The first and only Romanian aircraft produced under British license, before 1989: the interesting story of the ROMBAC 1-11 aircraft

The ROMBAC 1-11 (or Rombac One-Eleven) is the first jet passenger aircraft produced in Romania. It was the first and only Romanian aircraft produced under British license before 1989.

It was built at the Bucharest Aircraft Company, after the license of the British medium courier aircraft BAC 1-11(en), an aircraft designed in the early 1960s and produced between 1963-1982 by the British Aircraft Corporation.

Under communism, Romania was one of the few countries in Eastern Europe that had the courage to buy and use aircraft outside the Soviet bloc. The story of the ROMBAC 1-11 is very interesting and exciting.

It all started in 1967, the year in which the first relations were established between Romania and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC). On this occasion, the British company undertook to deliver 6 BAC 1-11 aircraft to TAROM. The aircraft model was introduced into series production in 1963.

By the end of 1968 it was considered “the most commercially successful European aircraft”. At the same time, BAC committed to ordering 215 twin-engine “Islander BN-9” two-seat aircraft from Britten-Norman. These were to be assembled in Romania, and their sale to other markets was assured by the English side for five or six years (1968-1973).

The first flight of a 1-11 BAC aircraft for TAROM, of the 424 EU series, took place on 23 January 1968. It had two Rolls-Royce Spey 25 Mk. 511 and was delivered to TAROM on 14 June 1968, being registered YR-BCA. The next five BAC 1-11 aircraft of the same series were received by the Romanian authorities by the end of 1969.

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ROMBAC 1-11 did not record many flight hours

But Ceaușescu did not give up on the idea of developing the aircraft manufacturing industry in Romania. Thus, in 1975, he established “Turbomecanica” in Bucharest for the licensed manufacture of Rolls Royce Viper engines (Mk 632 and 633) and Turmo IV C engines. The former were needed for the IAR-93 B aircraft, the latter for the IAR-330 “Puma” helicopters.

Also in the same period, Ceaușescu acquired the production license for the BAC 1-11 and promised to build 80 aircraft under the name ROMBAC 1-11. Unfortunately, the project was not fully completed, and only nine aircraft remained at the gates of the Romaero Băneasa factory, and two others remained at the kit stage until the 1990s and were destroyed.

The first Rombac 1-11 leaves the gates of the Bucharest aircraft factory. British Aerospace representatives Source: Valentin Luminos

The first flight of a ROMBAC 1-11 aircraft (registered YR-BRA) took place on 18 September 1982, in the presence of Nicolae Ceaușescu. The inaugural passenger flight of ROMBAC 1-11 (YR-BRA) took place on 28 January 1983, on the Bucharest-Timișoara route. The first external flight of this aircraft took place on 23 March 1983, on the Bucharest-London route.

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9 ROMBAC 1-11 (YR-BRI) flew for the first time in April 1989, and two years later joined ROMAVIA. The ROMBAC 1-11 was an aircraft equipped with two twin turbojet engines. Rolls-Royce Spey Mk 512-14DW, capable of a thrust of about 6,000 kgf. ROMBAC 1-11 could carry up to 119 passengers. The cruising speed was 870 km/h and the flight range was 3500 kilometres.

The first Rombac 1-11 leaves the gates of the Bucharest aircraft factory. Team of engineers and technicians from “107” – General Assembly. Source: Valentin Luminos

The BAC One-Eleven was a model built in 244 examples. In contrast, the Romanian ROMBAC 1-11 model was unsuccessful, with only nine complete aircraft built. The ROMBAC 1-11 was a fast-moving model. In about eight years, very few models with obsolete technology were made. Most components were manufactured in Romania.

According to 1989, due to the loud noise produced by the engines, ROMBAC 1-11 ROMAVIA aircraft were banned from several airports in Europe. The remaining seven ROMBAC 1-11s were sold by TAROM to various other airlines in Asia and Africa.

The first Rombac 1-11 leaves the gates of the Bucharest aircraft factory. The cockpit of the aircraft, with state-of-the-art equipment at that time Source: Valentin Luminos

After 34 years, there are no clear statistics on these Romanian aircraft. It is only known that two ROMBAC 1-11 operated charter flights for tourists to Egypt in 2010. But certainly, no ROMBAC 1-11 aircraft has been involved in an air accident with injuries or fatalities. It’s just that not many flight hours were logged.

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