Yes, Czechoslovakia made aeroplanes…here’s our favourite 10
Czechoslovakia existed for a short time 74 years between 1918-1992 (minus occupation in World War II). In that time it created Cubism and Semtex, and was, despite fierce competition from the DDR and the renegade Yugoslavia, the grooviest country on the ‘other’ side of the Iron Curtain.
With the region’s long history of engineering prowess (and auto-erotic asphyxiating composers), it took to the new science of aviation with alacrity, its first aircraft, the Avia B. H. 1, flying a mere 2 years after the nation’s creation.
Like a disgusting drunken British stag-do party leaning against a Prague bar, we ogle ten Czechoslovakian aeroplanes and reduce them to mere objects by rating them on their sexiness alone.
10. Avia B. H. 1 (1920)
To much fanfare and a 100,000 CSK development grant from the President, the B. H. 1 was the toast of a young proud nation. Despite the glamour and positive publicity, it was chronically underpowered by its original 35 horsepower Austro Daimler inline engine. It was only with a new engine, the radial Gnome Omega, that it could actually fly with both cockpits carrying a pilot. It wasn’t terribly fast at 85mph, six weeks after it first flew France would raise the world airspeed record to a rather alarming 170mph.
Absolutely of its era, the B.H. 1 was extremely attractive, but its shape speaks of adventure and nostalgia rather than sensuality and therefore scores low for sexiness.
9. Hodek HK-101 (1947)
The HK-101 was a rebel. This sports aeroplane was illegally and secretly developed while the nation was suffering the German occupation, then following Czechoslovakian liberation, the type had to fight for its existence against a nationalising Communist aviation industry. The HK-101 wasn’t a brilliant aeroplane, with a cramped cockpit, poor visibility from the rear seat and no radio. The rather romantic designer, Vincenc Hodek, was not favoured by the communist party, and was pushed out of the picture. The project ended in Aero hands, who had little time for it and let it wither on the vine, cancelling it in 1949 or 1950. There had been plans for a sleeker version, known as the Aero PB -1.
To the British eye the PB-1 looks a de Havilland design developed by Handley Page (or worse still Blackburn). It teeters dangerously on the edge of attractiveness but is let down by an overall sensibleness.
8. Aero L-29 Delfín (1959)
The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Сове́т Экономи́ческой Взаимопо́мощи or COMECON in English) was an economic organisation under the leadership of the Soviet Union which did much to co-ordinate communist countries during the Cold War period. When the COMECON dictated that the L-29 was to be the standard jet trainer for the USSR and alligned states, it became one of the few non- Soviet designs to be mass-produced in Eastern Europe in this era. An impressive total of 3,665 was produced and served around the world.
Agreeably friendly in appearance, with elegant bifurcated root intakes and t-tail, it is – but it is hardly sexy.
7. Avia XLE-110 (1951)
By the end of the 1940s, it was clear that the much loved C-2 trainer was too slow to cut the mustard and required replacement. A faster, more modern, indigenous type was required. On November 12 1951, a prototype of the XLE-110 training aircraft crashed during a test flight, with the loss of both pilots. For weapons training, it could be fitted with one MG-17 7.92 mm machine-gun and four pylons for bombs weighing up to 140 kg. Though a promising design, the 110 was cancelled in the spring of 1952, and the requirement was met by Soviet types.
A balanced and pragmatic looking aeroplane lacking in sex appeal.
You can see the Top 10 Polish aircraft here
6. Aero L-39 Albatros (1968)
For an advanced trainer, the L-39 looks decidedly mean. The oversized canopy and rounded nose of the British Hawk, Franco-German AlphaJet and a multitude of other delphine jet trainers may give you the impression that this is a class of rather friendly-looking machines. But the L-39 is different. The combination of a sharp fighter-like nose, dagger-like swept vertical fin and short unswept wings combine to give a pugnacious scorpion-like appearance to the aircraft. It is a vicious cruciform, a jet ninja star. Sometimes it is even fitted with that most stylish of accoutrement, the tip-tank.
It is also terribly whorish, appearing in over 26 films, computer games and TV shows, including the unfortunately named (at least in English) ‘Shit Otechestva’ movie.
5. Avia BH-21 (1925)
An excellent pursuit fighter and successful racing aircraft, the BH-21 impressed international observers. NACA (forerunner) of NASA reviewed the type favourably here. With a top speed of 170mph it was 15mph faster than the contemporary British Gloster Gamecock, and armed with two Vickers machine-guns. More importantly for us, it was extremely attractive.
4. Avia B-135 (1938)
Fast and cannon-armed, only a total of twelve of the extremely impressive B-135 fighter was made. It had a top speed of 323mph and was armed with one 20-mm MG FF cannon and two 7.92 mm vz. 30 Česká zbrojovka Strakonice machine-guns. The type was let down by engine issues related to an imperfect installation of the licence-produced version of the popular Hispano-Suiza 12Y. On 30 March 1944 four Bulgarian air force B-135s shot down an intruding USAAF B-24 Liberator. The B-135 was used by the Czechoslovakian and Bulgarian air forces in tiny numbers, and flight-tested by Nazi Germany.
Sleek and muscular in that unmistakably late ’30s way, the B-135 was a stunner.
3. Aero B-34
How we like our objects of desire to never be tarnished by the mundanity of reality! The Aero B-34 never happened, all we have are some tantalising blueprints of a Roger Ramjet-esque machine that would make even the Tornado insecure about its tail fin size.
It was proposed in 1958 as a jet shturmovik Il-10 replacement powered by one unaugmented RD-9 rated at 29 kN. Firepower would have come from two NR-23 23-mm cannon, with unguided bombs and 80 unguided rockets in two rounded receptacles surrounding the main engine bay also on the menu. It wasn’t to be.
2. Aero A-159B Sokol (concept only, 1967)
There is a cliched aviation joke (seemingly the modus operandi of aviation jokes) of saying aircraft X looks the lovechild of aircraft Y and Z. We’ve all been guilty of this, and I am guilty of this now. The Aero A-159B Sokol, a 1967 concept for supersonic attack fighter, absolutely looked like the lovechild of a Tu-22 bomber and the then yet-to-be Mitsubishi F-1.
With those two high-mounted engines with their seductively revealed rear sections and sensual curves the Sokol would have been absolutely sexy. Which leads us to three questions: what do we mean when we say an aeroplane is ‘sexy’, what is a ‘lovechild’.. and is it a term we should be using in 2021?
- Aero 45 (1947)
The Aero 45 is as much art as it is aircraft. Here is an amorphous beautiful thing that confounds simple description. In profile the Art Deco fuselage, with its arching roof, and flat belly, appears dolphin-like. Yet from the front, the large cabin windows give it an almost arthropodic or insect-like appearance. When viewed from above or below, it takes on the form of yet another animal; the long, narrow wings give it the look of a graceful, soaring shorebird.
The elegant Aero 45 was Czechoslovakia’s first aircraft after the German occupation had ended. The aircraft was a clear and bold statement that the small country’s aviation sector was ready to reclaim its pre-war glories, that it had lost none of its ability to produce world-class aircraft.
There is true harmony in the design of this aircraft and in all of its equally gorgeous descendents. Every airframe element fits smoothly with the next and there is not a sloppy line or compromise to be seen.
(Aero 45 section from original Hush-Kit article published here)
Honourable mentions to the Praga E-51 (below) and Aero A.304 (bottom).