Pilot, aviation pioneer and one of the first aircraft constructors in the Balkans – Edvard Rusijan crushed and died in Belgrade – on this day 107 years ago

Edvard Rusijаn was engaged in various sports early on. He was a member of the „Falcon Movement“, whereas prior to developing interest in the aviation he was an accomplished cyclist. Subsequent to completion of Intermediate Secondary and Mechanical schools, he worked in Vienna and Italy, exhibiting significant interest in engines and aircrafts. At the meeting of aviation enthusiasts held at the airport in Montichiаri near Brescia on September 8 -9, 1909, he bought a 25 HP petrol engine of the make “Anzаni” used for flying over the English Channel, form French aviator and constructor Luis Bleriot. The engine was incorporated into his first design, i.e. the aircraft, Edа 1, Edvard Rusijаn designed with his brother Josif. The aircraft Edа 1, was a biplane lined with paper, 12 m long with the wings span of 8 meters. Rusijan performed his first successful flight with this aircraft on November 25,1909. The second aircraft designed by the Rusijаn Brothers was a triplane Edа 2. In spite of various technical enhancements, it crashed during the initial test flights. The Rusijаn Brothers subsequently constructed and flown several aircrafts: Edа 3, Edа 4, Edа 5 and Edа 6.

In the course of Edа 7 aircraft construction, the brothers were not able to raise sufficient funds to complete the design. However, during the bicycle races held in Zagreb in 1910, Edvаrd Rusijan met a photographer and businessman Mihаjlo Mаrćep and offered him a partnership. Under the auspices of Mr. Mаrćep, the Rusijаn Brothers moved to Zаgreb, and started to work on mass aircraft production. In 1910, Edvard Rusijan travelled to Paris with Mihаilo Mаrćep, and acquired the new engine 50 HP Gnome and Integral airscrew for the new monoplane they constructed. During the same year, Edvard Rusijan performed the test flight in this new aircraft named “Mаrćep-Rusijаn” at the military polygon Černomerc in Zаgreb. Subsequent to several test flights, they scheduled the test flight in Belgrade. Regardless of strong wind and rain Rusijаn decided to take off. During the flight over the Danube at the Belgrade Fortress Lower Town, the strong wind had broken the aircraft wing, which fell to the Sava River. The aircraft subsequently fell onto the railway embankment near the Belgrade Fortress and Edvаrd Rusijаn was killed.

The funeral of Edvard Rusijan was one of the biggest, ever seen in Belgrade. The coffin with his remains was accompanied to the New Cemetery of Belgrade by some 14.000 people. According to the “Politika” daily newspaper, the funeral procession started form the military hospital, through downtown Belgrade to the New Cemetery … “when the funeral procession finally broke through the dense crowds and arrived form Prizrenska Street in front of the “Moscow” Hotel, it was extremely difficult to maintain the order. On the very spot, from the first floor balcony of the “Russia Palace”, Mr. Branislav Nušić held the moving eulogy… It was 11:00 a.m. when the procession finally started to move towards the New Cemetery ….”. Edvard Rusijan was laid to rest in the plot 15, at the New Cemetery of Belgrade.

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