Airline companies in Rumania (1918-1945)
By: Rob Mulder
The history of civil aviation in Rumania has been more than just interesting. There were four airline companies in Rumania in the period up to 1945. These companies will be described here in full detail.
Civil Aviation and Civil Air Register
Rumania had an interesting aviation history. Despite the dark period after the Second World War, much information has been preserved on the development of civil aviation and the aircraft construction. Recent publication on Rumanian aircraft manufacturers has showed, that much is still unknown. One of the greatest names in the pre-Great War period is that of Traian Vuia, who on March 18, 1906 carried out the first flight of a heavier-than-air plane from Rumanian soil. The aircraft was designed, constructed and flown by him. His aircraft was one of the first to have a fixed undercarriage, which enabled it to take-off on its own power.
The first Rumanian pilot possessing an international brevet was the later president of the Royal Aero Club of Rumanian Prince G V Bibescu.
The Rumanian Air Ministry ordered in 1911 the licence production of four Farman-aircraft to be built at the workshops of the flying school of Chitila. The order was followed by a new order of four in 1912, but these were constructed at the Air Force flying school at Cotroceni. Many daring men tried to enter the classes of the Flying School and Rumania saw soon the first results. The Fortelor Aeriene Regal ale Rumania – FARR (the Royal Rumanian Air Force) was founded in 1913. Rumania was the only Balkan State that could afford an Air Force. During the Balkan War and the Great War many Rumanian pilots fought with great distinction on the Western and Eastern fronts.
After the Great War the new and powerful Rumanian State wanted to set up a strong aircraft industry. In 1919, the Arsenalul Aeronatic (Aeronautical Arsenal) was set up near Bucuresti. The plant took over the personnel of the Rezerva Generala a Aviatiei (General Air Force Reserve) at Iasi and, who in the period 1922-24 built seventy-two Brandenburg two-seaters. The first aircraft factory after the Great War was the Astra factory of Arad, which in 1925 started the building of a prototype of a reconnaissance plane for the Rumanian Air Force. It did not reach production and the factory was taken over by one of the best-known aircraft manufactures from Rumania: the Industria Aeronautica Romana – IAR (Rumanian Aeronautical Industry) of Brasov, established in 1925 with capital from the Bleriot-Spad and Lorraine-Dietrich works from France. It was not until January 1, 1939, that the factory came into Rumanian hands. The IAR works produced over the years a number of fine aircraft for the Royal Rumanian Air Force.
A second aircraft manufacturer was the Societatea pentru Exploatari Tehnice – SET (Society for Technical Exploitation) of Bucuresti. The engineer Mr Grigore Zamfirescu formed the company in 1923. In the beginning the factory did modification work on De Havilland D.H.9s and general repairs of the Proto-2 planes in use with the Military Flying School of Tecuci. The first success was the SET.3, which was used as a trainer by latter flying school. The first order included fifty aircraft. Both fighters and trainers prototypes were designed, but they never entered production. It started however with licence production of the Spad-aircraft. The last project of the company was the SET-20, a twin-engine monoplane, which neither entered production.
The last aircraft manufacturer of importance was the Intreprinderea de Constructii Aeronautice Romanesti – ICAR (Enterprise for Rumanian Aeronautical Construction), which designed and constructed the only Rumanian civil aircraft to enter regular service: the ICAR Comercial (LARES, q.v.). In 1932 Nicolae Racovita formed a factory, where the production of gliders (ICAR-1) started. Another interesting creation from this factory was the ICAR Universal, an aerobatics single-seater, one of which made a historic flight from Bucuresti to Capetown and back (1935). The company was in 1938 renamed Uzinele ICAR Socetate Anonima (ICAR Works, Limited Company).
Civil aviation became after the Great War a sub-department of the Air Ministry of Communications under the control of a Director-Engineer. The same department maintained the main airport of Rumania, the Baneasa Civil Aerodrome near Bucuresti. In 1924 the department moved to the War Office and became a department of Aeronautics. On 1 January 1930 a new change can into effect, when the Ministry of Commerce took over responsibility of civil aviation.
By 1929 several clubs were formed, of which the following were note while:
- Aero-Clubul Regal al Romaniei (the Royal Aero Club of Rumania), who’s president was the Prince G V Bibescu;
- The Aero-Clubul Culorei de Albastru – the association for propaganda;
- And the Cercul Aero-Tehnic Bucuresti, which propagandised the development of technical studies.
Later on the Asociatia Romana pentru Propaganda Aviatiei – ARPA will be extensively described. It was one of the most popular clubs in Rumania and had some sixty branches throughout the country.
The Civil Air Register was started up in the beginning of the twenties. As national identity, Rumania took the letters C-R, followed by a combination of three letters. 1931 this register was cancelled and Rumania introduced as national identity the letters YR-. For a while some special aircraft carried the letters CV-, followed by three letters.
From the first Air Register not many registrations are known, but the first registration in the new YR- register (YR-AAA), belonged to the airliner Junkers F 13ge, which was registered in June 1931. Eventually, the registration of aircraft often included letters from the type. An example here is the registration of the De Havilland D.H.89 Dragon Rapide, YR-DRA, where the letters DR stood for the Dragon Rapide. The Lockheed L-10A Electra’s carried registration starting with LE.
Serviciul National de Navigatie Aeriana – SNNA
In a way, Rumania was one the first countries to support international civil aviation. On 23 April 1920 the Rumanian Bank Marmorosh was one of the co-founders of the Franco-Rumanian Compagnie Franco-Roumaine de Navigation Aérienne – CFRNA. By 1922 this company had established a link between Paris and Bucuresti, the capital of Rumania. In April 1921 the Ministry of Communication allowed Rumanian companies to start a service from Bucuresti to Galati and Kisinoff and put 3,500,000 Lei at the disposal for the exploitation of these routes. In 1922 the Arsenalul Aeronautic had modified six de Havilland D.H.9 into civil airliners. Two civil registrations are known: C-RAIU and C-REDO. Later, in 1924, the Societatea pentru Exploatari Tehnice – SET received the order to modify another four De Havilland D.H.9 military aircraft into passenger’s planes. All aircraft came from a stock of not used de Havilland D.H.9, which had arrived from England to Rumania right after the Great War. On 1 June 1922 the first aircraft started on a 410 km long line: Bucuresti – Galati – Chisináu.
