A replica Czech-made Avia BH 5 aeroplane will next week take to the skies as part of a re-enactment of a 1923 air race between Prague and Brussels. The original race 85 years ago was won by a Czech - Zdenek Lhota - flying in exactly the same model, and this event will commemorate what was a proud moment for Czech aviation history.
Milan Vacík will be one of two pilots to fly the Avia BH 5 aeroplane from Prague to Brussels in the next couple of weeks. He is a member of the Czechoslovak Historic Flight, a Prague-based association concerned with vintage planes and the history of Czechoslovak aviation:
"The Czechoslovak Historic Flight is a company which was established to recreate and operate historic airplanes and their replicas. From the very beginning we thought that it would be a good idea, when we have a new aeroplane ready, to show it to the world and show it to the public. Last year, when we finished the construction of this aeroplane, we decided to hold some sort of event to mark its completion, and that's why we are doing this historical re-enactment of the flight to Brussels this year."
Preparations for this event have been ongoing for some time; many man hours were needed to follow the original design in such painstaking detail. Now, however, with the day of the flight drawing nearer, Milan Vacík told me not just what has gone in to getting the scheme this far, but also what final preparations are needed:
"The construction of the airplane was 17,000 hours so it was almost four years. We finished last year as I told you, and then we almost immediately started to prepare for this flight. It shouldn't be that difficult now, what we need now is just the weather to be right, the airplane to be ready on the day and a group of people willing to support us in our efforts."
The prize for winning the air race in 1923 was awarded by the King of Belgium to Lhota, and the victory marked an important milestone in the history of Czechoslovak aviation, as Milan Vacík explains:
"It was very important at that time, because that flight from Prague to Brussels - and the prize that Lhota won in 1923 - was the first occasion when a Czech aeroplane had won an international air-race. So it was important not only for Lhota himself, but also for the Czech Republic and for the company Avia, which had been founded shortly before in 1919."
Despite the plane being an exact replica, the journey will, partly for safety reasons, not be identical to the one flown 85 years ago. As well as being accompanied by other, more modern light aircraft, the Avia BH 5 will also take a slightly different course for its 21st Century version of the flight:
"Traffic density over Europe is now quite different from the density in 1923. So we had to modify the route a bit - we will have six stops instead of two, and we will be avoiding the airspace of big airports, especially in Germany."
The team behind the flight hope for a 26th July take-off, weather permitting of course.
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