Letov is an institute committed to the preservation of technical aviation heritage. We are getting ready to set up an exhibition in Gorizia (Aeroporto di Gorizia) of the collection of aviation heritage related to the technical history of Slovenia through the different periods.
Aeroclub Letov. Who are you?
Letov was initially a team of three people who had similar views on the past of aviation. Today, Letov has eight members. Letov is a team effort. An individual in such a large project would not stand a chance because things are just too big. We are equal members, each doing our part to ensure that Letov shows progress, within the vision we have set ourselves. Today we are registered as an institution.
It seems that the history of aviation in Slovenia is rather ignored and that individuals are fighting against this. Only love is so persistent. Where do the motivation and finances come from?
It is not about love, or feelings, or bigotry. It is above all a conscious act, an attempt to preserve part of the technical heritage that has been where Slovenia has belonged through various political regimes, to the extent to which we are here today.
Yes, an ignored heritage. It is difficult to write this in a sentence or two. The story is multi-faceted and mentioning it publicly today has no meaning. The fact that things have been forgotten, that the land is no longer there, that a denunciation has been made for a robbed depot, that certain aircraft are still mysteries today, that … The fact is that we did not make a museum. There is nothing more worth mentioning. You know, words are cheap… Things won’t change in retrospect.
But it was fortunate for the technical heritage that in 89. the then Yugoslav Aviation Museum opened in Belgrade, and frankly, Slovenians should be proud of it, because our work is on display there. And that in the 1990s we had the impetus of a few individuals who had the will. Postojna in the 1990s was not an innocent thing, Jaka and his team did a hell of a job. If we had realized the potential then, Slovenia would have a museum today, I am sure of it.
Money is our weak point. We have mostly raised the funds ourselves, “out of pocket :)”.I stopped counting the cost of the Čavka aircraft restoration at 15 000 euros… But we have a few companies that really help selflessly with their services. The thing has outgrown our pockets and now we are going through an evolution into a story with more broad goals.
The vision of the Aero Club of Letov?
As just mentioned, we are moving into a broader story that is the product of 10+ years of existence and aims to start presenting itself to people in a collected way, to let people know that we have been involved in the story of aviation from the very beginning…
Where do you get planes?
We found planes in England, one in Hungary, and a few in Slovenia. Occasionally, a person gives us a piece that they took from the airport years ago or something related to flying – we are especially happy to receive such gestures because they show that our work is on the right track, that people recognize the value of the work of the Letov team, and at the same time that the gathered items represent Slovenia.
To take the example of the Čavka aircraft. Čavka is a technical indicator that shows a certain period and the technical abilities of the time and place where it was created.
Where can aviation enthusiasts see your collection? Where did the idea for location come from?
After five years of actively looking for a roof for a depot in Slovenia, at some point, we realized that we would have to look beyond the border, there was no other solution in sight. We finally have a space at the airport in Italy (Aeroporto di Gorizia).
Every year lost without space made it harder to work and every year we actually needed more space. Things got so big that at one point it meant that we had equipment and aircraft in five countries for several years in a row. The situation where the equipment is scattered in different places was at the limit of our sustainability, as it prevented quality work. Things become opaque, in short, awkward.
From 2023, this is finally changing for the better.
Gorica as a place has been strongly involved in aviation since its pioneering days. This is where the pilot Rusjan left his mark with his experiments and had his temporary shed. Two aviation surpluses for AO space were recorded. One was set up by Rusjan, and the other supposedly belongs to Oskar Heim at the first air show in Gorica, if you can call it that.
Later, covered areas were built, which in turn meant a development for airport activity, which did not differ in any way from other places where aviation was developed. This is how the airport survived for a good century. Countries and political systems have changed, but the passion for flying has remained unchanged to this day.
Which aircraft have you refurbished and what are your plans for the future? All aircraft are refurbished in Slovenia?
In theory, the Letov team could restore the aircraft in one year, if I’m a bit optimistic. It took two years. The problem so far has also been the distance to the workshop where we have been refurbishing. The location at Gorizia Airport will make things closer and easier.
It is true, however, that the selfless help of the HPH factory in the Czech Republic to provide us with space for renovations, various minor works, and other assistance knows no bounds. To give you an idea, some of our aircraft have wintered at the HPH factory for several years in a row, free of charge! At the same time, of course, the selfless sharing of knowledge by Jiri Lenik, who manages the renovations, and supervises our work, … he has no bow … The knowledge of aircraft joinery is being lost, so we do everything in the Czech Republic.
The Letov team has currently restored three aircraft to flying condition, and one aircraft is currently undergoing refurbishment.
( Read more about the Čavka restoration HERE)
Do you also fly the restored planes, can others borrow them to fly?
Yes, our aircraft is a regular participant in airline meetings. Mostly abroad, occasionally at home. We are also the organizer of the meeting in Sinj, which our member Boris Kožuh traditionally organizes every year. It is a small flight show of wooden aircraft.
Our aircraft are also flown by pilots who are not members of Letov. What is more, the story with the Čavka is that it is now being taken care of by a member of the Ptuj Aero Club, Kelc, during the off-season. I can say we are extremely proud of this part. The story is perfect.
Personally, I am convinced that we have proven that we are a fair partner and that working with us brings mutual satisfaction.
The Olimpija also flew part of the 2022 season in Serbia, and the Croatian national paragliding team uses our van in competitions. We try to help, and we are open to cooperation, after all, we all have the same goals.
(More about the Letov flock can be found HERE)
Which is the most popular aircraft?
The more special the aircraft, the more popular it is. I would say T31 kadet. Especially when you tell that the first owner is RAF who even gave written permission for it to continue to fly with the rondels of their military aviation… But, everyone has their own approach to aesthetics. I leave it to the individual to decide according to their own norms.
What can visitors see in your collection? Among other things, you are exhibiting pieces that belonged to Adria Airways.
The following themes are planned, for which the first display cases will slowly be produced: Letov-Libis-Pap, Adria, wood construction, JRV. The time distance depends on the price that will go towards the construction of the modular display cases. But of course, it is a small space now in the beginning -180 square meters, which means that we are still in a more boutique phase. One can visit by agreement, without commitment. You come, you look, maybe press a button…
Can aviation lovers join you?
Anyone who wishes to see it, or otherwise be present, is welcome to attend. We are truly happy for everyone that is interested.
Next plans? You will also take part in the European City of Culture GO25 project and organize an exhibition on the Rusjan brothers.
There are a number of projects, but the fewer we list, the less we will be in the crosshairs when we are delayed if things go wrong.
Certainly in the context of the European City of Culture or the European City of Culture GO25 to prepare an exhibition about the Rusjan brothers, to restore theTrener aircraft to flying condition, to do the logistics of moving everything to Gorizia, and to synchronize with a few institutions at home and abroad to present aviation in a general technical perspective so that the visitor can become involved in the story.
But perhaps the biggest project we face is to present the journey we have been on in a way that people can understand so that they can realize all the hardships and obstacles we have gone through in the past 100 years, learn something new, and appreciate the work done by our predecessors.
We will all benefit. The region, the Slovenes, the former republics of the which were involved in our work and we in theirs, as well as Italy and Austria, where we gravitated and were in one way or another also bound to. But we can only do all this in a way that is fair and transparent to aviation. If we have succeeded in this, then we have achieved the immeasurable.
We spoke to Klemen Oman, a member of the Letov team.
written by Eva Kraš