First Czech aviator Jan Kaspar died 75 years ago
In 1910 the pioneering aviator Jan Kaspar became the first Czech ever to take to the air - a maiden flight in an aircraft he had constructed himself. A year later, he accomplished the first long-distance flight in the Czech Lands, from Pardubice to Prague. Pavla Horakova looks at the life and achievements of this famous Czech who died 75 years ago, on March 2, 1927.
Jan Kaspar was born in 1883 in the East Bohemian town of Pardubice. From his early childhood he was an active sportsman: he was keen on cycling and horse riding. After finishing secondary school in Pardubice, he went on to study at Prague's Technical University. After graduating, he left for Germany to further his education. He studied engine construction and later worked in a factory producing parts for the Zeppelin airships. Young Kaspar was a big technology fan: he rode a motorcycle and promoted motor sports in his hometown. He was also interested in motorboats and took part in a series of car races, mainly abroad. Jan Kaspar admired Zeppelin's airships but he was keen on the idea of constructing his own aircraft propelled by a combustion engine. He saw the famous Louis Bleriot - the first man to fly across the English Channel - take off from a Vienna airfield. Jan Kaspar was enchanted - he wanted to fly too. He gave up the career of a racing driver, returned to his native town and started working on a Czech aircraft - a simple monoplane. Kaspar made a number of attempts to take off - some of them ended in disaster and nearly cost him his life. His first success was a two-kilometre flight over fields near Pardubice on April 16, 1910. Later, Kaspar ordered a Bleriot plane from Paris. It was a one-seat single-engine monoplane, and Kaspar fitted it with a liquid-cooled four-cylinder Daimler engine. On May 13, 1911, at six a.m., the 28-year old Kaspar took off for his first long-distance flight from Pardubice to Prague. The flight was an undeniable success. Jan Kaspar covered the distance of 120 kilometres from Pardubice to Prague in 1 hour and 32 minutes, at an average speed of 80 kilometres per hour. At that time, it was the longest flight carried out in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Kaspar landed on a racecourse in Chuchle, south of Prague, where crowds welcomed him as a hero.