MILESTONES—The Pioneers and their Aircraft
- Karlis Skaubitis - c.1903
Built a quadruplane glider,
but had little success with it and, for the time being, switched to ballooning.
- Friedrich Zander - 1908
Zander was unique among early
Latvian aviation enthusiasts—he was focused, from the very beginning, on
space travel and exploration. In 1908 he began recording his thoughts and
theories on the subject and he continued his work right up to his death in
1933, culminating in the design of the OR-2, the first Soviet liquid-fueled
- The First Student Society for Aeronautics and Flight Technology
Built a biplane hang
glider which they flew frequently in the vicinity of Riga.
- Teodor Kalep's "Motor" Factory - February 1910
was a graduate of the Riga Polytechnical Institute who was the supervisor of
the "First Transmission, Machinery and Foundry Factory" (commonly known as
"Motor") in Zasulauks, a suburb of Riga. In 1908 he began to consider
assembling aircraft at the factory, and in February 1910 he ordered a biplane
from the Berlin branch of the Wright Aeroplane Company. The aircraft arrived on
March 1 and was a success. Kaleps was manufacturing engines intended for use in
the airplanes and, while his first engines resembled the bulky gasoline engines
used on the Wright aircraft, he soon switched to building Gnome seven cylinder
rotary engines. Soon, he had designed a rotary engine of his own - one which
was both more powerful and reliable than the Gnome and it was named the M-1. In
1911 it was accepted for use by the Imperial Russian Air Service.
- Russo-Baltic Wagon Works (RBWZ) Begin Producing Aircraft -
The RBWZ establishes an aeronautical division and begins producing
aircraft under the direction of technician Rudolfs Vitols. Their first aircraft
was a biplane, designed by Roger Sommer and built under license. By 1912 they
had produced ten aircraft - seven of the Sommer biplanes, two biplanes designed
by Jacob M.Hackel, and a Kudashov IV, the fourth model by Russian designer
- Teodor Kaleps Begins Production - July 1910
powered aircraft completely manufactured by Kaleps' "Motor" factory, was test
flown by T.Meibaums on July 10, 1910.
- Eduards Pulpe and his Aviation Society - 1910
who had already studied aeronautics in Germany, returned to Latvia and, while
employed as a teacher in the Kenins private school in Riga, he organized a
Society for Aviation Enthusiasts. The group, mostly made up of his students,
designed and built a small powered airplane which he flew a number of times
that summer from a beach at the Riga seashore.
- The First Aviation Festival in Latvia - March 7, 1910
This was a strictly Russian affair, with no real Latvian participation. It was
held at the Hippodrome in Riga, continued for a few months, and drew an
enormous amount of interest, which certainly spurred the development of
Latvia's own pioneer aviation.
- The Hans Grade Biplane comes to Riga - May 22, 1910
This was purchased by Riga bicycle manufacturer A.Leitner directly from Hans
Grade of Germany.
- The Wright Biplane's first appearance in Latvia - May 30,
A Wright Biplane was scheduled to make demonstration flights at
the Hippodrome on May 30, intended to be the high point of the Aviation
Festival mentioned above. The event was a complete failure when, after six
attempts, the pilot (Dr. Orla Arnzen) could not make a long enough takeoff run
to permit him to clear the obstacles at the end of the field. The crowd, which
had paid as much as three roubles apiece to witness the spectacle, went home
- First Powered Flight in Riga - June 6, 1910
a Latvian technician, flies the Grade Biplane from Solitude (a horse racetrack
in Zasulauks, a Riga suburb). He records a flight time of 56 seconds, an
estimated altitude of 8 metres, and was the first powered flight recorded in
- Kuzminskis Raises the Latvian Flight Endurance Record - March
A.Kuzminskis flies a Bleriot IX at Solitude for a
record-setting 110 seconds at an estimated height of 24 metres.
- Smits Raises the Latvian Flight Endurance Record - March 6,
V.Smits flies a Sommer Biplane at Solitude for a record-setting 3
minutes and 44 seconds at an estimated height of 80 metres.
- Smits Raises the Latvian Flight Endurance Record - March 10,
V.Smits flies a Sommer Biplane at Solitude for a record-setting 9
minutes and 37 seconds at an estimated height of 170 metres.
- Janis Steglavs' First Aeroplane - May 1911
Steglavs was a very talented sheet-metal worker from Jelgava who moved his
business to St.Petersburg. While there, he learned that the Russian War
Ministry was holding a design competition for new military aircraft. Steglavs
decided to try his hand at aircraft design and construction. He produced an
innovative biplane, powered by a 100 hp Argus engine. He first flew it, in
St.Petersburg, in May 1911 and used this aircraft to teach himself to fly. This
aircraft was known, simply, as Biplane
- First Public Powered Flight Demonstration in Latvia - June 15,
now, all these powered flights had been essentially private affairs, witnessed
only by a handful of aviation enthusiasts and assistants. On June 15, Russian
pilot Sergei Utochkin organized a
public demonstration in his Farman IV biplane. He flew from the Hippodrome to
the Riga seashore (about 15 km distant) and then returned, which was a
considerable feat for that time.