In March 1925, however, plans for the establishment of a domestic air services under supervision of the Ministry of Communication were drafted. Aircraft were taken from the fleet of the Royal Rumanian Air Force. They included the French constructed biplane Potez XV, which in August opened a twice-daily experimental airmail service between Bucuresti and Galati. Aircraft operated this 185km long route for four months. On 24 June 1926 the service was re-opened and extended to Iasi and Chisináu. Ten De Havilland D.H.9Cs (powered by one 240 hp Armstrong Siddeley Puma), five Ansaldo 300s (one registered C-ROMA) in addition to the earlier mentioned Potez-aircraft operated the service. If these aircraft carried some civil registrations is unknown, but likely. In 1927 no air services have been operated, but in April negotiations started with regard to the opening of a Polish-Rumanian air service from Danzig via Warszawa (Poland) to Bucuresti and Istanbul (Turkey). Aircraft suggested were either of the type Dornier or Junkers. The plan would be financially backed by Germany.
The Department of Aeronautics formed in 1928 the Serviciul National de Navigatie Aeriana – SNNA, which was to be responsible for the air services. Flying Colonel Capsa Ioan headed the SNNA. Following a visit of Prince Carol to France, the General Inspector of Aeronautics, Lieutenant-General Rudeanu was instructed by its Government to order in France for SNNA at the Société Henry et Maurice Farman, three brand new Farman F 168Bn4, of which two would be delivered for the scheduled passengers airliner services. The use of these aircraft, however, was at the time of ordering unclear. The first aircraft (a bomber for the FARR) with the c/n 1, was delivered through the air on 15 April 1928 and used for the training of Rumanian crews. The first civil Farman F 168Bn4 departed Paris/Le Bourget on 21 April and flew via Lyon, Torino, Udine and Beograd to Bucuresti. André Salmon and Julien Risser flew the aircraft. Latter flew the third aircraft as well, but had to make an extra-ordinary landing at Zagreb. The aircraft was damaged, but was repaired by Farman-personnel, flown in from France. On 1 July the aircraft continued its delivery flight to Bucuresti. André Salmon and Mr Tandis remained in Bucuresti for training the Rumanians. The same year delivery of a further addition to the SNNA-fleet arrived from France: one Farman F 63bis. It was given the Rumanian registration C-ROIC. This aircraft had as feature dual controls. All Farman-aircraft were equipped with two 365 hp Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar 3A-engines, of which Rumania had a large stock.
As mentioned, the SNNA was not sure what to do with the aircraft. In official discussions with Junkers Flugzeugwerk AG-Jfa’s representative Mr Scholl, the Lieutenant-General Rudeanu mentioned that the department was much more interested in opening a non-stop or at least a direct service with Berlin, the capital of Germany. The amount of passengers and goods would by far reach the offered ton kilometre. After the reconciliation with Czechoslovakia, an option would be to fly via this country to Breslau and Berlin. Mr Scholl suggested the opening of a route from Bucuresti to Budapest with connection on the existing network to Berlin. The bad political relation with Hungary made this for the time being impossible. The Lieutenant-General Rudeanu would rather use the Junkers-aircraft instead of the Farman-aircraft, as latter was seen as not suitable at all for such a service.
In 1928 the SNNA was used to start up domestic air services again and to prepare the operation of international routes. The two 10-passenger Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar-powered Farman F.168Bn4 started in May to operate the domestic air services Bucuresti – Iasi – Cernauti and Bucuresti – Galati – Chisináu. However, despite their impressive appearance the aircraft were not at all suited for air services. Vibrations made the aircraft suffer much, especially in the wings, where the engines were mounted. Also the wires between the wings weakened considerable during use. After three months the aircraft were withdrawn from use. It is not clear which aircraft took over, but it was likely the obsolete de Havilland D.H.9C were put back into use again. Since relationships with Czechoslovakia by 1928 were normalised, the Rumanian Government looked at the possibility to buy Czechoslovak aircraft for the FARR. In 1928 the Government and the Miloš Bondy a Spol came to an agreement to buy six Avia BH-25s for the scheduled air service in the direction of Praha and Berlin. The SNNA wanted to open an air service to Cluj (also known as Klausenburg), where the CSA would continue to fly to Praha. The six aircraft were delivered in the autumn of 1928 and used on the domestic network. The BH-25J was the modified version of the BH-25, with one 420 hp Walter Jupiter IV air-cooled radial engine. The type was a single-bay biplane with unequal span. The closed cabin took six passengers and the cockpit was in front of the passenger cabin. To be able to house the Jupiter-engine, the nose of the aircraft was lengthened. In Rumania the aircraft were given the civil registration C-RIBI, C-RITA, C-RIXA, C-ROIU, C-ROVA and C-RENO and used on a new and demanding air route across the Carpathian Mountains from Bucuresti to Cluj, which was opened in October or November 1928. The idea was that SNNA and the Czechoslovak airline company CSA would proceed from Cluj to Užhorod and Košice (Kaschau). This would have been the first air service flown with Rumanian aircraft. The Rumanians would fly every other day, while CSA would fly the other days. Due to lack of an air agreement with Poland the air service Bucuresti – Cernnauti could not yet be extended to Poland, so a connection between Košice and Kraków was under study. The new General Inspector of Aeronautics, General Alexander Gorsky (successor of Rudeanu) wanted to replace the Farman-aircraft with German aircraft, while the General Director of Aviation, General Constantin Dumitrescu, rather saw the formation of another squadron with Farman-aircraft, which would be used for SNNA.
The General Inspector of Aeronautics also worked on the plan to open a direct link between Paris and Bucuresti, for which an offer from the NV Nederlandsche Vliegtuigfabriek (Fokker) had already been received: A six passenger, single-engine aircraft with a cruising speed of 225km/h. The engine would come from the Rumanian stock of Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar 3A.
