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Romanian Aviation Industry

Aeronautical giants EADS and Boeing plan to outsource production to peripheral countries like Romania and Poland, and their orders currently represent the main pillars for the development of the Romanian aircraft industry. The aircraft- building sector includes 12 industrial trading companies producing 5 types of aircraft, 2 types of helicopters, 4 types of gliders and motor-gliders, 7 types of engines. The export covers 20% of production. Over 12,000 employees worked in this area and were struggling with considerable difficulties and uncertainty due to the small number of contracts for the future production.

With the end of the Cold War, Romanian aircraft industry officials sought to end more than a decade of isolation from Western technology and to revive the nation's broad-ranging but backward and inefficient aircraft manufacturing sector. Its downfall had been Ceaucescu's policy, applied with increasing stringency from 1977, that the industry halt new contact with the West to avoid hiking a sizeable foreign debt. The nation acquired one last licence, signed in 1979, to manufacture the BAC One-Eleven and its Spey engine. Since then it has worked only with the Soviets and their backward technology - plus what resources of the increasingly impoverished Romania could stretch to indigenous programs.

Romania had missed out on a decade of Western technological advances. Vertical integration imposed on aircraft factories meant that some made everything from the airframe and engine right down to the rivets that hold the structure together. That inefficiency was compounded by Socialist central planning and lack of incentives for the workforce which led to appalling productivity — so bad, that the low wages failed to keep costs below Western levels.

One Romanian orally-transmitted ballad tells the story of the master mason Manole who was imprisoned by the king on the rooftop of the cathedral he had built, after he had said that he was able to build a more beautiful one. In his attempt to save himself, he fashioned wooden wings and tried to fly off the roof, but he just fell to the ground and died. A spring of clear water has appeared to mark the spot where Manole fell. The well is still in front of the cathedral. Manole was the first Romanian who tried to fly, inventing a wooden device and pushing himself beyond the human limits.

Romanian contribution to aviation development was significant even from the "pioneering" era of aviation : men like Traian Vuia (who designed, built and tested the first monoplane in Europe which actually flew without any exterior help, only with its own power, on March 18, 1906), Henri Coanda, the designer of the first jet aircraft in the world (1910), or Aurel Vlaicu, George de Bothezat, or the creator of gliders and power gliders Iosif Silimon are personalities with important contributions to the progress of early aviation. Besides them, many other pioneers worked on their projects, and some of them were actually built and flown until the start of the Great War. Hermann Oberth (1894 - 1989), at 18 years old, wrote the fundamental equation of the rocket flight and designed the first rocket.

The first types of flying machines were mass produced in 1911, and talented aircraft designers subsequently worked in the shops and departments of the IAR (Romanian Aeronautical Industry), SET (Technical Operations Company), and ICAR (Romanian Aeronautical Design Enterprise) plants, where dozens of types of aircraft were built both under license and on the basis of original designs.

The aircraft industry in Romania dates from 1924-25, when the first airplane factory began operation in Brasov. Romaero SA has been in the aircraft business for nearly 90 years, playing a key role in the development of the Romanian aircraft industry. The company was founded by Royal Decree in 1920. The Societatii pentru Exploatari Tehnice (SET) factory was established in Bucharest in 1923, the Industria Aeronautica Romana (IAR) built its factory in Brasov in 1925, and the Intreprinderea de Constructii Aeronautice Romanesti (ICAR) company was founded at Bucharest in 1932.

Societate Anonima IAR, Brasov, [sometimes written as SA IAR - Societate Anonima Industria Aeronautica Romania] was formed in 1925 with 15% Romanian state ownership. Multiple schemes were proposed to rationalize IAR Brasov. In 1930, Vickers and Bristol were recommended to reorganize the plant. In late 1939, a combine of industrialists and bankers (minority shareholders in the earlier SA IAR) proposed a takeover, In October 1940 the RLM proposed IAR Brasov production of Bf109 wings and BMW engines. In March 1941, the RLM went on to suggest that IAR Brasov become a limited company under the control of Henschel.

Following World War II, the few production facilities not retooled for other purposes built only light planes and gliders. By 1950 Romaero was a specialized maintenance and repair center for the Russian aircraft fleets at the time being owned by TAROM and by Romania’s Ministry of Defense (Lisunov Li-2, Ilyushin II-14, II-18, Antonov AN-2, AN-24, AN-26, AN-30). In parallel, Romaero manufactured the multiple purpose IAR aircraft of Romanian design (IAR-818, 821 and 822).

