated project of S-76 helicopters for Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin; and as a risk-sharing partner, for example to Embraer in KC-390 project and to Bombardier in CSeries, recently transformed to Airbus A220 aircraft. But the main focus of the company is now a family of its proprietary jet aircraft led by the L-39NG product.
Aero in numbers
11,000 aircraft produced in total, over 13,000,000 flight hours total log of the fleet
More than 6,700 jet aircraft of own design, equal to 70% of world production, 5,000,000 flight hours
Aircraft deliveries and in service support in 60 countries
List of aircraft produced in Aero:
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
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
1939 C4/C-104 (Bucker Bu-131 Jungmann) training and aerobatic biplane
1943 C-3 (Siebel Si-204D) twin-engine military aircraft
1947 Ae-45 twin-engine civil aircraft
1953 Aero moved from Prague to new facilities in Vodochody
1954 Maiden flight of 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)
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)
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, since 2014 serving in the Iraqi Air Force and operated by Draken International)
2000 Maiden flight of Ae 270 civil utility aircraft
2000 Production of S-76 helicopter for Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation launched (terminated in 2017)
2007 Private equity group Penta became a sole shareholder of Aero
2007 Production of centre-wing box for C-27J Spartan for Alenia Aeronautica launched
2009 Contract with SONACA for design and production of Fixed Leading Edge for CSeries signed; later, Aero started deliveries directly to Bombardier Belfast; in 2017, Airbus purchased majority in the project which is now known as A220
2010 Aero signed a contract for the manufacture UH-60M Black Hawk cockpits for the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation
2011 Start of partnership between Aero and Embraer in the design, development and production of a new multipurpose military transport aircraft KC-390
2012 Aero signed a contract for the delivery of cockpits for Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk to PZL Mielec
2014 Aero announced the start of development of the L-39NG
2018 The L-39NG made its first flight on 22nd of December