The used Avia BH-25J were not satisfying either, especially after the Walter Jupiter IV-engine had been replaced by the Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar 3A. This had great influence on the performance of the aircraft. The maximum ceiling had now been reduced from 5,000 to 3,000 metres and the cruising speed reduced as well. The delivery and payment of the aircraft were cursed by problems, so the Rumanians were not interested in purchasing any further aircraft.
In June 1928 Junkers Flugzeugwerk AG – Jfa and Bunavad (the Junkers-affiliated Bulgarian airline company) started discussion with the Rumanian Government about the possibility to open a regular service Bucuresti – Ruse – Sofija (the capital of Bulgaria). Rumania had by then had its first encounter with the Junkers F 13 in May 1928, when the Jfa-Junkers F 13, D-1203 (ex B-BUNA, c/n 2003 of Bunavad) flew to Bucuresti to operate a seasonal air service to the holiday resort Constanţa. In addition the Junkers F 13 made numerous joy ride and demonstrations flights at Constanţa. It flew some 12,000 kilometres during 80 flying-hours. After a visit to the Jfa-factory in Dessau in July 1927 by the then General Inspector of Aeronautics, General Rudeanu, the Asociatia Romana pentru Propaganda Aviatiei – ARPA, chartered the Junkers F 13 with the German registration D-1071 (Gabelschwalbe, c/n 800) for a tour through Europe. For this tour the aircraft was re-named for the occasion as Rumania Santa Maria and registered C-RBIM. Pilots were Captain Burduloi and Captain Jacobescu. Organiser behind the initiative and passenger was Chief Editor Mihail Negru. This tour was made in the autumn of 1928 and several European capitals were visited. The delivery of further aircraft was under consideration.
In 1929 SNNA flew the 585km long air service Bucuresti – Galati – Iase – Cernauti and the 525 km long air service Bucuresti – Sibiu – Cluj. Further services from Bucuresti to Constanţa, from Cluj to Oradea Mare, from Cernauti to Galati and Chişináu were planned and the Government considered organising joy-ride flights on Sundays, Public Holidays and on Wednesdays-afternoons. For 100 Lei passengers could buy a ticket at the Banessa Airport near Bucuresti. The domestic network was further extended in 1930 with Bucuresti – Constanţa, Galati – Cernauti and Iasa – Sibiu – Cluj.
In April 1927, the Rumanian Government opened the discussions with the Polish Government for a scheduled air service from Danzig to Warszawa, Bucuresti and Istanbul. It would take until February 1930 before both Governments came to an agreement and it was not until 1 June 1930 that P.L.L. LOT could open the Lwòw – Cernauti – Galati – Bucuresti air service with connection in Lwòw to Warszawa and Danzig.
The general depression after the famous Wall Street crack in October 1929 caused the opening of international air service to be delayed and before the opening of the 1930-season the Serviciul National de Navigatie Aeriana – SNNA was re-organised and reborn under the new name of Liniile Aeriene Romane Exploatate de Statul – LARES (meaning Rumanian Air Lines Exploited by the State).
Liniile Aeriene Romane Exploatate de Statul – LARES
The Liniile Aeriene Romane Exploatate de Statul – LARES (Rumanian Air Line Exploited by the State) was formed around March 1930 as a State controlled airline company. LARES was formed to replace the SNNA and as a strong Rumanian airline company capable of operating the scheduled international air services. Rumania had just signed an air agreement with Poland (9 May 1930) and Czechoslovakia (20 June 1930). On 1 June 1930 P.L.L. LOT from Poland scheduled to open an air service between Lwòw and Rumania, with connection in Poland to Warszawa. But as Rumania did not possess competitive equipment, the LARES were to purchase suitable aircraft.
The company took over from the SNNA its four Avia BH-25J (CV-ANA, CV-ADI, CV-AVA and CV-AUP) and added in April and June two Junkers F 13s (powered by a Junkers L 5 engine) to its own fleet. One aircraft was new (CV-JAB, c/n 2045), while the second one (CV-JAC, c/n 800) was built in 1928 and used in Rumania by the Asociatia Romana pentru Propaganda Aviatiei – ARPA.
The Rumanian Government suggested an extensive programme for the development of national and international air route and the purchase of new civil aircraft. It proposed the operation of the following air service by either State or private airline companies:
- Bucuresti – Turnu Severin – Timisoara – Arad;
- Galati – Chişináu;
- Cernauti – Hotin;
- Bucuresti – Silistra – Bazargic;
- Galati – Istanbul;
- Bucuresti – Galati – Iasi – Cernauti – Lwòw – Warszawa; and
- Bucuresti – Cluj – Užhorod – Praha.
In addition, aerodromes were to be erected in Cluj and Cernauti and smaller airfields in Timisoara, Satu Mare, Zaláu, Bistriţa, Rădauţi, Hotin, Soroca, Moreni, Urziceni, Făurei, Silistra and Bazargic. The plan was presented Parliament and partly approved.
The lack of suitable aircraft had led to the interruption of all domestic air services in 1930 and the first half of 1931, but in July LARES could start up. On 25 July 1931, the Junkers F 13s re-opened a service between Bucuresti, Constanţa and Balcic (304 km long air route), while the now obsolete Avia BH-25J-fleet commenced to operate the seasonal air service Constanţa – Carmen Sylva – Mangalia (55 km). It was closed down for the season on 1 September. The service to Balcic was flown daily until 15 September and reduced to three times weekly until its closure on 1 October. Exactly one month later (1 November) a third air service was opened when the Junkers F 13 started to operate three times weekly the important air service Bucuresti – Galati – Chişináu – Cernauti (676 km). On 20 December 1931 all air service in Rumania were resumed.
The results for this season are well documented. A total of 73,527km was flown, and 724 passengers carried. 1,642kg mail was carried between Bucuresti, Constanţa and Balcic, while on the other services no mail was carried at all. The average regularity percentage of flights carried out was 93.63 %, with the first two services managing as high as 100 %! The winter service Bucuresti – Cernauti reached a respectable percentage of 80.9.
