Edvard Rusjan, the Pioneer Slovenian Aviator

Centenary of Rusjan's Death

January 2011

Edvard Rusjan (1886-1911), the Slovenian aviation pioneer, was remembered on 9 January at a ceremony at the outskirts of the city of Belgrade, Serbia where he crashed his plane and died hundred years ago to the day.

At the ceremony it was announced that Slovenia would take over the care for Rusjan's grave in Belgrade. Also planned are a memorial and a linden tree at the site of his crash. Rusjan's grave was restored in 2007 by the Slovenian Embassy in Belgrade at the initiative of the Edvard Rusjan Association of Aviation Enthusiasts from Brežice.

The first in Slovenia and on the Balkans to fly a self-made plane

Edvard Rusjan (1886-1911).

He was the first to design, construct and fly an aeroplane in Central Europe. Six years after the Wright brothers, who later started the race to fly the highest at the fastest speed, Rusjan was the first to attempt to fly a motorised aircraft. He became interested in flying through reading the first technical literature on the subject, which was at that time only starting to develop. Apart from flying, Edvard showed an interest in many other things and was a pioneer of anything he took up.

November 25th 1909 was the day on which the twenty-three year old Rusjan became a true aviator, when he made a number of motorised flights in Male Rojce near the town of Gorica in a bi-plane called EDA I, which was built by Edvard and his brother Josip; it had an Anzani engine, a wingspan of eight metres, and was twelve metres long. After the first flight, the two brothers successfully made a few more short flights. They stopped flying EDA I when they crashed into a pair of horses. The accident, however, did not prevent them from constructing and flying planes, which they pursued until the tragic accident in 1911.

EDA II, which despite being an improved variant of EDA I, crashed on its maiden flight

Prototype of the aircraft Eda I. Photo/source:

At first Edvard flew a distance of sixty metres, but only a few days later, he managed to fly a distance of 600 metres and reach a height of twelve metres. The Rusjan brothers did not have substantial means to work with, but they continued to build and fly planes anyway. Their next effort was a tri-plane called EDA II, which despite being an improved variant of EDA I, crashed on its maiden flight. EDA III and EDA IV were again bi-planes, whereas the planes that followed were monoplanes. All the machines were constructed solely by the Rusjan family. Their sister sewed the canvas, and their father provided financial help until the two brothers managed to find a partner and investor in Zagreb, Croatia where they also later moved.

Tragic accident in 1911

After a few successful flight tests with EDA V and EDA VI, Edvard started flying at air shows. In January 1911, the two brothers went on a promotional tour across the Balkans. After a successful show in Zagreb, they went to Belgrade, where it was very windy, but Edvard decided to fly despite the warnings. The enraptured crowds were cheering as they watched him fly, until a strong gust of wind broke the aircraft's wings and the plane crashed at Kalemegdan. Fourteen thousand people attended Edvard Rusjan's funeral in Belgrade. He remains a legend of Slovenian aviation.