Yugoslav Aviation pioneer

                 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).
That prodigious event was a striking contrast to Yugoslavia’s entrance into the exciting word of air transportation 
some 50 years ago.
               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 Aviation.
               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 racer.
               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 brother
Giuseppe’s 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. 
Anzani-model engine. The airplane was a canard-type biplane with paper covered wings with the larger part of the 
horizontal stabilizer forward of the wings. Flight tests, however, fell short of expectations. By relocating the vertical 
stabilizer aft 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 workshop.
               First in a series of new airplanes designed by the Rusjan brothers was the EDA 2 Triplane which incorporated 
progressive construction 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 well 
proportioned 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 was killed.
               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.