More Junkers F 13s were ordered and two were delivered in 1932: On 24 April the YR-ABB (c/n 2065) and YR-ABD (c/n 2066) were taken in service by LARES. The company possibly used another Junkers F 13ke (YR-AAT, c/n 2053), which was owned by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. But conclusive evidence has not been found.
These aircraft continued to fly the 1931-network and at the end of the year LARES’s aircraft had flown 198,319km and carried 1,231 passengers. Only 60kg of mail, but 21,250kg of goods and excess baggage were transported.
In the period 1933-35 the company took delivery of just a few aircraft. In August 1933, LARES purchased one Stinson JR Model S, YR-GVB (c/n 8093), which was sold to Prince G V Bibescu the following year. In 1934 two Potez 29-4 (YR-AIX, c/n 1406, and YR-AIZ, c/n 1412) were delivered from France, followed by one Farman F 192, which was registered YR-ABU (c/n 12). And in 1935 the first commercial aircraft built in Rumania was delivered to LARES for trials: the ICAR M 36 Comercial. It was a high-winged, single-engine aircraft with a ventilated cabin for eight passengers and a cockpit for two crewmembers with dual control. The power plant was a 340 hp Armstrong Siddeley Serval Mark I engine, which gave the aircraft a cruising speed of 220 km/h. The aircraft had a maximum range of 700km. It was not used that extensively. It entered LARES-service on 1 September 1935 and by June 1940 it had clocked a flying time of 216 hours and 39 minutes. It was withdrawn from use in June 1940 and subsequently scrapped. The ICAR factory planned a three-engine version, but this plan was never realised.
During the years 1933-36, LARES continued to operate domestic services, although the exact routings are now longer known. 1936 saw the delivery of the first modern aircraft. The SSA – the Air Under secretariat of State had order from De Havilland in England four brand-new D.H.89 Dragon Rapide’s. One was kept by the SSA, but joined LARES in July 1938, while the three other eventually went to LARES in June (YR-DRA, c/n 6329) and September (YR-DRI, c/n 6330 and YR-DRO, c/n 6331).
Unfortunately, one aircraft had to be cancelled after an accident. On 29 April 1937, the D.H.89, YR-DRA was lost and had to be scrapped.
But both the Rumanian Government as owner of LARES and the management of the company agreed that more modern material had to be purchased to replace the Avia BH-25J and Junkers F 13, which had operated the network since 1931. In April 1937 the Government therefore ordered in the USA four twin-engine Lockheed L-10A Electra’s for delivery that year. Three were delivered before the merger of the Rumanian airline companies SARTA and LARES: YR-LEA (c/n 1089), YR-LEC (c/n 1093), YR-LED (c/n 1094).
The Government also realised that the SARTA, which had flown domestic air services since 1936, was a too big competitor and it was therefore decided to re-organise the airline companies in Rumania and form one new modern airline company with capital from both private investors and the State. The re-organisation started in the Spring of 1937 and was finalised on 21 July 1937, when the new LARES was formed. The difference between the old LARES and the new LARES was the Rumanian word cu. The old LARES was called Airlines Exploited by (de) the State, but now the name was changed in Airlines Exploited with (cu) the State. The old LARES seeded to exist when the new LARES were formed: 21 July 1937.
Societatea Anonima Romana de Transporturi Aeriene – SARTA
At the end of the year 1935, Rumanian civil aviation was still not developing as fast as it would like. Furthermore the Rumanian Government decided that year to become self-sufficient in warplane production. The French aircraft manufacturer Henri Potez had already delivered both civil as military aircraft to Rumania and participated in the Franco-Rumanian airline company CIDNA (since 1933 Air France). He hoped to increase his influence by forming an airline company in Rumania for mainly domestic air services. On 14 December 1935 together with private Rumanians investors he formed the Societatea Anonima Romana de Transporturi Aeriene – SARTA. Henri Potez owned 30 % of the shares of the SARTA, which had its head office at the Calea Victoriei 63 in the centre of Bucuresti. The Board of Directors included M Gigurtu, A Jancel and T Aldéa. At its foundation the company was supplied with five brand new Potez 56-0, all carrying French registrations: F-AOCD, F-ANNA, F-ANNB, F-AOCC, F-ANNC and F-AOCA.
The prototype had made its maiden flight on 18 June 1934 and entered service in May 1935, when the Société Potez Aero Service started to operate the Bordeaux – Toulouse – Marseille – Nice – Bastia air service. The low-winged aircraft had twin engines of the type Potez 9Ab enclosed in close-fitting NACA cowlings. The cabin had accommodation for six passengers and the closed cockpit housed two pilots. The Rumanian Prince G V Bibescu, then FAI-president, purchased one sample, the Potez 56-0, YR-FAI. Henri Potez thought it to be a good idea to operate the type in Rumania with SARTA as well. The French-registered aircraft were all given Rumanian registrations in May 1936, with the exception of one.
SARTA started with the operation of domestic routes and operated in 1936:
- Bucuresti – Constanţa – Balcic (daily);
- Bucuresti – Craiova – Timisoara – Arad (thrice weekly);
- Bucuresti – Galati – Iasi – Cernauti.
One Potez 56-0, the F-AOCD, was lost when it on 1 February 1936 crashed during an internal flight near Cornereva killing the Flight Captain Petre Ivanovici and his crew.
On 1 May SARTA started to operate in pool with the Czechoslovak State Airline Company – CSA the first Rumanian international air service Bucuresti – Cluj – Pistany – Praha.
Result for the SARTA company are unknown for the year 1936. The new year started disastrous for the young company, when the Potez 56-0, YR-OCC (ex F-AOCC) was lost on 10 January 1937. It was replaced by the improved version of the Potez 56-0, the Potez 56-1, YR-OCB, which was taken over on 24 March 1937. In the Spring of 1937 SARTA operated the earlier mentioned network.
The Rumanian government was keen to take over control of civil aviation and ordered the merger of SARTA and LARES to form a new State-controlled airline company under the name of Liniile Aeriene Romane Exploatate cu Statul – LARES. On 21 July 1937 the re-organisation was completed and the new LARES was formed absorbing SARTA and the old LARES. The SARTA-fleet was taken over by the new LARES during July 1937.
