Biography of EDUARDO RUSJAN
On December 11, 1978, Yugoslavia Airline’s first DC-10 Series 30 jetliner
departed Long Beach, California, bound for Belgrade’s International Airport.
It landed 11 hours 20 minutes later after setting a record-breaking non-stop
flight that covered 11,635 kilometres (7231 statute miles).
event was a striking contrast to Yugoslavia’s entrance into the exciting
word of air transportation
some 50 years
Although Yugoslavia’s close connections with the industry started several
years earlier, the country’s first airline was founded in 1927. Belgrade’s
favourable site on the Danube, linking it with Budapest and Vienna on the
Famous Orient Express, made it a natural route for the airline.
Perhaps the most significant development affecting air transport in the
Danube Valley in the early 1920s was the innovation of night flying on
the Belgrade-Bucharest section of the Paris-Istanbul route. Special beacons
installed every 20 kilometres provided a series of lighthouses to guide
pilots through the night – a feature being developed
simultaneously 8000 kilometres (5000 miles) away across the prairies of
the United States.
Yugoslavia celebrated its 70th Anniversary of Aviation History this year.
The entire nation paid homepage to Eduardo Rusjan, the founder of Yugoslav
Eduardo Rusjan was born in Trieste, Austro-Hungarian Empire, on July 6,
1886 (1). While
still a lad, his family moved to Gorizia where he spent his youth and attended
school. During his school years, he was apprenticed barrel and was a successful
Eduardo’s aviation career began in 1908 when he started designing and
building model airplanes. One design, a helicopter that was strapped on
like a backpack, was a portent of things to come decades later. With older
help, he designed a glider that became a pattern for future airplanes.
In the fall of 1909, the Rusjan brothers began work on a powered airplane
using a 3-cylinder, 25-horse-power.
engine. The airplane was a canard-type biplane with paper covered wings
with the larger part of the
forward of the wings. Flight tests, however, fell short of expectations.
By relocating the vertical
of the wings in what has evolved as the conventional configuration, they
achieve success. On November 25, 1909, on the Mila Rojice Airfield in the
neighbourhood of Gorizia, Eduardo made the first successful powered flight
in Yugoslav Aviation history in his EDA 1 airplane.
The flight lasted about 10 seconds and Eduardo travelled approximately
60 metres at a height of 2 metres. Four days later, he increased his distance
to, 500 metres at a maximum altitude of 12 metres. Observers estimated
that the airplane reached speeds between 50 and 60 kilometres per hours.
It was a remarkable flight for Eduardo – he was the first Yugoslavian
to successfully fly an airplane.
The Rusjan flights were highly experimental in nature compared with other
flights conducted throughout the world. Filled with traditional Yugoslav
pride, the brothers decided to continue development of their airplanes.
From December 1909 to the end of June 1910, they build and flight tested
five airplanes of entirely different designs. Their level of achievement
in 6-months period remains untouched by aircraft designers. The speed at
which they designed and built those experimental airplanes was especially
impressive because of difficult times and being limited by a very modest
First in a series of new airplanes designed by the Rusjan brothers was
the EDA 2 Triplane which incorporated
techniques that helped reduce its empty weight to 90 kilograms. With the
EDA 2, the pair hoped to attain an altitude of 100 metres. However, during
the first flight on January 5, 1910, the airplane was damages beyond repair.
Precise chronology of the building of the next four airplanes is not known
but with the help of photos and some airplane fragments from the past,
it is known what those airplanes looked. During 1910, the Rusjan built
two airplanes similar in principle to EDA 1, but more thorough in design
and workmanship. With one of those airplanes, Eduardo was able to perform
manoeuvres, and on March 28, 1910 made his first public flight for the
citizens of Gorizia. The brothers gained aeronautical knowledge rapidly
and learned that the Anzani engine was not powerful enough for the biplane,
so they decided to make only monoplanes in the future. One airplane, built
according to the Blériot design, made its first flight on June 25, 1910.
The high-wings plane – similar to the popular Demoiselle designed by
Santos Dumont – was the last and most successful aircraft the brothers
built in Gorizia.
In the summer of 1910, a new and important phase of the Rusjan work began.
During one of bicycle racing, events in Gorizia, Eduardo and Giuseppe met
Mihailo Merćep, an aviation enthusiast from Zagreb. The three agreed to
a joint venture to built a new airplane and later maker public flights
and participate in an air races. In August 1910, they went to Paris and
bought the best 50-horsepower. Gnome rotary engine available. They began
work on the new airplane by the end of the month.
They named the monoplane Merćep-Rusjan. With enough financing and having
a powerful enough engines, Eduardo and Giuseppe had the opportunity to
build an airplane that would achieve top performance. The airplane was
with a harmonious design, and had a span of 14 metres. The framework was
built of firewood and covered with rubber-treated fabrics. Controls for
pitch and roll were move by means of straps attached to the pilot’s body,
a unique technique for keeping the hands free.
Construction of the airplane was completed in November and flight tests
began. Early in the program, Eduardo reached altitudes of 100 metres. During
a public demonstration, he made several successful flights that thrilled
the Zagreb citizens. Spectators carried Eduardo on their shoulders and
honoured him with eight-leaf wreaths, a high Yugoslavian honour.
After this successful flight demonstration, and in accord with the custom
of the time, Eduardo and Merćep organized a tour of European cities, the
first stop being Belgrade. On January 9, 1911, despite strong gusty winds,
the 24-year-old Eduardo went ahead with a demonstration flight. His takeoff
and flight over the town and a railway bridge over the Sava River were
uneventful. However, while the airplane was returning for a landing, at
an approximate height of 20 metres, a strong gust ripped off a wing and
the airplane crashed against a tower wall located on the riverbank. Eduardo
Monuments to his memory are found throughout Yugoslavia today. The most
moving is the latest – the countries newest addition to its airline industry,
a DC-10 Series 30 which carries Rusjan’s inscribed signature across the
port and starboard nose section. Further tribute was paid to his contribution
by scheduling the new DC-10’s first production flight on the 70th anniversary
of Rusjan’s first aerial venture.
(1) Trieste, after
the First World War, was incorporated in Italian country.