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With Czechoslovakia under German occupation in the Second World War, the Aero company found itself pressed into producing aircraft for German usage. Aero was nationalized shortly after the end of the war.
In 1946, design began on an aircraft that would mark Czechoslovakia’s triumphant return to domestically produced aircraft of a globally respected standard, the Aero Ae-45.
Aero was founded in 1919 and had built a reputation even in the pre-war years of pioneering design and construction methods, the very clean and streamlined Ae-45 design showed that the company had not lost the abilities to develop modern aircraft.
The Ae-45 was designed by a team of five men: Miroslav Baitler, Jiří Bouzek, Ondřej Němec, Pavel Rosendorf and František Vlk. They started designing it on their own initiative, unpaid and after working hours. However, a change in management at Aero led to design of the Ae-45 being officially authorised.
The Ae-45 was an ambitious and quite remarkable design for Aero to reestablish themselves as a producer of domestic aircraft with. It was a very clean design aerodynamically and of all metal construction. The aircraft also had impressive speed and range for a small two engine civil utility aircraft of the day.
The machine’s artful lines and impressive performance attracted attention very early on and great interest was shown in it at air exhibitions and competitions it appeared at throughout Europe.
Production of the baseline Ae-45 started in 1948 at Aero’s factory near Prague and continued there until 1951 when production was moved to the Let company facilities in Kunovice. The improved follow on, the Ae-45S “Super Aero”, was produced from 1954 to 1959.
The ultimate version of this aircraft family, the Ae-145, was developed by Let and built by them from 1959 to 1963.
The Ae-45/Ae-145 family proved popular with pilots for speed, range, outward visibility and adaptability. The aircraft found use with both civil and military users in diverse roles such as utility, communications, air ambulance, police work, training and air taxi to name but a few.
Accomplishments and Accolades
Outside of the utilitarian duties the aircraft was designed for, examples of the family set some quite impressive flying records for the class.
The first honour the aircraft was associated with came in August of 1949 when Jan Anderle piloted one in the 1949 National Air Race in the United Kingdom and was awarded the prestigious Norton-Griffiths Challenge Trophy.
In late 1949 and early 1950, Anderle and the Ae-45 became part of an astounding voyage from France to Africa and back again.
The voyage started in December of 1949 when Anderle was delivering an Ae-45 from Prague to a buyer in France. At the time of the aircraft’s delivery, the client had decided to go on a business tour of Africa. He had decided the tour would start in January and that Anderle would be one of the pilots. It was not a well planned trip and the travellers encountered several problems along the way due to incomplete travel paperwork.
The flight to Africa began in Mulhouse, France on January 6 and concluded when the aircraft returned to Mulhouse on February 23.
The trip saw the aircraft and crew fly from France to Tangiers, Morocco via Gibraltar and then follow the west coast of Africa to Cameroon. The return leg of the trip included a non-stop flight across the Sahara before crossing the Mediterranean back to France.
The total distance of the voyage was approximately 18,500 kilometres. The aircraft spent 103 hours and 26 minutes in the air and made no less than 52 take-offs and landings. Through all of this, the aircraft experienced no major mechanical problems.
For a twin engine, five place aircraft to have completed such a gruelling route with no major issues is as much testament to the quality of the aircraft and skill of the manufacturer as it is to Anderle’s qualities as a pilot.
Anderle was eventually arrested and charged with treason by the Czechoslovak secret police, the StB, for his part in the voyage. He was sentenced to seven years hard labour in the nation’s uranium mines and emigrated as soon as he could after his release. Anderle was reunited with the aircraft he had piloted during a visit to Mulhouse in 1971.
In August of 1958, the Ae-45 became the first Czechoslovak designed aircraft to complete a transatlantic flight when an Italian registered and piloted aircraft was flown 3,000 kilometres across the south Atlantic from South America to Dakar, Senegal.
In 1981, the aircraft once again completed a transatlantic flight when an Ae-45S was flown from Europe to America.
A Small Family
Three main variants make up the Ae-45/145 family. During a production run that lasted from 1948 to 1963, a total of 590 aircraft were built Between the Aero and Let aircraft companies.
Ae-45 / K-75
The Ae-45 was the baseline member of the family and all but a few of them were built by Aero at their Vysočany facilities in Prague. The last twenty Ae-45 aircraft were built by Let in Kunovice.
The Baseline Ae-45 was powered by a pair of Walter Minor 4-III engines that gave it a cruising speed of 230 kmh and could drive it to a maximum speed of 265 kmh.
200 examples of the Ae-45 were built between 1948 and 1951. In Czechoslovak military service, the Ae-45 was known as the K-75
Ae-45S Super Aero
The Ae-45S was a modestly improved variation of the Ae-45 and was developed by Let after all responsibility for the type’s future development and construction had been shifted to them from Aero in order for Aero to concentrate on military aircraft projects.
Most of the improvements were internal and concerned avionics. As the Ae-45S retained the Walter Minor 4-III as an engine, it had the same flight performance as the baseline Ae-45.
Let built 228 Ae-45S aircraft between 1954 and 1959.
Debuting in 1959, the Ae-145 was the ultimate development of the aircraft family and was a much more refined aircraft nose to tail than its forbears.
The main improvement that the Ae-145 brought with it was an increase in power and performance. The Ae-45 and Ae-45S had often been seen as somewhat underpowered and the Ae-145 addressed this shortcoming.
The overall design of the aircraft was refined for aeodynamic purposes and featured a redesigned cockpit canopy with reduced framing and better outward visibility.
The Ae-145 took power from a pair of Walter M 332-III engines that together with improved propellers gave it an improved cruise speed of 250 kmh and a better maximum speed of around 280 kmh.
162 examples of the Ae-145 were built between 1959 and 1963.
While there is not a definitive census of airworthy members of the Ae-45/145 family, there is likely no more than ten or so flying examples worldwide as of 2017.
Two remain airworthy in the Czech Republic and one each in America, Australia, France, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia.
Despite the small number still flying, the aircraft family has a strong fan base and its unique lines grab attention wherever the aircraft goes.
So long as a support network remains intact for the type, those dedicated to keeping the few that remain airworthy aloft will certainly find a way of doing so.
Further Reading and Learning More
These links will take you to the web sites of a pair of maintained Ae-145 aircraft on the Australian and Czech civil registers respectively. Not only will they give you the fascinating stories of the particular aircraft themselves, they will give you a keen insight into the trials and tribulations of restoring, operating and maintaining a vintage aircraft.
This link will take you to a good article about the Aero 45 and 145 experience in Australia.
This link will take you to an extended account of Jan Anderle’s epic journey through Africa. The article generally responds acceptably to online translators.