Liniile Aeriene Romane Exploatate cu Statul – LARES
The re-organisation of the Rumanian airline companies was finalised on 21 July 1937 and the Government together with private investors formed the Liniile Aeriene Romane Exploatate cu Statul – LARES (Rumanian Air-Lines Exploited with the State) by absorbing the privately owned SARTA and old State-owned LARES. Mr Andrei Popovici was appointed general manager and headed the company until he came into discredit after the crash of the Lockheed L-14H, YR-LIS, killing all occupants. He was cleared by a court, but never returned to active duty.
The main objective of LARES was a rapid expansion of the international network out of Rumania and operated by a modern fleet. At its foundation, LARES operated a mixed fleet of mainly single-engine aircraft. These included some Junkers F 13s and an ICAR M 36 Comercial. In 1936 the old LARES had purchased in the United Kingdom three brand new De Havilland D.H.89 Dragon Rapides, which together with the five former SARTA Potez 56s and one newly required Junkers Ju-52/3m formed the backbone of the company upon its foundation.
In May, the old LARES had ordered four American-built Lockheed L-10A Electra, which were to be used for the scheduled international air services to Rumania’s neighbouring countries and three had been delivered before the re-organisation. The last one (YR-LEB, c/n 1090) arrived just after the company’s foundation. In September arrived via the Netherlands two modern Douglas DC-3G2-227’s, which were allotted the registrations YR-PIF (c/n 1985) and YR-PAF (c/n 1986). One month later LARES received its order three new De Havilland D.H.90 Dragonfly-aircraft: YR-FLY (c/n 7544) YR-FLO (c/n 7545) and YR-FLU (c/n 7546). By now the LARES possessed one of the most modern fleets of its time.
The old LARES operated two services: one from Bucuresti to Turnu Magurelle, Caracal and Craiova and a second one from Bucuresti to Galati, Ismail, Cetatea Alba (at the shores of the Black Sea) and further to Chisinau. These two service were after the take-over of SARTA extended with: Bucuresti – Craiova – Timisoara – Arad, Bucuresti – Galati – Jasi – Cernauti and Bucuresti – Constanţa – Balcic. The only international operated air service of SARTA was also taken over and operated in co-operation with the Czechoslovak airline company CSA: Bucuresti – Cluj – Pieštany – Praha. Latter was flown thrice weekly, alternating with CSA.
On 19 September 1937 the Rumanian and Italian Government signed an air treaty, allowing Italian airline companies (Ala Littoria SA and Avio Linee Italiana SA) to operate air service to and from Rumania in pool with LARES. Subsequently, the Italian airline company Ala Littoria S.A opened that year an international air service. On 4 October it started to operate with the beautiful Savoia Marchetti S.73 airliners Milano – Venezia – Zagreb – Belgrado – Bucuresti with departure from Milano on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Return flight was on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The flying time was 5 hours.
That same year the Rumanian Government signed an air treaty with Germany (3 October 1937) and Hungary (17 December 1937) as well as with Bulgaria (22 May) and Russia (15 May). One other important air treaty was signed in May as well between Rumania and Greece. LARES was entitled to open an air service over Greek territory and fly between Bucuresti, Thessaloniki, Athenia and Rhodos. A co-operation with the Polish airline company PLL LOT was logical as well. When the agreement was signed in June Greek operator HEES was not to fly the international section, but PLL LOT and LARES would operate this. It was however not until 1939 that LARES opened a service to Greece.
The results for the last part of the year 1937 showed a nice increase. Under the guidance of Andrei Popvici the company carried 5,434 passengers and 19,912 kg of freight and its fleet flew 732,061 km. The total length of the 1937-network was 6,122 km. Unfortunately the capacity utilised was still relatively low: 39 % for the passenger figure and 35 % when freight was added. This would however over the years improve considerably.
The new contact with Italy led to the purchase of Italian airliners for LARES. Four aircraft of the Savoia Marchetti SM.83 were ordered and delivered in September 1938 and carried the registration YR-SAC, YR-SAD, YR-SAE and YR-SAK. A further extension was the purchase of three Lockheed L-10A Electra’s (registered in March as YR-LEG, YR-LEF and in May as YR-LEE) extended in the autumn by the improved version, the Lockheed L-14 Super Electra (four aircraft were handed over in September: YR-DNC, YR-LIB, YR-LID, YR-LIR AND YR-LIS). LARES had ordered these fast airliners for use on its international network. New French-built Potez 56-1s were taken in use as well mainly for the domestic air network, that saw rapid growth as well. The registration of these were: YR-AFF, YR-AFH, YR-AFG, YR-AFI and in October finally the YR-AFJ. The last of the ordered De Havilland D.H.89 Dragon Rapides was delivered as well. The fleet of LARES could now be regarded as one of Europe’s most modern. At the end of 1938 the company operated no less than thirty-eight modern airliners of nine different types.
With this large fleet and a number of new air treaties in the pocket, LARES could start it expansion of the international network.
One of the most interesting air services running across Europe opened in 28 March, when PLL LOT and LARES starting the operation of an air service between Palestine and Poland: Lydda – Rhodos – Athenia – Thessaloniki – Sofia – Bucuresti – Cernauti – Lwòw – Warszawa. Both airline companies operated their Lockheed L-10A Electra on this service, later supplemented by the Savoia Marchetti SM.83. The stretch Bucuresti – Lydda was only operated three times weekly in each direction, while the Bucuresti – Warszawa stretch was flown daily, except on Sundays.
The pool agreement with Germany and Hungary led to the opening on the 1 May 1938 of the joint LARES, MALÈRT and DLH air service number 17: Bucuresti – Budapest – Wien – Berlin. The airline companies operated this service until 25 September. At the same date LARES and MALÈRT opened air service number 1370 Bucuresti – Arad – Budapest, which LARES operated with the Douglas DC-3 and the Lockheed L-10A Electra. The re-opening of the LARES/CSA air service Bucuresti – Cluj – Pieštany – Praha was on 1 May. And here LARES operated Lockheed L-10A Electra and supplemented in September with the Savoia Marchetti SM.83.