In 1968, in keeping with PCR aspirations of economic autonomy, the government revived production of heavy aircraft and established the National Center of the Romanian Aircraft Industry under the Ministry of Machine Building. The center oversaw the operation of airframe plants in Craiova, Bacau, Bucharest, and Brasov, and the Turbomecanica plant in Bucharest, where all the jet engines for Romanian-built planes were manufactured. In 1968 the contract between Romaero and the UK based company Britten Norman, led to the manufacture of over 500 Islander aircraft at Romaero on an exclusive basis. Other development under this contract included the Defender 4000. As the Islander exclusvie contractor, Romaero started the implementation of Western best practices, know-how technology and quality system.

Manufacturing of the BAC 1-11 aircraft began at Romaero in 1978, following the license agreement between British Aerospace and Romaero. This involved a huge investment in know-how, tools, equipment, production and personnel and the implementation of a thorough quality assurance system.

The contract 1994 with Boeing for the manufacture of B737 and B757 components has opened new business opportunities for Romaero, as a Boeing approved supplier. This contract was part of an offset arrangement between Romaero and the United Stated of America. Since 1994 and up to the present, Romaero has largely involved itself in the manufacture of aircraft parts and sub-assemblies for various Western aircraft programs and providing aircraft maintenance and repair services to several operators.

In January 1999, the UK Company Britten Norman signed a contract for the acquisition of a 72.9% stake in Romaero. The two Companies have had a 35-year relationship, with Romaero building aircraft frames for the British Company. Following the Romanian Government’ suspension of tax and customs exemptions for foreign investors during 1999, Britten Norman refused to pay the purchase price. The transaction value amounted to 80.5 million USD. Consequently, State Ownership Fund (the major shareholder at that time) cancelled the contract and resumed Romaero’s privatization process. In return, Britten-Norman filed suit against the Romanian Government in the International Arbitration Court claiming breach of contract as Romania had cancelled the tax breaks stipulated in the contract by enforcing the State Budget Law for 1999. The litigation was finalized and Romaero was re-offered for sale during 2003.

As of 2003, Romaero was a “National Service Center for Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules” and signed a strategic partnership with Lockheed Martin and Decro for the maintenance and modernization of the Romanian MoD C-130 Hercules Fleet.

The privatization of the Romanian Aircraft Industry (IAR) in Brasov (central Romania) was advertised by 26 October 2006. The companies Bell Helicopters and Eurocopter had already said they are interested, informed Minister of Economy and Trade Ioan Codrut Seres. The Minister also emphasized the fact that privatization advertisements had already been shown for Foradex (September 15), Avioane in Craiova (southern Romania, September 14), Arsenal in Resita (western Romania, September 11).

AEROSTAR S.A. Bacau is a Romanian legal person, operating as an open shareholding company in accordance with its Constitutive Deed and the applicable regulations. The Aircraft Repair Plant (UM 03767), the predecessor of S.C.AEROSTAR S.A. Bacau, was established in 1953. The company had previous successive names URA-1953, IRAv (Aircraft Repair Enterprise) - 1970, IAv (Aircraft Enterprise) - 1978, and since 1991 it was registered as a shareholding company with entirely state-owned capital under its current name S.C.AEROSTAR S.A. The company is fully private owned capital since the year 2000, with its shares traded at Bucharest Stock Exchange.

AEROSTAR manufactures aviation products, repairs and upgrades aircraft, manufactures and integrates air and ground systems with civil applications, or in the field of defence and security. AEROSTAR is a strong industrial base with over 60 years of experience, nearly 2,000 employees, and modern production facilities lying on a total area of more than 45 hectars. AEROSTAR’s maintenance base for commercial aircraft is a regional center of excellence which supplies base and heavy maintenance services for the aircraft family AIRBUS 320, for Boeing 737 aircraft all series and for BAe-146/ RJ aircraft, as well as for components.

AEROSTAR is a major supplier of products and services in the category of aero and ground defence systems. The market evolutions determined sales decrease for all the types of repair, upgrades, modifications and systems integrations as listed on the traditional capabilities. The company customers in this field of business have in their inventory platforms of type MiG-21 and L-39 for which AEROSTAR also provides the logistic support for life extensions and continuity in service.

AEROSTAR has maintained a diversified capability for variants and configurations of 122 mm multiple launch rocket systems and for engineering and fire extinguishing equipment. AEROSTAR also supplies various equipment and systems, as well as integrations of identification, communication and control systems. The expertise in the area of IFF systems and equipment holds an outstanding footprint on the specific market.

The company has maintained its competitivity and the leading position for the platforms in its expertise area: MiG-21 and L-39. This expertise covers major overhauls of airframes and systems, upgrades and life extensions. The company operates on the market as a centre of excellence for repairs and life extensions on the engines R11, R13, R25. The company is an approved supplier of the Romanian Ministry of National Defence and is present on a wide geographical market for defence equipment and services, covering both traditional programs and new programs.



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