EDVARD RUSJAN, PIONEER OF SLOVENE AVIATION

January 2001 

Edvard Rusjan, Pioneer of Slovene Aviation

 

 Edvard Rusjan is considered the pioneer of Slovene motorised aviation and was also the first in Slovenia and on the Balkans to fly a self-made plane. On 25 November 1909 the aeroplane EDA I, made and managed by Rusjan, took off from the suburbs of the then Gorica. This aeroplane started flying just six years after the Wright brothers, and was the first such flight in this part of Europe.

 

Edvard Rusjan was born on 6 July 1886 in Trieste. The family subsequently moved to the then Gorica, where he finished public secondary school and an evening course in trade. Together with his brother Jože he completed his apprenticeship in cooperage in his father's workshop, but from the very start, the brothers were more excited by flying.

 

In 1900, the Rusjan brothers made a model aircraft with a propeller drive on a spring. They continued their self-education and in 1908, Edvard received his father's support for the production of the first aircraft. In September 1909, he visited an international air meeting in Brescia (Italy), where he examined the construction of the most successful aircraft and got to know the French airman, Louis Blériot, who first flew the English Channel (25 July 1909). After returning to Gorica, with his brother's help he built a motor bi-plane on the model of the Curtiss ans Farman aircraft, which had been most successful in Brescia. Since it did not want to take off on the first attempts at the start of November, he modified it into a conventional bi- plane, which he called EDA I, and on 25 November 1909, only six years after the flight of the Wright brothers, he performed a number of motorised flights to head height and 60 m in distance. Thus began the history of motorised aviation, not only in Slovenia but on the territory of the entire former Yugoslavia.

 

By the summer of 1910, he had produced seven motorised aircraft, of different designs and constructions, but all driven by the same motor. He also flew all the aircraft, for the most part until they crashed. EDA I was a bi-plane (wingspan 8 m, with paper covered wings) the longest flight of which was 600 m. Its variant, the tri-plane EDA II, crashed on the first attempt to fly; EDA III and EDA IV were again bi-planes, with a similar flying capacity as EDA I. EDA V was a small monoplane and Edvard's best model, with which he arranged an air meeting on the meadows above Gorica and Mirno, where 10,000 viewers gathered, but it did not succeed in flying. With model EDA IV, he copied the aircraft with which Blériot had flown the English Channel. Although he managed to fly to a height of 40 m, at a 2nd meeting in Gorica on 26 June 1910, he again disappointed the large audience. EDA VII was a monoplane with a small second wing, with which from August to the end of 1910, he several times flew successfully.

 

The production of seven aircraft in less than a year was an achievement in the then circumstances that was only possible with careful organisation of manufacturers of individual aircraft parts and several tens of financial supporters. Since he could not realise the planned development of aircraft to commercial production in Slovene circumstances, in the middle of 1910 he concluded a partnership with the Serb, Mihailo Merćep, a well-known Zagreb photographer and cyclist, who planned the production of aircraft for the market. So the Merćep-Rusjan monoplane (a supplemented variant of EDA VI) was created in the first aircraft factory in Croatia, and it rose into the air after a record 28 metes flight - Blériot, who had been most successful until then, needed 4 metres more. Edvard successfully flew over Zagreb with it at the end of 1910.

 

The first Serbian air meeting, which was organised on 9 January 1911, was fatal for Rusjan. In impossible weather conditions, Edvard demonstrated courageous flying to the Belgrade crowds, who had not until then seen such a thing. When he flew close to the Kalemegdan fortress, just before landing a strong gust of wind tore off the wing of his aircraft. The accident was fatal, and at 25 years old he became the first victim of flying in Serbia and the 34th victim of motorised flying in the world. His work was successfully continued by his brother Jože, who built a further 3 aircraft after Edvard's death.

 

In 1960, the town of Nova Gorizia erected a monument in memory of its famous citizen.

 

In 1999, Pošta Slovenije produced an airletter - Aerogramme.

 

At the air meeting which was held in Cerklje ob Krki on 24 and 25 July 2000, the Slovenian President Milan Kučan baptised a copy of Edvard's aircraft EDA V.

 

Photographs of the aeroplane can be seen at: www.geocities.com/airshows666/cerklje/cerklje2000e.htm.

 

 

 

Related links

 

  • Edvard Rusjan 
    An excellent web site prepared by Edvard Rusjan's niece Grazia Rusjan (in Italian, French, English, German and Slovene). 
  • Website: The early birds of aviation, Inc./ An organization of pioneers who flew solo before December 17, 1916
  • Photographs