On 2 May 1938 the Potez 561 and the Lockheed L-10A Electra’s opened up the domestic network: Air service No 2110: Bucuresti – Cetatea Albă and Bucuresti – Galati – Ismail – Cetatea Albă;
Air service No 2111: Bucuresti – Galati – Cernauti;
Air service number 2112: Cetatea Albă – Cernauti; and
Air service number 2113: Bucuresti – Arad.
On 15 June they were extended with some seasonal air services:
Air service number 2114: Bucuresti – Cálárasi – Bazargic – Balcic;
Air service number 2115: Bucuresti – Constanţa;
Air service number 2116: Cernatti – Iasi – Galati – Constanţa; and
Air service number 2119: Cernatti – Cluj – Arad.
Latter four were closed down on 15 September, while the first mentioned domestic air services were resumed on 1 October. The Potez 561 was the main aircraft on the Rumanian domestic network, but the Douglas DC-3 mainly used on the important Bucuresti – Constanţa route. The De Havilland D.H.89 was for example used on air service 2119. Finally, LARES operated an air service between Satu Mare and Targu Mares in Transylvania, but the period of operation is not known. LARES domestic network covered a total length of 2,990km, while its total network had increased from 6,122km in 1937 to 7,165km.
Of the company’s fleet it is not clear where the ICAR M 36 Comercial operated, but it must have been likely that it served on the internal routes. At the outbreak of war, the ICAR 36 Comercial had already been taken out of service, but by May 1940 it was still not scrapped. None of the operated aircraft were lost or had major extra-ordinary landings during 1938.
The progressive line in the financial and transportation figures continued throughout 1938. For the first time the number of kilometre flown exceeded one million and ended on 1,170,793km. Its aircraft carried 12,072 passengers and 50,406kg freight.
In 1939 the domestic network was resumed on 17 April and included the same routes as the year before. Air service 2110 and 2111 were re-opened first. Air service number 2120 between Sata Mare and Tigru Mures was re-routed and resumed on 1 May as Bucuresti – Tigru Mures, with from 1 May extended to Cluj and Satu Mare. Air service numbers 2116 and 2119 were both flown three times weekly and operated by respectively Potez 561 and D.H..89 Dragon Rapide. On 2116 Constanţa was only serviced between 1 June and 4 September. Finally, air service number 2114 was not changed and operated from 1 May. On the same day LARES re-opened in pool with DLH and MALÈRT the Bucuresti – Arad – Budapest – Wien – Berlin air service (number 117). In addition air service number 1370 Bucuresti – Arad – Budapest – Praha – Berlin was operated starting on 1 May. During May the route was flown daily (except on Sundays) but in June, July and August it was reduced to three times weekly in each direction. LARES flew with the sixteen seats Douglas DC-3, while MALÈRT operated the Junkers Ju-52/3m.
The Polish-Rumanian air treaty of 1937 was on 24 March 1939 renewed and valid for another year. Thus PLL LOT and LARES could re-open their air services as well and operate between Bucuresti and Warszawa again. The Polish airline company continued three times weekly to Sofia, Thessaloniki and Athenia in respectively Bulgaria and Greece.
Finally, the pool service Bucuresti – Belgrado – Zagreb – Venezia – Milano – Torino (in pool with ALI) and Bucuresti – Belgrado – Tiranë – Roma (in pool with Ala Littoria SA) was operated by LARES and its pool partners.
Beside the already existing service, LARES planned to expanded further. In June representatives from Imperial Airways Ltd visited Bucuresti to negotiate an air treaty for an air service from London to Bucuresti. This contact was a follow-up of the British-Rumanian Trade Agreement of 11 May 1939. After the meeting in Bucuresti, the British granted Rumania 5.5 million pound sterling for the purchase of war material. An air service between the two countries could unfortunately not be opened.
Rumania also saw potential in air services to the east. The famous LARES-pilot Constantin Cantacuzino (he flew for LARES since 1938, but had a long list of merits behind his name. He was popularly known under the nickname Bâzu) and FAI-president Prince George Valentin Bibescu flew the Potez 560, YR-FAI (c/n 3804, registered since January 1935 on his name) from Rumania to Moskva (Soviet union) and back as a trial flight for a future Rumanian air service.
In May the eldest air service on Rumania (Paris – Strasbourg – Praha – Budapest – Beograd – Bucuresti – Istanbul had to be discontinued as the crossing of the German occupied territory of Böhmen and Mähren and the landing in Praha had been denied by German authorities. Furthermore, the southern approach via Yugoslavia was also resumed as the Franco-Yugoslav air treaty had not yet been renewed. Air France scheduled to operate a new air route, which avoided crossing former Czech territory. It would run from Paris via Strasbourg, München, Wien and Budapest to Bucuresti. This service could not be opened prior to the war.
Rumania and Turkey concluded on 3 June 1939 an air treaty, allowing LARES to start up air service on the city of Istanbul. This service could be operated three times weekly in both directions. LARES operated the service by the fast Lockheed L-10A Electra.