- Alfred Rozentals First Hang Glider
still a high school student, built and flew his own hang glider. With this
glider he made many successful flights in Meza Parks.
- Abrams, Vizins and Treibergs Build a Glider - 1911
Abrams, a future Aviation Regiment aviator, and his two friends Karlis Vizins
and Treibergs, built a successful biplane
hang glider. They flew it frequently from various locations around Riga and
were looking to acquire an engine for it when the First World War broke out and
ended their plans.
- Vilis Balcers and Rudolfs Celms - c.1911-1913
and Celms, still in their teens, were fascinated with aviation. Over the years
they produced a string of home-built hang gliders. These were, for the most
part, unsuccessful and crashed frequently, but Celms went on to fly with the
Imperial Russian Air Service and, later, the Latvian Air Regiment.
- Janis Sumanis Hang Glider - 1911
Sumanis produced a
home-built hang glider, which he first flew in 1911. He continued with many
successful flights until, in 1914, he joined the Imperial Russian Air Service.
- Janis Steglav's Second Aeroplane - 1912
After beating up Biplane No.1 as he learned to fly, Steglavs set about building
a second aeroplane incorporating a number of design ideas which were suggested
by his experience with his first aircraft.
Biplane No. 2
(alternate Image) was flown in the
1912 St.Petersburg competition and was the fastest of the aircraft present,
attaining a top speed of 130 kph. Sadly, he did not obtain any military
contracts to produce this airplane or a third, better one, which followed. His
business foundered and his career as an aeronautical designer and builder came
to an end.
- Kristaps Cirulis' Airplane - c.1912
Cirulis was a truly self-taught aviator. Rather than working with the young
aviation enthusiasts in Riga, he toiled alone at his farmhouse in Kurzeme,
building a powered airplane. After a great deal of trial and error, he had
taught himself to fly and, until the beginning of the war, he travelled around
Russia with his airplane doing demonstration flights.
- Kaleps Produces Two Original Designs/Prototypes -
Teodors Kaleps, at his "Motor" factory, produced a monoplane and
a twin-engined biplane. Prototypes failed to attract much attention, but he
continued with his other aviation projects until his death on April 30, 1913.
- Vladimir V. Sljusarenko and Lidija V.
This Russian pilot and his wife Lidija established
an aviation facility in Riga in the spring of 1913. They would construct and
repair small aircraft, and they also operated a very successful flying school.
Their workshop produced a number of Farman designs both for the school and also
under contract for the Imperial Russian Air Service. Their business thrived in
Riga until, during the war, the German army approached and the Sljusarenkos
withdrew into Russia.
- Alfred Rozentals' Powered Airplane - June 1913
mid-1913 Rozentals designed and built his own
airplane, powered by a 25 hp Anzani
engine. The aircraft resembled a Grade design, with distinctly "Taube-like"
wingtips, but he added a great many innovative ideas of his own. Unfortunately,
he had to take out a loan to purchase the engine and, when he was unable to
repay the loan, the bank repossessed his airplane. It is not known what the
bank did with the flying machine.
- The Russo-Baltic Wagon Works (RBWZ) Relocates to
The successful RBWZ aeronautical division relocates to
St.Petersburg and is renamed the Russo-Baltic Aircraft Factory. They do,
however, leave behind their engine manufacturing facility and this factory
produces the RBWZ-6, a large engine designed specifically to power the massive
Ilya Mourometz designed by Sikorsky. The first of these engines is installed in
an airframe in July 1915, but the engine factory has to be withdrawn into
Russia when the facility is in danger of falling into German hands.
- Teodors Kaleps Builds a Dibovski Powered Aircraft -
Kaleps' factory begins producing an aircraft designed by Russian
Viktor V. Dibovski. This was a streamlined monoplane powered by the
Kaleps-designed rotary engine.
- Olgerts Teteris' Hang Glider
Olgerts Teteris, while a
Chemistry student at the Riga Polytechnical Institue, develops an interest in
aviation and builds his own hang glider. He flies this regularly from various
hilltops in the Riga vicinity, but when war breaks out he leaves Latvia to
become a pilot in the Imperial Russian Air Service.
- Eduard Pulpe's Plans for an Aircraft Factory - 1914
Pulpe returned from Paris, where he had been studying aeronautical engineering
at the Sorbonne. He had plans to establish an aircraft design and manufacturing
facility in Riga, had even arranged for the financing, when World War One broke
out. He dropped his plans and joined the Imperial Russian Air Service instead.
- Bruvelis, Edvins Latvijas Aviacijas Vesture
- Irbitis, Karlis Latvijas Aviacija un tas Pionieri
- Irbitis, Karlis Of Struggle and Flight