The fleet expanded with three brand new Potez 56-1s (YR-AFK, YR-AFL and YR-AFM). They turned out to be last aircraft, which LARES received before the start of the Second World War. The country did not participate directly from the start of the Second World War, but the start of the war meant some changes for LARES as well. In September 1939 the conflict started with the invasion of Poland. Despite the closure of Rumanian air space (on 31 August) the ARR’s inventory increased dramatically when some three hundred military and civilian aircraft fled from Poland to Rumania. No less than eighteen Polish civil registered aircraft arrived during that month and many of them ended their life in the fleet of LARES. The aircraft included modern material such as the Douglas DC-2, Lockheed L-10A Electra and L-14 Super Electra. The aircraft were handed over to the Subsecretariatul de Stat al Aerukui – SSA (Undersecretary of State for Aviation) and came during the successive years to LARES. Three obsolete Fokker F.VIIb-3ms had found their way to Rumania as well, but did not join the LARES-fleet, although some sources gave these aircraft the registrations YR-AHS, YR-EQH and YR-LGR. The list is as follows:
Date of arrival in Rumania, followed by type of aircraft, Polish registration and constructor’s number:
1 Sep 39
Douglas DC-2-115F, SP-ASL, c/n 1378
Lockheed L.10A Electra, SP-BGF, c/n 1086
Lockheed L.14H Super Electra, SP-BNH, c/n 1423
2 Sep 39
Lockheed L.14H Super Electra, SP-BPK, c/n 1492
4 Sep 39
Lockheed L.14H Super Electra, SP-BNE, c/n 1420
5 Sep 39
Douglas DC-2-115F, SP-ASK, c/n 1377
6 Sep 39
Lockheed L.14H Super Electra, SP-BPL, c/n 1493
12 Sep 39
Lockheed L.10A Electra, SP-AYC, c/n 1047
Junkers Ju-52/3m, SP-AKX, c/n 5588
Lockheed L.10A Electra, SP-BGE, c/n 1085
Lockheed L.10A Electra, SP-BGG, c/n 1087
Lockheed L.10A Electra, SP-BGH, c/n 1088
Lockheed L.10A Electra, SP-BGH, c/n 1088
13 Sep 39
Fokker F.VIIb-3m, SP-AOG, c/n 11
Fokker F.VIIb-3m, SP-AMH, c/n 1
RWD-13, SP-BNU, c/n 283
16 Sep 39
Lockheed L.10A Electra, SP-BGK, c/n 1090
Date unknown, only September 1939:
Fokker F-VIIb-3m, SP-AMI, c/n 2
PWS-24bis, SP-AMS, c/n 590
The United Kingdom showed interest in the Lockheed-fleet and reserved a sequence of registrations for the aircraft. None were however delivered to the UK, but all remained in Rumania under the control of the SSA and were used for the transportation of military officials. The RWD-13 and RWS-24bis were impressed into military service.
During the last months of 1939 LARES continued to fly national and international air service as often as possible and at the end of the year the results saw a further increase. The fleet had flown 1,224,950km and carried 15,348 passengers and 86,092kg freight. The length of the network reached its peak: 8,353km.
For the first time in its existence LARES fast the lost of aircraft. On 23 August 1940, the Douglas DC-3-G2-227, YR-PIF crashed into the mountainside of mount Găina.
Of the fleet a number of aircraft were withdrawn from active service and by May three Junkers F 13 (YR-ABB, YR-AAE and YR-AAF), one Junkers Ju-52/3m (YR-ABF), one ICAR 36 Comercial (YR-ACS), one De Havilland D.H..89 (YR-DRI), one D.H.90 (YR-FLU), one Potez 560 (YR-NNA) and one Potez 561 (YR-OCB) were all withdrawn from service and ready to be scrapped. The Savoia Marchetti SM.83 had only seen limited service with LARES and only made 10-16 flying-hours. They were transferred to Number 1 Bomb Group, before eventually ending up in Italy. The reason for this limited use was problems with the ignition of the engines, which simple could not be solved in a proper way. Therefore LARES withdrew the aircraft at an early stage. The company had a number of more reliable aircraft at its disposal.
The ex-PLL LOT aircraft operating in Rumania are a chapter for itself. They had all arrived in September and taken over by the SSA. Most aircraft were delivered to LARES, but were still operated with Polish civil registrations all the way up to 1943. On 24 July the former PLL-LOT Lockheed L-14H Super Electra, SP-BPK had stalled on the approach to Bucuresti and had to be written off, but here it is not clear if the aircraft at that time was operated by the military nor if the aircraft belonged to the fleet of LARES.
Territorial losses led to changes for LARES as well. Rumania had been reduced by one third, after the loss of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovia to the Soviet union, northern Transylvania to Hungary and southern Dobruja to Bulgaria. Politically, the dictator General Ion Antonescu came to power and the armed forces were reconstructed during the summer of 1940. The SSA now became a part of the Ministerul Apãrãrii Nationale (Ministry of National Defence). On 16 October LARES was militarised and its fleet was to carry beside their civil markings, military markings. Over time, the aircraft were given camouflage colours. SSA inducted LARES-personnel into the ARR and a transport squadron was formed under the name of Grupul aerotransport militar (Military Air Transport Group).
But during the year 1940, LARES operated mainly a domestic network and only two international air services ran from Bucuresti to Balcic and Istanbul (between May and mid-September) and from Bucuresti to Sofia (Bulgaria), Thessaloniki and Athenia (Greece). They carried the air service numbers 2100 and 2101. DLH operated throughout the year the air route between Berlin and Bucuresti with landings at Wien, Budapest and Arad. Praha was added only during the summer months.
Internal services were operated as follows: Bucuresti – Galati – Ismail – Cetatea Albă (2110, operated daily), Bucuresti – Galati – Cernauti (2111, operated daily), Bucuresti – Turni Magurele (near the Bulgarian-Rumanian border. Air service number 2113, operated three times weekly), Bucuresti – Cálárasi – Bazargic – Balcic (2114, operated three times weekly), Chisináu – Iasi – Galati – Bucuresti (2116, operated daily) and Cluj – Bucuresti (2110, operated daily). Air service number 2114 was confirmed opened on 1 June, while the opening of the remainder of the network is unknown. In 1940, LARES carried 13,754 passengers and 158,257kg freight. The reduction is due to the reorganisation of civil aviation in Rumania during the summer. Its fleet flew 968,537km on the 6,643km long network.
In 1941 the only confirmed delivery of aircraft to LARES was the ex-PLL LOT Douglas DC-2-115F, YR-GAD, which was still registered on the name the SSA, but operated by LARES. In November that year several Junkers Ju-52/3m were delivered to Rumania and used on military air service operated by LARES. The Junkers did not receive civil markings.
The attack by Germany and Axis forces on the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 also meant that the LARES aircraft had to carry the yellow rear fuselage band carried by all Axis aircraft operating in Eastern Europe. Operations on behalf of the ARR became increasingly more important and well 40 % of the kilometres flown by LARES-aircraft were for the military. A domestic network could still be upheld, but was temporary interrupted due to the start of Operation Barbarossa (the attack on the Soviet Union). International services included an air route between Bucuresti, Arad, Budapest, Wien, Praha and Berlin (Bucuresti – Budapest only three times weekly, remainder of the route six times daily) and one Bucuresti and Sofia (operated three times weekly in each direction). Some new domestic air services were operated as well: Air service number 2117: Bucuresti – Braşov – Sibiu – Arad and 2120: Bucuresti – Braşov – Sibiu – Turda. Latter ended in Transylvania not far from Cluj, which had become a Hungarian town. Another important route was operated between Bucuresti, Craiova, Turnu Severin and Arad (number 2113) and between Bucuresti and Constanţa. Latter was flown seven times weekly and re-opened on 14 July. The same applied for the Bucuresti – Galati – Iasi air route. In 1941 this network had a total length of 3,610km (nearly half the network of the previous year), but LARES managed to carry more passengers: 14,479 civilians and 155,725kg freight. The aircraft flew 743,415kg. LARES carried for the armed another 6,644 passengers and 370,011kg freight and flew 599,150km.
The year 1942 saw the official registration of the ex-PLL LOT aircraft, previous owned by the SSA. The first batch included three Lockheed L-10A Electra’s and one Junkers Ju-52/3m. The registrations were for the Lockheeds YR-BGE, YR-BGF and YR-BGH, which all matched the Polish registrations, except that the national identity had been replaced by YR-. The Junkers Ju-52/3m was re-registered YR-ALK (ex SP-AKX). In April 1943 two other Lockheed L-10A (YR-AYC and YR-BGG) and one L-14H (YR-BPL) followed, while the next Lockheed L-14H was registered as YR-BNH in August. Of the first L-14H the previous registration is unknown, the three others were ex-PLL LOT-aircraft.
LARES continued in 1942 and 1943 to operate the pool service to Budapest, via Arad, while DLH continued to Berlin. Of the domestic network LARES operated much the same as in 1941, but the exact routing is unknown. In September 1943 a German report mentioned the following domestic air services operated by LARES: Bucuresti – Cernauti, Bucuresti – Iasi – Chisináu, Bucuresti – Craiova – Timisoara – Arad and Bucuresti – Sibiu – Arad. International service included Bucuresti – Budapest – Wien – Berlin and Bucuresti – Galati – Constanţa – Odessa. Latter service was certainly a military service. The Crim was occupied by Axis troops, but in the spring of 1944 the peninsula had to be evacuated. A major sea-air rescue operation was started on 14 April 1944 involving all flying material from LARES. One Junkers Ju-52/3m (possible YR-ALL) was lost during the operation killing the LARES-pilot Radu Gligorz and its cargo. Soviet fighters presumably shot it down. After a short break between 28 April and 11 May, the operation could be successfully ended with a result of 3,056 personnel evacuated by air.
At the beginning of 1943 LARES had a fleet of one Douglas DC-2, one DC-3, one Junkers Ju-52/3m, ten Lockheed L-10A Electra’s and three L-14H:
Douglas DC-3G2-227, YR-PAF, c/n1986,
Douglas DC-2-115F, YR-GAD, c/n 1378,
Junkers Ju-52/3m, YR-ALK, c/n 5588,
Lockheed L-10A, YR-LEA, c/n 1089,
Lockheed L-10A, YR-LEB, c/n 1090,
Lockheed L-10A, YR-LEC, c/n 1093
Lockheed L-10A, YR-LED, c/n 1094,
Lockheed L-10A, YR-LEF, c/n 1120,
Lockheed L-10A, YR-LEG, c/n 1121,
Lockheed L-10A, YR-LEE, c/n 1119,
Lockheed L-10A, YR-BGE, c/n 1085,
Lockheed L-10A, YR-BGF, c/n 1086,
Lockheed L-10A, YR-BGH, c/n 1088,
Lockheed L-14G3B, YR-LID, c/n 1464,
Lockheed L-14H, YR-BPL, c/n 1493 and
Lockheed L-14H, YR-BNH, c/n 1423.
But 1944 saw the introduction of more aircraft: One obsolete Potez 62, YR-BQM entered service in March, whiles a further three Junkers Ju-52/3ms were taken over and registered YR-ALM, YR-ALL and YR-ALO. The Potez 62 crashed before the end of the Second World War.
Results on its network are scares, but in 1942 the civil network had a length of 6,001km, while the military services had 1,200km. The results on the civil network were as follows: 673,630km flown, 11,112 passengers and 208,065kg freight carried. On the military network LARES carried 1,569 passengers and 337,898kg freight. A total of 349,320km had been flown. In 1942 the load factor for passengers was 71 %, and when including freight 61 %. For 1943 and 1944 the results are unknown. LARES suspended all operation on 23 August, following the collapse of the Rumanian Government. In August 1944, with the Soviets on Rumanian soil, the King Carol II installed his man General Petrescu and declared Rumania neutral. At the same time Rumania declared War on the Third Reich. On 27 August the LARES-pilot Ioan Bogorin was given the honour to fly the company’s Lockheed L-10A Electra (YR-???) to Odessa, carrying the Rumanian delegation, which was to sign the Armistice with the Allies. The Soviet Union wanted a repayment of War damage and in order to secure the payment it occupied Rumania. The exact remaining fleet of LARES at the end of the hostilities in may 1945 is unknown, but included at least the following aircraft:
Lockheed L-10A YR-BGF
Lockheed L-10A YR-BGG
Lockheed L-14H YR-BPL
Lockheed L-14H YR-BNH
Junkers Ju-52/3m YR-ALM
Junkers Ju-52/3m YR-ALO
After the war the ARR took over transportation duties and made some domestic flights. LARES was on 8 August 1945 replaced by a new Soviet-Rumanian airline company called Transporturi Aeriene Romana Sovietica – TARS succeeded LARES on 8 August 1945 and on 1 February 1946 it took over all air services and aircraft from LARES.
Picture of the De Havilland D.H.9C supplied by Alan Eyre.
Picture of Avia BH-25J and the ICAR Comercial come from magazine Aeronautica.